Saturday, June 14, 2014

Why yes, I do have an opinion on that...

Well, look at that! I am reading and talking as part of the Read Aloud Programme for Schools for The Press Christchurch Writers Festival in August. Super excited! Writers Festivals are a little slice of heaven.

Some folk have been complaining about adults reading YA. Here and here. Cos ya know YA is just dumbed down stuff and talks about issues that have no relevance or interest for adults.What are we thinking reading that puerile stuff. Cos like children and young adults are, ya know, like some simple, inferior version of like, grown up people. Sheesh. Folk reacted, responded, or went a little septic, here and here. What do I think (cos y'all know I am bound to have an opinion on this)? There is an arrogance that underlies some of the criticisms of YA literature. That young adults and children are simple, un-smart versions of adults. That YA books can only offer the adult reader escapism, instant gratification and nostalgia (and it is obviously embarrassing to want these from a book). That YA literature is incapable of dealing with complex, important or challenging themes.  That grown up issues are somehow better and more important than issues facing younger people. Is Malala Yousafzai's experience simpler and less important because she is a teen? Can we not join the 'real' realm of adulthood if we don't read 'difficult' adult literature. But perhaps the thing that I wonder most about this brouhaha is why? Why the complaints and criticisms? And why do folk see the need to denigrate a book category to further their agenda? I wonder if perhaps some writers of adult literature aren't happy that adults are buying and reading YA books rather than adult books. They want to shame us into changing our reading habits. I just can't help thinking that telling me I should be embarrassed is the wrong way to go about getting me to change my behaviour. And making sweeping generalisations about YA books of which many are diverse and rich and well written is just, well, poor ammunition. Of course not all YA books are sophisticated and smart. But then neither are all adult books. And children and young adults might lack experience but they don't lack brains, or feelings. And they can be faced with issues just as complex as those facing adults. And if they aren't there yet, doesn't mean some of the books don't contain those more difficult themes for when they are. Because the thing that irks me most about this whole debate is thinking that the way to win me over is by telling me YA books are beneath me. That there is something wrong or bad about that kind of literature. Perhaps if the critics had spent more time impressing and exciting me with the books they would like me to read, I would be more open to their suggestions. I just want to read good books, regardless of the target audience.

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