Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Discussion/Rant - In Defence of YA

This post was actually just something I found in the drafts of our tumblr for the book blog. It was a response to someone who was basically saying that YA books are trash, making sweeping generalisations about an entire category of books based on a few bad examples from that category (another fact about this person: she had many posts on her blog fangirling TV shows like Gossip Girl, Glee, and Pretty Little Liars - which is fine, but it is a relevant fact for this post).

The thing that provoked the post is over with now but I still see a lot of people being judge-y of YA books and the people that read them, so I figured I'd post this even though if you're following this blog, you're obviously someone who likes YA - but discuss it with me. Do you agree or disagree with what I (am about to) say? Do you have any other things to say in defence of YA books?

Don't Judge A Book By It's Category

Young Adult literature has a bad reputation. Some people think it’s all trash (thanks for that, Twilight), some people think it’s all terribly written (still lookin’ at 'choo, Twilight) and just - a lot of people think it’s bad in general. And the more annoying, pretentious ones, look down on other people for reading it.

I have no issue with people not being into reading YA. Or with people not liking books that I do (opinions are subjective and if anyone looks up their all time favourite book, they will find some negative reviews because no book is universally loved). I don’t mind if people think that specific books are trash or poorly written, because honestly, some are. There are probably a lot that are, and then there's a lot that will be trash to some but wonderful to others and they just have to agree to disagree. And that's fine.

But I have an issue with people making generalisations that apply to an entire category of books, because everything they accuse YA books of, adult books can be just as guilty of. People didn't start saying that Adult books were all trashy upon the release of 50 Shades of [Terrible] Gray, did they?

I’ve read YA books about depression, about grief, about love, about death; books that are beautifully written, with great characters; books that manage to explain certain feelings and experiences perfectly without falling back on cliches. And I’ve read adult books that have mediocre writing and seemed to stumble their way through those same subjects in a way I just couldn’t relate to, and I should be able to because of things I’ve experienced in my life. So for anyone to say that a book bad or badly written just because they’re YA, instead of what is actually in the pages… It’s annoying.

One of my best friends used to have an aversion to certain books (mostly YA books and ones that seem "chick lit"-ish), but she lets me give her big stacks of books to read and gives them all a chance. She ended up loving so many of them, some even became her favourite books, very few of them turned out to be ones she didn't enjoy. She was initially put off by the genres or the catagory the books were in and she would've missed out on so many amazing books if she hadn't be so open minded about giving them a chance.

My other best friend? He was one of the people that kind of looked down on YA books as not having much merit, but I got him to read three books (Paper Towns, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and Perks of Being a Wallflower) and he changed his mind. He may not have converted to being a lover of YA, but he did give them a chance and saw they could be more than just trashy, mindless entertainment (he loved PoBaW).

I guess my point with that is that if you judge books purely by which shelves you'd find them on in a book store then you could end up missing out on some really great books. And even if you don't want to give those books a chance, don't go around claiming they're all trash.

While I'm on the subject of trash: Not every book has to be a literary masterpiece. I love to read, and I lovelovelove it when I find a book that wows me and gets under my skin or breaks my heart, but sometimes I do just crave some mindless entertainment. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I hate the double standard there is between TV shows and books (or movies and books). People who are okay watching "trashy" TV shows (or shows that are considered trashy by a lot of people) insulting YA books when the TV shows are just as guilty of all the flaws they accuse the books of, some even worse…seems pretty hypocritical, right? (Also, for the particular person who inspired this post, a lot of the TV shows she loves are actually based on books from a category that she judges other people for loving.).

They watch those shows and gush about all the couples they ship and all that fangirl/boy stuff. And that's fine, but why is it okay for TV shows to just be entertaining but books can’t be?

Twilight is terribly written. The characters are terrible, the plot is terrible. (Feel free to disagree on that, or even if you agree but love it in spite of that, that's cool too.) But, I am glad it got published. For a lot of people who weren’t really readers before, it was like a gateway book that lead them to read more (and eventually, read better) books… I never consider that a bad thing. If "trashy" books can get people reading, bring on the trashy books.

I don't really mind what people read, so long as they read. I love books. Seriously, if you put me in a room with books I will be happier than if I'm in a room without them - just being near books makes me happier. Which may be weird (I dunno, that apply to anyone else too?), but it's true and I love it when other people read too.

There are always good books to be found, even if you have to read a bunch of bad or mediocre books to get to them. I like that - it makes me appreciate the amazing books more when I do find them, and until I do find them, the other books are entertaining enough and if they're entertaining then they definitely have at least some worth.

This post has been a bit on the rambling side, so the tl;dr version:
  • Double standards are annoying.
  • Generalisations, again, are annoying.
  • If you don’t want to read YA, that’s cool, but don’t be pretentious about it.
  • YA or adult: you’ll find amazing books and crappy books in both categories, neither is perfect.
  • People should read what they want and love whatever books they want without having people look down on them for it. If Twilight is your favourite book, then that's great. If your favourite book is Pride and Prejudice, that's great too. If you have a favourite book at all, no matter what it is, then that is great.
And I'm done rambling now.



  1. You did a good job at looking at opposing points of view and I agree with you. YA is such a huge category that includes sub-genres such as Fantasy or Realistic Fiction. Also, the reading ages for YA can range from appropriate for twelve-year-olds to college students, and is enjoyed by older adults as well. How can anyone say EVERYTHING in such ginormous category sucks? :/

  2. This is a great post. Usually I skim over posts, but I read this one beginning to end to absorb all your awesome points. It always seems so weird to me that people judge books by categories. I've always been pretty open to every kind of book, middle grade, YA, and adult, so it's always confusing when people say, "Oh, I don't read ____". WHY?! There is no reason! I think trashy books are like a great B movie. We can't watch amazing movies all the time because then we'd have nothing to compare them to and we wouldn't be able to enjoy a few hours of drool-worthy entertainment. Some of my all time favourite movies are B movies, some of my all-time favourite books are "trashy" or mediocre books. I think people need that mix.

    Plus, everything is a matter of perspective. Who decided that we should read Frankenstein and study it in schools? Because honestly by today's literary standards, it's not very well-written at all! And on the other hand we have to read Shakespeare, who, by all accounts, is probably the greatest writer in history. Even in our educational systems we have a mix of mediocre and astounding fiction, and I think all our categories reflect that today.



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