Yesterday, I was sitting at home sick, taking the time to visit my favourite blogs in between bursts of reading Kady Cross’s The Girl in the Steel Corset. Unfortunately, reading was kind of taking a backseat and I found myself clicking on more links than I usually do that would pop up in my Twitter feed.
Little did I know that my random clicking would lead me to an article written by Joel Stein for the New York Times where he says that adults should read adult books and that seeing adults reading young adult literature is “more embarrassing than catching a guy on the plane looking at pornography on his computer.”
After reading the article – and picking my jaw up from the floor – I wondered how anyone could belittle another person for reading whatever they want. I mean, we push for equal rights within our countries – voting equality, race equality, gender equality, etc. – but now we can’t feel equal with our peers based on our reading habits?
I don’t want to tell you what to read – that’s not the point of this discussion. When I was younger, I remember loving books like Sweet Valley High, or The Baby-Sitter’s Club, or Goosebumps. I also remember trying out some adult books when I would go to the library with my mom, attempting the likes of Stephen King (though never making it through his novels). When I was finally at the age where I could buy my own books, I fell in love with chick-lit, like the offerings of Sophie Kinsella or Jennifer Weiner, and also some quality adult literature, like Yann Martel’s Life of Pi or William Golding’s Memoirs of a Geisha.
But now, in my early 30s, I find myself drawn to Young Adult literature. It’s not only because they’re fast reads, or easier to get into, but because the stories are fascinating and can deal with tough topics. Or, some are laugh-out-loud funny, keeping me up at night. I find myself getting intrigued from the first pages of these books, wanting to share them with everyone I know. Sure, Twilight isn’t the best literary book, but who cares? People are reading and that should be the only thing that matters. Sure, I have a copy of Gogol’s Dead Souls on my bookshelf, and another of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. I’ll admit that I haven’t read them yet, but will, eventually, when the mood strikes.
I like to compare reading to running. I’m sure there are many people out there who would say that you’re not a runner, or can’t be taken seriously as a runner, unless you run this certain speed, just as Stein seems to think that you can’t be taken seriously as an adult when talking about various YA book topics. But you know what? If I’m out there, running at the slowest speed possible, I’m a runner. I’m doing it. If I’m reading YA books and find myself wanting to discuss why vampires sparkle, I’m a reader. And I’ll darn well talk about what I want. If you don’t want to take me seriously, then that’s your own problem. Just think — there are so many people in the world who don’t read anything. At all. And you’re going to bash me for reading something that may be outside of my age-range?
On the same day I found myself annoyed with Joel Stein’s article, I found another article on the same website, which was written by Patricia McCormick. She talks about how young adult writers are taking risks:
Here are a few audacious books you won’t find in the adult section of the library. A Holocaust memoir narrated by Death. A novel written entirely in electronic messages. A historical novel in prose poems. A murder mystery in screenplay format. A 550-page novel in pictures and words that may or may not have been written by an automaton.
McCormick says it beautifully. I don’t remember a lot of diversity in the YA books I read growing up and now it’s everywhere. Everyone’s trying to be different and you can see that in almost every YA book you read. It’s wonderful.
The joy of reading is that there are so many books out there, so many different genres and styles that we can reach for when we’re in the mood to escape the tediousness of our everyday lives and enter a fantasy world. I respect all of the fantastic authors that this world has to offer, but sometimes, after a long day of work on the acreage, I’d like to kick back with an offering from one of my favourite YA authors, rather than strain my brain a little more reading something heavy – that’s the beauty of books.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree with Stein? Do you think that we should be able to read whatever we want?
Some more posts by some of my favourite bloggers on the beauty of YA literature:
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