Friday, June 24, 2011

Innocent Pleasures

There was quite a stir yesterday in the YA community over yet another "article" completely degrading YA writers, books, and anyone who reads them. I won't link to the article because it's getting enough traffic as it is, and I won't further respond to it (after my Twitter rant) because, well, Damn The Man.

Like the YA community, I'm tired of people saying things like "I really liked The Hunger Games even though it's YA" or "It's for teens, but it's still good." Sigh. Why can't good just be good, regardless of the stereotypes surrounding a certain demographic? I hear this all the time about Battlestar Galactica. "It's sci-fi, but like... it's not sci-fi because it's good." Yes, I have friends who have used that exact quote. Yes, I explain to them why that's a ridiculous statement. Yes, it's usually in vain.

When we have to qualify why we like something, it usually means we have something to defend. Good is good, even if others don't always agree with you. We've all admitted to guilty pleasures, and I've come to realize that this term is actually sort of offensive. There's merit in everything. Even in check-out lines or $1 bins, where even the authors know they aren't creating high art, there are gems within the genres. Who are we to judge? And who are we to feel guilty, or make others feel guilty, for enjoying them?

I might not like everything, or even understand why people like a certain book, but I don't see value in making people who disagree with me feel like they've done something wrong. Going into the weekend, after a week of YA taking yet another hit, think about what you love to read that others don't always "get." Then read the hell out of it and make no apologies.

19 comments:

  1. Good is a subjective term. Without reading the article, I guess that the author feels that he or she can objectively determine for all readers what is a good book. But the author is not objective. His or her opinion is subjective and should not be taken seriously by readers of YA books. Good means .. Good for them or Good for me. The YA books are good for the readers who enjoy rading them. And "Good for them" is enough. The author of the article should say that "It is not good for me", but if it is "good for them", them being those who write and read YA books, then that is also Good. Enjoy your weekend and ignore the article that made you angry.

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  2. You know a word I hate? 'But'.

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  3. Yeah, it is frustrating to read articles like that one. I think the idea of YA as somehow less is laughable. I mean, were these writers not in some way influenced by books in their young adult years? I can only speak for myself, but I try to write a good story no matter the "level" of the readership. Not to mention, there are readers of all levels in any age group.

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  4. I can see the point of saying "It's fantasy, but even if you've never read fantasy, it's really accessible" or something like that when telling a friend about a book. But why try to hide what we enjoy by qualifying it? "It's good, but..." But nothing! You like it, so it's good!

    Thanks for not linking to the article. It made me head::desk a little yesterday. YA is targetted at a younger demographic, not a stupid demographic.

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  5. Sarah, first of THANK YOU, for not mentioning the article and helping those people sale their books. And I 110% agree with you, why should we feel shameful for reading YA or romance or whatever. When I tell people i've read 30 books this year so far, they usually ask me what I read. I tell them YA and romance...they laugh. Actually laugh in my face. So then I ask them, "what do you read?" I usually get the same answer "I haven't read a book in years." I reply "Huh, I can't imagine not feeding my brain." Now who's feeling the shame?

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  6. You go Glenn Coco. Also: Empire Records totally rocks my socks. No if, ands, or buts.

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  7. I want to hug you just for referencing BSG. :)

    And I've found I have to justify my movie preferences more than my book preferences, but I guess that's just because most of my friends tend to enjoy reading or they don't do it at all so it's not a point of disagreement. Though occasionally I do have to defend YA or MG to the few people who don't read on a regular basis and believe people should read in their own age group... but that doesn't happen very often for me.

    I agree that there is value in everything, and I hate that so often we have to defend our personal preferences. Do I like Battlestar Galactica? You better frakkin believe it. Do I expect everyone else to? No, but I expect them not to think less of me because I enjoy Starbuck's shenanigans.

    Anywho, great post, and I hope to see you soon, Sarah!

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  8. I agree completely. It's normal to not like everything about YA (I do-lol-I'm just speaking in general) but it's not okay to throw mud in the faces of YA readers and YA writers; it makes me wonder if they posted that article on purpose just to stir things up.

    Great post!

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  9. I tend to judge people based on what they read. I know and accept this. But it's never for what they read, more for what they don't. (For example, my dad reads mysteries. Police, military, lawyers, etc. Mainly by authors who sell their books through Costco. And there's nothing wrong with that. What bothers me about it is that he refuses to branch out and try other genres.) I don't say it out loud, though, because I have the common sense to know that it's not my place to question what someone else enjoys (except to my dad, who I say it to often). It just pisses me off when people judge everyone around them for anything, be it politics, religion, baseball teams (except Red Sox fans, they're fair game), or even just what they read. Because really, shouldn't we be happy that people are reading at all?

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  10. Guilty pleasures are fine, but I think that in order to receive literary acclaim, books ought to meet literary standards, if we want to remain an educated society. I find it very upsetting that news no longer has the same journalistic standards it used to follow - I think this has had a huge negative impact on the way issues are debated. Years ago, Stephen King wrote about how he was never accepted in literary circles, but made a lot of money, and he seemed to understand that not all of his work had high literary merit. He wrote about how, when he couldn't come up with something brilliant, he'd write at a lower standard. Today, it seems to me, books are considered brilliant simply because they make a lot of money. It's like the Emperor's New Clothes when books that are poorly written receive great reviews just because they make a lot of money.

    I'm not naming any specific books because, obviously, a lot of great books are published, but I've also purchased some popular books that are so badly written, I won't even give them away and am trying to decide what to do with them because I don't want them.

    I loved BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, by the way. I thought it was philosophical and intellectual. Not everyone likes science fiction; it’s not even as popular a genre as it used to be. C'est la vie. I still love that show.

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  11. A couple of random thoughts.

    Frankenstein, Beowulf, The Turn of the Screw, A Christmas Carol, and many other books are all considered literary classics, but in essence are, like all fiction, genre fiction. YA is a category for booksellers, not readers.

    Neil Gaiman was once asked if he set out to write YA or adult novels. He answered that he just wrote books and let the publishers decide where it fit.

    Sometimes in the UK they publish the same novel with an adult cover and YA cover because they are a little more intelligent in understanding that good books appeal to fans young and old.

    When you go to buy your movie ticket the movies aren't separated by genre, they are all just plastered on the marquis together.

    My greatest English class was in the 6th grade. My teacher taught Hemingway, Steinbeck, Bradbury and Asimov. It didn't get better than that.

    I love it when arrogant bastards who think they are better than everyone else get beat. A couple of sports examples this year are The Miami Heat and the Vancouver Canucks. The writer of that article deserves a good beat down from anyone with half a brain.

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  12. On the other hand, here's an article written by two authors who love writing YA fiction, but clearly show how much less craft goes into it than writing literary fiction: Writing Young-Adult Fiction . They also mention how creepy it is for adults to be marketing some of the YA content to kids. I actually find their point of view refreshing. Many YA books are little more than mind candy.

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  14. @Anonymous - That's the exact article I'm referring to in this blog post. If a novel, no matter for old adults or young adults, only took two revisions to complete, it's probably not very well written. Writing for a younger audience doesn't mean you get to be lazy or not try as hard because you think your audience won't notice the difference.

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  15. @Sarah - But there are so many hugely popular YA books that are written that way. Maybe the publishing industry isn't aware that quite a few popular YA authors have now confided publicly that they've thrown their books together in three weeks time and revised as quickly. Maybe those books give the genre a bad name, but they're hugely popular and the publishing industry is forever advertising them.

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  16. @Anonymous - True, but that type of writing is not exclusive to YA. Just look at writers like Dean Koontz and James Patterson, who churn out titles once, sometimes twice, a year.

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  17. @Sarah - It's not just the timeline, it's the quality of writing. As the article pointed out, the authors admitted to not even trying to achieve quality writing in their YA books.

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  18. On the flip side, it peeves me that generally YA readers allow for much more imaginative writing than your average adult reader. I can only hope the current YA readers maintain their thirst for such fiction beyond YA.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Neil Gaiman's philosophy as stated in a comment above.

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