There is so much talk lately about YA. The New Yorker talks about it, a lot it seems. There are so many opinions about it. So many.
And I've tried being that above-it-all person, to keep my mouth shut on the issue. Because 1) I'm a YA author, so clearly I'm just biased right? 2) The condescending tone in these articles reveal the ignorance of the writers on the subject, so why bother?
I don’t know what it is—but the most recent piece on YA by a national magazine really was the last straw. Some claim that maybe middle grade and YA is not a good introduction to reading, that instead these poor kids reading fun books may only want to read fun books forever and therefore become stunted stupey human beings.
I don’t feel like reaching into the far recesses of my brain for all the big words I learned while taking years of classes on critical thinking. Basically classes intended to throw down on stupid arguments and tear them apart, verbal velociraptor style.
Because I’ve got books to write, guys. No time for that.
But I have a smidge of time to share my personal story of reading and becoming a YA author. I’ll keep it short.
I didn’t like to read until I was seven years old, when I was introduced to Ann M. Martin’s THE BABY SITTER’S CLUB series. They were charming books about middle grade students who babysat. Some might call them fluff, I call them a godsend. I re-read one of them recently and was appreciative of how sensitive they were to the young reader, of how lovely and funny they were.
And those books? Opened up a world of reading.
Soon after, I was reading EVERYTHING. LM Montgomery to RL Stine to Louisa May Alcott to Louis Sachar. A copy of Pearl S. Buck’s THE GOOD EARTH on my dad’s shelf. Everything by Michael Crichton and John Grisham. Vintage copies of Dickens I picked up for 5 cents at the book fair. I fell in love with short stories, with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Flannery O’Connor, Richard Yates. And while I was discovering THE CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, Nabokov, and E.M. Forster, I was reading THE PRINCESS DIARIES. I was re-reading the President’s Daughter series by Ellen Emerson White while wolfing down Dave Eggers and Zadie Smith (and this is when I started writing YA, probably not a coincidence). SOMEHOW, I was able to read YA AND hipster-approved literature at the same time. The mind boggles??!!
This is not to brag about the books I’ve read (though, certainly, I feel a perverse pride for all the time I’ve spent not getting exercise but holed up in a corner somewhere with books), it’s to say…
ARE YOU STUPID? OF COURSE IT’S OKAY TO READ ANY KIND OF BOOK YOU WANT.
And also? If you never want to read Tolstoy and stick to JK Rowling and Veronica Roth forever, go ahead. A love of Tolstoy does not equal superior intelligence over someone who remembers every flavor of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. It just means you like Tolstoy, get over yourself.
But for me, reading middle grade and YA changed my life, shaped me as the adult today who loves to read all kinds of literature—except, maybe one more tedious article about why YA sucks. To that I would like to say a big like, OMG STFU already, yeah? Totes.