I know I’m a little late to the ball game here, but I just recently came across Ruth Graham’s article Against YA. I’ve seen responses blowing up Twitter with the #promoteaYAinstead and #NoShameYA hashtag, but I wasn’t really sure what started it all until yesterday.
When I read the title of the article, I was set to argue. You bash YA, I’m going to bash back! But as I read, I realized something:
I understand her point.
That’s not to say I agree with the article. On the contrary. I read a lot of YA. And even though I do read some adult books, I much prefer the subjects and variety of YA. But I can understand Ruth Graham’s perspective, because it’s the same perspective my mom has.
My mother knows I read mostly YA. And she doesn’t really approve. She keeps pushing me to read adult books – “real” books.
See, Ruth Graham, my mother, and pretty much anyone older than forty were teens when YA wasn’t really a “thing.” There were children’s books, and there were adult books, and as soon as you outgrew Nancy Drew it was time to head to the adult section. To them, YA is children’s books.
Graham also mentions outgrowing YA. That’s completely understandable. I’ve tried to reread some of my favorite books from the preteen years, and they don’t have the same appeal. And many middle grade books don’t appeal to me as much as I think they’d appeal to my eleven-year-old sister. I’ve pretty much outgrown middle grade, and that’s okay with me. If you outgrow YA, that’s okay.
As Graham claims, some YA is purely entertainment. Some of it is all about “escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia.” And I will be honest – sometimes, I want a just-for-fun read.
But not all YA is useless. Take the Hunger Games trilogy: sure, a reality-TV show where kids kill each other is just plain ridiculous, but Katniss and Peeta both ended up with PTSD and the revolution practically destroyed their world.
And Divergent, which Graham called “trashy” and a book that “nobody defends as serious literature”: I found themes of identity, priorities, using your unique gifts, and the power of choices. And in the end of the series, their entire world falls apart and a whole lot of characters I’d grown to care about died.
How much more real does Graham want? And who would call those endings “satisfying”? Not me.
Just because a book is classified as “YA” doesn’t mean it’s pointless. And just because a book is “adult” doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile. YA can contain important themes, and adult can be pure escapism.
I see where Ruth Graham is coming from. She holds the view common among older adults that YA is children’s lit. And she’s outgrown it. That’s okay. I can respect that.
I think the real issue here is not YA versus adult books – it’s because people are being shamed for what they like to read. 42% of college students in America will never read another book once they graduate. Shouldn’t we be happy they’re reading, instead of criticizing because they’re not reading “literary” stuff?
Ruth Graham has the freedom to read whatever she wants – and if it’s not YA, that’s okay. But the rest of us have that freedom, too.
If you don’t like YA, that’s okay. But please don’t hate on me because I do.