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Slate's 'Against YA': Maybe Hate It Less?

The much-discussed book article for this week seems to be Ruth Graham's 'Against YA.' A lot of people are pissed about it.

Some things that should be taken into consideration about this piece:

1. Graham knew it would infuriate people.
2.  It's not easy to write something that attacks a genre that is as ridiculously popular as Young Adult Fiction.

I'm not saying she's therefore right. But it's worth it to keep in mind that she's not coming from a heavily fortified side, while the pro-YA people are. She says a lot of stuff I gut-reaction agree with, which has in turn pissed off some of my friends, but because my mentality seems to coincide with hers, I've been able to sit and think about why I hold some of these opinions and whether they have any merit.

"These opinions" being that no, I don't think adults should devote all or the majority of their reading time to YA. I think it's a limiting and telling choice. I think that if you're a grown adult who spends almost all your reading time checking up on the exploits of some 16-year-olds, you need to sit down and figure out why the hell you're making that choice instead of reading something that speaks to a life beyond high school.

Now. Do those gut feelings that I had when I read this article, and definitely still carry, have merit.

What the discussion seems to have boiled down to is who is this woman to judge what other people are reading? Why did she feel that this article had to be written? What was she hoping to accomplish from insulting and alienating a large number of readers at a time when the country seems to be worrying about the decline of reading? Shouldn't we just be happy anyone is reading anything?

What spurred this article in all probability was frustration. Speaking as someone with little to no tact, control freak tendencies, and a strong dislike of anyone using life to coast, the titanic presence of YA on the literary scene is immensely frustrating. You can ask, what business is it of anyone to judge what another's reading? None at all, on an individual basis. But what Graham seems to feel is frustration not that just one isolated person is focusing their reading energy on books meant for children in high school, but that it's a massive trend that speaks about us as a culture.

People can and should read what they want. But we also need voices that from time to time speak out against popular trends and — even if their opinions are not correct — create discussion. It's easy to go through life without asking why you do the things you do. I've realized in thinking through this issue that I've made a lot of assumptions about why people read YA. Graham's article will cause well-thought-out defenses of the genre to be written, and more understanding on both sides of the issue as people explain their opinions.

 I support readers and I support thoughtful discussion. I look forward to the two coming together in the remainder of the week.


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