What’s Up With Genre Shaming? | Defending YA

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”

23302416By 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

What do YOU think about “genre shaming”? Is it freedom of expression, or is it going too far? Is there any genre YOU’D like to defend?

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15 responses to “What’s Up With Genre Shaming? | Defending YA

  1. What? OK first what makes a book not real literature? Young adult books aren’t a joke and neither is adult or any other genre. I’m not a fan of adult books but you don’t see me saying they aren’t real literature :P. Genre shaming sounds dumb, don’t shame what you won’t read…
    Well that’s my opinion 🙂
    I’d defend ya of course…

    • Exactly my point! Just because someone prefers a certain genre of books doesn’t mean they have to force it on other people.
      I’d defend YA and any other genre, whether it’s one I read or not. I mean, romance isn’t my “thing,” but that doesn’t mean the people who read it are dumb! *latereplyalert*

  2. I think a lot of “literary” authors feel extremely threatened by the popularity of YA and children’s books. The very fact that they call themselves “literary” authors says it all. Like, other books aren’t LITERATURE. (Pronounce that like Jenna Maroney from 30 Rock, emphasizing each syllable equally.)

    And some of the writers and bloggers and reviewers who have gained the most notoriety for their YA-shaming were — I believe — seeking exactly that: notoriety. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?

    • Exactly. I feel YA’s extremely important, especially for developing teens. And if you’re not a teen and you still read it… so what? The definition of literature is: “books and writings published on a particular subject.” That’s it. It doesn’t say a single thing about YA or classics or adult novels. It is just written matter.

  3. I think genres are problematic, first and foremost, but I also think this whole genre shaming thing is ridiculous. Not everyone writers books for the same reasons. Not everyone reads them for the same reasons, either. Just because one person feels a certain way about any given thing doesn’t mean the whole world has to follow suit – and they shouldn’t expect anyone to, either.

    • I agree. Whenever I write novels, I always have trouble fitting them to a genre. Several stories I wrote feature protagonists who are much older (early to late 20’s), even though they’re intended for young adults, and written by one too. Reading what you want is a form of freedom of expression. Why do we have to take that away?

  4. What a great post! Yes, unfortunately I have heard many people think those who read YA (and are not teens) are “dumbing” down. We can’t all be “perfect readers” and read only stimulating works. Books are for our entertainment, enjoyment, and education. We read what we want.

    • Thanks, Karla! 😀 I, for one, think many YA books are just as stimulating as adult books and classics. And, yes, okay, I sometimes DO enjoy reading books about the world turning upside down and fish floating in the sky… but we aren’t all perfect. 😛

  5. There are times when I can’t find any adult books I like or have any kind of plot. YA can be so much deeper like Wonder or Out of My Mind. And, I can’t remember the rest because I was distracted by the little photo of Sam from Supernatural….

    • Exactly! I can’t really understand what makes some people detest YA so much or deem it “stupid.” Yes, I understand that YA books aren’t classics, but how much different are they from adult books?
      Lol 😛 All of my friends are obsessed with Supernatural, but I never got into it. Too scary. 😛

  6. (sorry, this is an old post but I just found your blog!) I think the biggest reason behind all the YA hate is fuelled by internalised misogyny. People just love to hate things that teenage girls love.
    I think Lindsay Morgan said it best- ‘Say what you want about YA- it’s opening up doors for girls to be superheros.’

    • No problem! I LOVE it when people comment on the posts I’ve written, no matter if they’re old or new! I’ve never really heard it phrased that way, but I think you’re probably right. It’s really weird, because people for some odd reason support sports and other “typical boy” things, but hate when girls like “typical girl” things. It’s odd.
      THAT IS SO TRUE. It’s really odd, because around 50% of the YA I read has female protagonists and suddenly I read an adult book and, um… even when they’re written by women the MCs are suddenly male and the females in the book are just the love interests.

  7. Pingback: The End of Brilliant 2-0-1-5 | Books and Bark·

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