Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Top 7 Comments I've Received From Adult's Who DON'T Read YA (And My Brief Thoughts On YA Being "Embarrassing")

Sometimes, I read YA novels in public (scandalous, I know). Other times, I go to the bookstore or library and browse the YA shelves. And sometimes, the most ridiculous statements come out of other people's mouths when see me reading or perusing a YA novel.

Let's get something straight here: I am an adult, but I am still young (almost 22). But, even I still receive comments whenever I read YA in public, from people who seem to think it's strange for someone in college to read teen literature. These are some of the more popular random comments I've received:

1.  "You do know that's for children, right?"
Thank you. I had no idea. I thought THE HUNGER GAMES was a new diet trend. My mistake. 

2.  "Isn't that story a little immature for you?"
I laughed at this statement, because I was reading BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY at the time - that book is far from immature. It's thoughtful, intense...such an excellent, moving story. 

3.  "I read a YA novel once. It wasn't deep or complex, unlike (insert very literary adult novel title), which I'm currently reading. Now that's a stimulating story."
I honestly didn't know how to respond to this person. I was too surprised by the statement to formulate a decent thought. But honestly, anyone that doesn't find YA to be deep has not read the right book. 

4.  "Do you read YA because you have a hard time reading more difficult and complex texts?"
Yeah, they might have called me an idiot to my face (in an underhanded way), but I didn't feel the need to explain myself or my reading choices. I'm happy with the A grades I'm earning as an English major, so his statement didn't bother me. What bothered me was the idea that all YA lit is "easy" and uncomplicated, because there are many YA novels with layers and meaning. 

5.  "So you must love Twilight then, right?"
Um, no. TWILIGHT is not the worst book ever, but it doesn't live up to the best of the best. All YA lit is NOT like TWILIGHT! *sighs*

6.  "Maybe you should try reading a novel that is actually educational and worth your time."
I'm 80% sure I said something like "I already am, but thank you so much for your concern" ;)

7.  "I cannot believe you're reading that in public. I would be so embarrassed to be caught reading a book for teens!"
And this, dear readers, is the one statement that always makes me sad. I usually just respond with my usual "Life's too short to worry about everyone else and their opinions of you - read what you want and forget everyone else if they don't like it" but it saddens me how often this conversation pops up. 

  
  
  
It seems as though, for the most part, people who do not regularly read YA have this inaccurate view of Young Adult literature. They think it's for kids, it's immature, it requires zero thought to read, that it's exactly like TWILIGHT, and that everyone will mock you for reading such uninspiring and meaningless stories. To anyone that thinks YA is like that...wow. I feel sorry for those people, because they are missing out on some of the more exceptional YA novels based on a couple bad experiences by not reading the right book for them.

YA literature isn't perfect (is anything?), but it is moving, meaningful, hilarious, sad, heartbreaking, and nothing to be embarrassed about, even if the book features a girl-in-a-pretty-dress (SWEET EVIL), a couple making out or almost making out (ACROSS THE UNIVERSE has the most gorgeous example of this that even makes me forget how much I hate this trend), an embarrassing title (like ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS), or even strange clouds that make it look like you're reading something very immature (I'm looking at you, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, but I still adore you), or some other typical YA cover and title trend.

So, the next time you try to hide that YA book cover or title from everyone else when you're out reading somewhere in public, remember why you read YA, and read it proudly. Because if we don't start reading YA with confidence, then how can we expect non-YA readers to take us and our preferred genre seriously? This post is my reminder to never be that woman who hides her reading material in public because she's embarrassed, but to be the one that reads them proudly - no matter what anyone thinks.

Have you ever had anyone say something crazy to you about YA lit when they catch you reading it in public?  What are your thoughts on YA being "embarrassing" for older readers?

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25 comments:

  1. GAH!! I've gotten SOOO many of those kinds of comments, too! It ticks me off, especially when someone who doesn't read much or only reads Jodi Picoult and Nicholas Sparks says something like that to me. REALLY?!? (can you tell I have some residual anger issues over this topic?)

    Then I think, "Too bad for you. You're missing out on a kick-butt genre."

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    1. Whew! I'm relieved that I'm not the only one who gets these kind of comments!

      Those people truly don't know what they're missing out on ;)

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  2. I haven't had any negative comments on my reading though I am guilty of qualifying my reading choices by telling people that I read YA because I am a librarian and I'm responsible for selecting YA books at my library. That is true but it isn't the only reason I read YA fiction.

    I am sorry that you've had such a negative response to your reading choices. On one of the librarian listservs I belong to, we were recently discussing the book Warm Bodies (the basis for the film) and why the author is adamant that his book is NOT YA and his negative opinion towards the value/quality of YA fiction. Our response is that most of us placed his book (if we had it) in our teen sections where it would get checked out more. It is sad when even authors undervalue YA literature.

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    1. I remember reading about that author and his reaction - so strange that he wouldn't embrace the YA audience (especially since the movie version of his book appears to be promoted toward teens, so I'd assume his novel has cross-over potential too). Too many people look at YA lit and assume the worst, but there are many wonderful, extraordinary books published as YA - most people just don't know about them!

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    2. It's not just the marketing. They actually seem to have changed some key points for the movie to appeal to a younger crowd. In the original book, the main character is, I believe, in his 30s, and one of the lines in the trailer, "...judging by my hoodie, I'd guess I was unemployed," in the book is something like "...judging by my suit, I'd guess I worked in an office."

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  3. Oh and I am glad you mentioned Twilight because unfortunately it is used as a reason to put down YA fiction all the time. That would be like using the Fifty Shades books as a benchmark of fiction for adults.

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    1. Oh, TWILIGHT. I still cannot understand why everyone assumes that TWILIGHT is the epitome of the YA genre! So ridiculous. I don't think you can ever use one book to describe an entire age-genre of books - it just doesn't work.

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  4. I used to get a ton of these comments too. It was so frustrating, but then I started to push my friends and my mom into this genre and they backed off a bit with their judgement. I think they realize it is so much more than just about high school, dating, struggling to open your locker and vampires that sparkle. ha. I love that young adult literature has been getting more and more attention lately...I guess especially because of all the new movies coming out based on YA books. I love this post, Lea! You should have more discussion posts--I think it's great!!

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    1. It's amazing how many people start singing a different tune once they start reading great YA lit! I'm hoping all these YA movies and TV shows get more people to branch out and embrace YA, because it really is better than most people seem to believe.

      Thanks, Christina! Glad you enjoyed the post - I was debating whether or not to post it, and just went for it!

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  5. I am 44 and I read YA. So what? My kids are 15 and 18 and they DON'T read at all. They are the ones that are missing out. I get most of my books from the library, and no one ever says anything to me there. My husband picks up my books from the library for me, and I always ask him if anyone says anything about his (my) book choices, but no one ever does. On the other hand, my mother has no idea what I read. She probably thinks I'm still into freaking Harlequins or something. I don't tell my sister-in-law what I'm reading anymore because years ago when I said I was reading Twilight, she went off on me in front of the whole family. Then, a month later, she pulled me aside and said she had bought and read the entire Twilight series. Yet she still tries to put me down for reading YA. I don't get it.

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    1. Librarians tend to rock and never judge me for my choice in books, so I'm glad that your local librarians don't judge you either! It always seems to be strangers, professors, or other college students that make comments.

      Your sister-in-law still tries to put you down for reading YA, despite the fact that she does too? I don't get that, either! How strange. Sorry you have to deal with that, especially from family.

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  6. I love this post! I hate when people act like something is wrong with me for reading YA. And that they will stereotype all YA to Twilight. I personally like Twilight, but you can't compare one to the whole huge genre. :)

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    1. You really can't compare an entire genre to one book - there are so many types of YA novels, and only a small percentage of them are even vaguely similar to TWILIGHT!

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  7. Thank you for writing this! I rediscovered YA in the last two years, as an adult, and have found that the stories are usually more engaging and entertaining than what is written for "adults." A good book is a good book, period. I read to escape - YA does that for me :)

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    1. Yay for rediscovering YA! :)

      "A good book is a good book, period." - very well said. Whether it's for teens, adults, or children, if it's a good story, then it shouldn't matter what the genre is.

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  8. Holy cow. I want to slap these people. Awesome post!

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  9. I really don't understand why people feel the need to pass judgement on what other people read for fun. There's a difference between saying why YOU don't read something and passing a judgement on everyone who reads it. Example: I don't often read horror because it doesn't appeal to me and I frighten easily, and I don't enjoy being frightened, even though I know some people do. And yet expressing their opinions in this respectful way seems to be hard for people.

    Sometimes I feel just by reading around others I open myself up to criticism for my reading choices no matter WHAT I'm reading. When I was in high school, I went on a classics kick, and I was told I was pretentious(though not in those words) and trying to look better and smarter than everyone else. Um, no, I was just enjoying my Chaucer and Austen. Now that I'm in college and I read YA, I actually haven't gotten very many remarks, but I've gotten a few. I've been told that I'm "too smart to read something so mindless" is the only one that comes to mind, which is quite the backhanded compliment. So WHAT if I want to read something mindless? It's my free time. I don't pass judgement on what other people decide to do in their free time, whether that's the TV shows they watch or the music they listen to, so I don't know why it seems OK to put adults down for reading YA.

    As you can tell, I have quite a lot of feelings on this issue! Thanks for this post--really got my mind thinking about this again.

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  10. Wow I can't believe that some people would even say those things to you. I have to say I haven't ever really had anyone make comments to me on what I'm reading. Some people in my med program have picked up my books when one is sitting on my desk to read the summary but they never really comment on it. I don't think the people I'm around even realize the book is YA. I mean if you don't read YA how would you know that certain covers or authors are YA authors if they don't even read the genre. I'm 22 and I feel I should be free to read what I want. Plus as you noted YA books are more than just easy books they actually have a lot of story to them and emotions. I would go so far as to say that many teen books are even more emotional than adult books.

    Thanks for the great post!

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  11. I don't know whether to laugh or scoff! I mean, seriously, those were some pretty rude comments. Can't say I've ever experienced anything like that from reading in public, thankfully. I do get the Twilight comment from my employer every once in a while though because he knows it gets me huffy and he thinks it's funny. Curse him! I do agree with you though: life's too short to worry what other people think of you and your reading choices. I'm surprised you would get such a reaction considering how young you still are. I wonder if my older blog friends experience this prejudice badly. Gah, people are dumb sometimes. But I really loved your calm, cool reactions to the people telling you these things! haha!

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  12. So sad! Those people should try and read YA for a change. They probably then find out that it's awesome. :)

    Love this post.

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  13. Actually, I think The Fault in Our Stars is the most adult-fiction looking cover in the bunch.

    I rarely get comments like this from reading in public. I mostly get them at work (in a bookstore) from people who want to talk to me about the latest "literary fiction" (a term I hate) wunderkind when I tell them I only read the books in the teen section.

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  14. Oh my gosh, yes. Yes to all of this. Though really my skin's been pretty thick from the beginning. I read MG well through high school, so I learned to ignore funny looks. Now, as a 20-something college graduate (with honors, whaaaat), I'm like the young version of a crazy old codger. I don't care what you think of me. I'll read MG and YA if I so desire, thank you very much.

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  15. I got some of these comments from my dad when he took me to B&N to shop for my own Christmas presents (I'm 27.) But hey--he still bought me the books I wanted! (Then we went home and he started asking whether I was planning to *write* books for adults, rather than the YA MS I'm working on. Sigh.)

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  16. Grawr these types of comments are so annoying and rude, and they remain even when you explain you are getting a MASTER'S DEGREE in the stuff.

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