Saturday, June 7, 2014

IF A BOOK IS WELL WRITTEN, IT SHOULDN'T MATTER THE GENRE

This post is in response to the article titled Against YA Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you're reading is for children. written by Ruth Graham.

I am going to start by stating that I disagree completely with this author. There are a few statements that really bother me such as, "Let’s set aside the transparently trashy stuff like Divergent and Twilight, which no one defends as serious literature. " I understand that there are many themes in Twilight that are problematic but those books got both teenage girls and young adults to put down their smart phones, to stay in on a Friday night and read which is not that bad. Also, I'm not sure if the author has read Divergent but I don't consider it trashy. Graham seems awfully judgmental.

Another statement that the author made that left me boggled was, "But even the myriad defenders of YA fiction admit that the enjoyment of reading this stuff has to do with escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia." First of all, when I read The Catcher in the Rye or Bell Jars was not simply for pleasure but was to read a coming of age book that has somehow fundamentally been able to show the experiences of being a teenager with so many different expectations. I read both of those novels while in university when I felt more pressure on myself than I ever had in high school and those two books helped me but they were considered Young Adult (you could argue against Bell Jars). My point is, that not all young adult novels are meant for pure enjoyment but so what if they are? If I want to read The Vampire Academy does it hurt anyone? No. In fact, I contribute to the publishing industry by purchasing those books. The same a thirty-five year-old can watch Pretty Little Liars, they can also read the novels. 

Finally, another point that Ruth Graham makes that I find particularly problematic is, " But crucially, YA books present the teenage perspective in a fundamentally uncritical way. It’s not simply that YA readers are asked to immerse themselves in a character’s emotional life—that’s the trick of so much great fiction—but that they are asked to abandon the mature insights into that perspective that they (supposedly) have acquired as adults. " I haven't read The Fault in Our Stars in awhile but I remember there being plenty of metaphors that take on a discussion that involves critical thinking like holding the item that kills you but not giving it the power to. Also, books like Shine by Lauren Myracle show how homophobia can affect a community in a very real and troubling way. Yes, there are books that end perfectly in YA fiction but there are also books that end in tragic ways or hopeful ways. There are books in adult fiction that end perfectly and end tragically.
 In my opinion, if a book is well written, it shouldn't matter the genre it is in. The Hobbit is a children's book but I will proudly dote it around in public when I am reading it. By saying adults shouldn't read Children's Literature of Young Adult Fiction, it is saying that children and teens do not deserve the best writing, they shouldn't be exposed to wonderful literature until they have reached their adult years. I say that is a problematic way of thinking. If we do not expose children and teenagers to well written pieces of literature we create an even bigger problem on our hands. 

I would love to read your thoughts on the matter. If you want, you can leave a comment or you can link me to a post you have made on your blog about this topic. Let's keep up the discussion, I am curious on both sides of the argument. 

DFTBA,

Tara

2 comments:

  1. I don't even know how to respond to your post, other than saying that I agree 100%. There were so many things wrong with that article that I don't think I could have responded to it as concisely as you did. I despise the way she implied that Divergent and Twilight were trashy because they are dystopian and paranormal, and said that realistic YA is only slightly better. The thing that bothered me the most was the way she closed with a quote from Shailene Woodley, who truly seems to care about The Fault in Our Stars, and twisted it to fit her purposes. I really need to stop reading these articles - they all say the same thing, reference the same three books, and only serve to make me mad - but my curiosity always gets the better of me.

    Oh, and I did do a post on YA scorners a while ago. It's not directly related to this specific controversy, but here it is if you're interested: http://foreverliterary.blogspot.com/2014/04/ignore-ya-scorner.html

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    1. I am sorry for the late reply, work has kept me terribly busy. I read your article on YA scorners and I agree with you, it shouldn't matter what one is reading. Many YA books are worth reading when one is older. Thank-you for the lovely comment.

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