More and more frequently, I find myself reading blogs claiming that a certain genre aren’t “real books” or “real literature.” Young Adult is probably the most frequent recipient of what I’ve nicknamed “genre shaming,” with thrillers/murder mysteries and classics bringing up second and third place. As a person who loves books of all genres–young adult, classics, and murder mysteries being three of my favorites–I have a hard time understanding what people are getting out of saying these things.
Myth: “YA is a Stupid Genre”
By far, YA is the most “shameful” genre to read out there… yet 95% of the book blogs I read are written by bloggers who read mostly YA, many of whom are adults. There’s some weird misconception that YA books “aren’t real literature” and “have no depth”… but how do you explain books like Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky? I heard on the radio the other day that today’s teenagers are the least homophobic, most liberal, most diverse, and largely the most accepting generation out there. Wonder deals with a boy who has a face abnormality due to a birth defect, and his struggle to be accepted when he first goes to school with other children of his age, many of which are judgmental, stare at him oddly, whisper about him furtively, and shun him from their society. Gracefully Grayson deals with the struggles of a child who is biologically male but feels female, and the struggles she faces. I bemoan the fact that these wholly wonderful novels are reduced to “teenage garbage” and written off simply because of the genre they are categorized in. Just like the teenagers they are written for, these books are some of the most forward-thinking, liberal, accepting books out there.
Myth: “All YA Books are Mindless Teen Romance. Like Twilight.“
A lot of people associate YA with “mindless teenage romance,” often using Twilight as the one and only example of the entire genre. While I have never read it, I will agree that Twilight has received a lot of negative attention from YA and not-so-YA book lovers alike. But I think it’s time to stop letting that one controversial book represent an entire forward-thinking, wonderful genre. I won’t say that all YA books are wonderful and amazing and have depth; just as with adult books, there are some gems and some undeniably terrible novels out there. Teenage romance in general is not viewed in a positive sense at all, and it’s not my favorite genre, but I think that there’s something to be gained from its popularity all the same: the power of love. It’s the same undying theme that shadowed the Harry Potter series, Pride and Prejudice, and so many other books… across genres. Maybe it’s because there’s an overabundance of YA romance books, and, quite frankly, it’s hard to find a well-written romance. Yet, I think it’s important to remember that classics are called classics because they have withstood the test of time. YA is called stupid because it has not. It hasn’t had the chance to. Maybe in a thousand years, or a million, or as few as a hundred, we will have unearthed the true jewels of young adult novels. For now, perhaps, we need to be accepting, open-minded, and try to see past the label in the bookstore.
I don’t understand why I have to feel dumber because I prefer a certain genre of books. There have been so many times when I have simply tried to make myself struggle through a precariously boring classic because I just feel stupid for having read YA. The funny thing is, I like classics, too. Sometimes I’m just in the mood for a good YA novel… and yet somehow I have to feel ashamed of that?
It turns out book lovers are as accepting of many liberal-minded ideas as today’s teens. So why can’t we learn to accept what fellow book lovers choose to read?
It’s a book. I don’t like to categorize. — Madeleine L’Engle, when asked to place A Wrinkle In Time in a genre