The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Reading YA

“If you are going to go anywhere in life, you have to read a lot of books.” –Roald Dahl

As promised, here is both a new blog post and a post about reading Young Adult (YA) literature. More specifically, a response to the article sweeping its way through the internets, the article which tells me as an adult I should be embarrassed to read YA—this article

Wow, I hate this article. My first response on Facebook when someone sent it to me was actually, “Wow, I hate this with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns.” In the few weeks since the article was first published, I’ve calmed down; I’m hovering somewhere around code blue (guarded) to code yellow (elevated).

And truth be told, writing and reading YA as an adult means you are always somewhere around there; always ready to defend your craft, always ready to justify your habits. This, in its simplest form, is why I hated the article in the first place.  

Oh, I’m not the only one. YA authors specifically rallied against the article. After all, it makes a mockery of what we do and who we are. Actually, I’m still trying to figure out if anyone liked the article. Perusing other articles by the same author, I quickly discovered we were not at all the same person. Not in the least. We may both be women in a certain age group, but that’s about where the similarities end; which means she would probably hate reading this blog. And although we will never enjoy the same types of books, I don’t think she should stop reading her Dickens or Wharton. I firmly believe it takes a reader to breathe life into a book.  

And here’s the thing every writer and reader in the world hopes you understand: NEVER BE EMBARRASSED BY WHAT YOU READ. If you take that one thing away from this post, I will be a happy woman.

Throwing my opinion and voice into this debate may not bring anything new to the topic, but how can I not say something. I’ve thought about how many times I’ve told you, blog reader, why I write YA. Why I write at all. It’s not an easy thing. I drone on about writing because it’s what I do, who I am. It makes me both happy and more frustrated than anything else in my life. But what I haven’t done yet is tell you why I read YA.

Of course I can do that in one simple sentence: I READ YA BECAUSE I LIKE IT!

  • The article says adults read YA for escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia. In fact, it’s the whole crux of the article. How dare an adult read for any of these reasons? Well, yeah, I do read YA for all of these reasons. And? I think choosing to read for any reason is a great thing. I’m not sure why someone who writes herself wants to disparage others from reading. It’s very counterproductive.
  • The article says: But if they [adults] are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something. Well, the argument falls apart before it begins:  there are teen dramas that are so much more complex than literary fiction and there is great adult literature that’s so sappy and maudlin I literally cry. Hey, you know what’s great and complex and syrupy and mushy and heart-felt and fun and rewarding and sentimental? LITERATURE. Period.
  • The article says, life is so short, and the list of truly great books for adults is so long. I say life is so short, and you will never be able to read all of the great books out there; cherish the books you love, learn from the books that are smarter than you, and forget the books you didn’t like.

Why do I read YA? 
I read YA to be inspired. I read it to perfect my craft. I read YA as a writer to figure out what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong. I read YA because it’s what I’m passionate about. I read YA to learn, to understand, to find my place in the world. I read YA because I know or have met a number of YA writers, editors, agents and readers. They are my people and I love them. I read YA to escape and because it’s nostalgic, dammit. I read YA because it is insightful and fun and sad and character driven and plot driven and exhilarating. I read YA because the swearing has a purpose and makes more sense. I read YA because the sex has a consequence--or a reason--and makes more sense. I read YA because it is more diverse than other genres; you can push the boundaries of YA literature further. I read YA because I don’t want to forget where I came from, who I am, or where I’m going.

I read YA because I get to.

And maybe I’m not the girl you should be listening to. Me, the woman made up of words. The one who walks around with a book bag entirely covered in literary quotes; the one with the Harry Potter bracelet and purse; the one wearing her favorite Shakespeare quote on a ring and a scarf with an entire passage from Austen. Maybe I’m too invested in words. It’s entirely possible I don’t understand what it’s like to have no time for reading; to never grasp the full meaning of the words I'm consuming. A co-worker at the part-time job-hobby told me last week he’s never read a book in his life; he simply can’t retain the story. He also sat down with me for half an hour to try and figure out why I like to read and how I retain the story. It was a conversation that left me at once happy and sad. Happy – he wasn’t embarrassed to ask and I wasn’t embarrassed to share. Sad – because that’s a whole lot of joy I’ve found that he’ll never quite figure out.

I may, at the end of my life, discover that my words never reached the masses I hope to inspire. My writing may never get published and my passion for my craft may fizzle out with a stutter instead of burn out in a blaze. But no matter what this world has in store for me, I will always, always be a reader of books. And that’s not embarrassing at all.

“I read widely, indiscriminately. I read historical books, animal books, ballet books, detective books, adventure books, fairy tales, science books, funny books, school stories, and Sweet Valley High books. I am made of books, all kinds of books.” –Anne Ursu