Thursday, August 9, 2012

Don't Hate on YA!

Thursday, August 9, 2012
I have a few pet peeves. I can't have someone's elbow brushing up against mine at the dinner table and I cringe at the sight of a dog-eared page. But what irritates me most of all is when people look down on Young Adult books just because they're geared for teens.

In Joel Stein's NY Times Article "Adults Should Read Adult Books", this is exactly what he does. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, of course, but I feel he doesn't have enough background information on YA books to write about them. He even admits that he hasn't read any of the books he refers to in his article. Speaking of Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games, he says, "I’m sure all those books are well written. So is “Horton Hatches the Egg.” But Horton doesn't have the depth of language and character as literature written for people who have stopped physically growing." 

And that's the thing. Stein doesn't understand that YA books are often much deeper than vampires that sparkle in the sunlight. And saying that adult books are more profound simply because they're adult books is ridiculous.

All books of all genres have a range. 50 Shades of Grey is, for example, a book geared for adults, but that doesn't mean that it has more depth than The Fault in our Stars by John Green, a Young Adult novel. While some Adult books are, of course, thought-provoking and meaningful, some are just fun and fluffy. The same goes for Young Adult books.

Let's continue to use The Fault in our Stars as an example. For those who don't know, it's about two teens with cancer that fall in love (and while it's a book about cancer, it is not a "cancer book"), and it goes into everything from the meaning of life and death to questions about pain and heroism. There is endless symbolism and yes, depth, and  it is widely read by teens AND adults. For no reason should they feel embarrassed to read this.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray is another fantastic example. Through satire, Bray tackles a broad range of issues in our society, including feminism, racism, politics, and religion. And even Harry Potter has themes of love, life, good vs. evil, and forgiveness within its pages. These books and many other YA novels are perfectly capable of making their readers' think.

The last bit I have to say about Stein's article is that, even though he may not have intended this, he's being quite condescending to teens. Just because we are younger does not mean we aren't capable of serious thought.  Just like anyone else, we enjoy light books sometimes, but the ones that grab us are the novels with layers, and interesting, realistic characters. We like books that bring up cause for discussion and challenge us to think beyond our horizons. 

There are great Adult books and great Young Adult books, and the quality of a book has nothing to do with its targeted demographic. Plenty of adults read teen novels, just as some teen read adult novels, and it's perfectly fine either way. 

Do you think Young Adult novels can have as much depth as Adult novels? I'd love to hear your opinions, whether you agree or disagree! (:


  1. -sigh- seems I've joined the fray I can't help it hot button book topics intrigue me so blog post it is

    prepare to see an email from me some time soon

    As for your rebuttal I like it though harry potter is a tricky one that isn't 100% YA (books 4-7 would be considered YA while books 1-3 are middle grade) but thats not the point. I like it and I will respond your question in my own blog post so yay

  2. Referring to Joel Stein's article: He doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. How can people judge books they haven't read? Seems ludicrous to me.
    I completely agree with you btw; some YA books are extremely deep & complex.


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