In defense of the genre…

It’s fitting that the title of this post is also the name of the album I’m listening to as I write it.

I signed into Facebook earlier today, as per usual. Lalala I read through my newsfeed. K has little baby kittens, M went swimming last night, S ate a bug, and my mom is still playing that game. Then I come to a post from a friend and fellow writer. She had written a new blog, and since her blogs are clever and funny and relatable I try to read them. Today the blog she wrote concerned this article by The Washington Post. You might want to give it a gander just so you get a general idea about why I’m kinda pissed, and also genuinely confused.

After you have read that you can, if you like, read Zoe’s rebuttal here. Just for some background, I don’t know if I’ve said but I’m a writer. A Young Adult writer in particular, as is Zoe (check out some of her stuff, it’s great), and while I’m currently unpublished I have a vested interest in the genre both as a writer and an avid reader. So I feel like I badly need to address this article.

Now Zoe has already addressed a lot of what was wrong with that article. It is a blatant attack on YA as a genre and also on anyone who writes YA. Because apparently it’s bad for authors to write books for a target audience and write them about topics that said audience can relate to. Let’s see, violence, rape, eating disorders, cutting, drug abuse, etc.

But I’ll leave that bit alone. I won’t even get into the fact that these are issues every young person is going to encounter at some point, and that some of those encounters will leave them scarred and broken. That reading about these things might make it easier to cope, might make these scarred teens feel a little less alone. Let’s instead just focus on the books, the reading, and the bookselling aspect.

The article opens up with a woman who goes into a BN to find a book for her 13 year old daughter. Looking through the teen section all she saw was “vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff.” Here’s my first question, why didn’t she ask a bookseller for help? I’ve had concerned parents ask me for recommendations of books that didn’t deal with those very subjects. They usually purchased several of the books I recommended and left happily. Some of the books I recommended? Harry Potter, Eragon, Tamora Pierce, Jessica Day George, Nobody’s Princess, Sarah Dessen, Anne Brashares, 13 Blue Envelopes, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Melissa Marr, Prom Dates From Hell, the list goes on.

Of course there are “dark” books out there for teens. Teens are at a dark point in their lives. They are at a point where everything is changing, and everyone is changing. They are at an age where they are expected to act and think like adults but still be treated like children. You write what your audience wants to read. Or more aptly publishers publish what their audiences want to read, and booksellers sell what their customers want to read. It’s really simple economics here. They demand, we supply. Were there not a demand for these sorts of books we wouldn’t sell them.

What really cheeses me off about this article is the fact that all of the books in the entire genre are being judged based on the contents of a few. If you walk into my room you will find hundreds, maybe a thousand books. Most of them written for YA. Maybe one or two deal with any of those “dark” subject matters. If you are that worried about what your teens might be reading, do some research. Read some of it yourself. Ask a professional for their opinion.

Or ideally, let your teen be their own person and make their own choices. Let them read what they want to read, and if what they choose concerns you talk to them about it! Maybe there are things going on in their life that you don’t know about. Maybe they do need help, not because the books they are reading affected their psyche but because their psyches were affected by something else and brought them to choose those books. I know a young lady who reads a lot of realistic books about abuse, rape, suicide, etc. Why? Because she has been abused, raped, and has attempted suicide. And no one in her life understood or got her help. By finding these books she found that she was not alone, and this she told me, makes her want to go to college to be a counselor for young people. Because they shouldn’t feel alone.

To me what this all really boils down to here is an age superiority complex. Teens don’t feel, they don’t suffer, their thoughts and ideas don’t matter because we as adults have already been there and come out on the other side. We as adults have forgotten what it was to feel young, and alone, and afraid. We have forgotten what it was to imagine, to create, to live each day like it’s brand new bogged down as we are in our oh so important day to day. The world doesn’t begin and end at your mortgage payment and your white picket fences. Well, I haven’t forgotten and I hope I never do. If you take a nice close look at the album cover I posted above you will see that on the one side you have an army of the old and on the other an army of the young. The never-ending battle of youth versus age, that is all this is.

All I’m saying here is, leave my genre alone man. There are books in it for every age, for every taste. They are not all the same.

Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth-Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

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51 Comments

Filed under Bookselling, Young Adult, Young Readers

51 responses to “In defense of the genre…

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