I read YA, as well as fantasy. They're what I like. But I now actually start to dislike when people who don't know me ask me what I read. I'm perfectly happy to jabber on about my blog and reading in general, but when this question is asked, it's with a sinking heart that I answer. Not because I'm embarrassed, but because I know what's going to come directly after I answer: the eye-roll, the eyes glazing over, the polite but clear disinterest, then shortly dismissed, or the verbal equivalent - "But they're for kids!"
It makes me so mad and so disheartened. People automatically seem to think - without ever picking up a YA book in their life - that YA is for kids, books that have been dumbed down for the lower intellect. May I just remind you that YA is called YA - Young Adult - because these "kids" aren't children. They are teenagers, young adults. They are at school studying various subjects, including the Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Advanced Maths, Psychology, and a whole bunch of others. They are taking exams that get more difficult year after year, and they are passing! Sure, not all teens are studying these subjects, and not all teens pass every exam, but teens are studying and passing exams! To assume they're stupid just because of their age is ridiculous. Teenagers are smart, some are highly intelligent. And, from the YA books that are popular at the moment, it's clear to see they demand books that are challenging and thought provoking, books that open their eyes and make them think about things in a completely different way. And that's exactly what they're getting.
Sure there are the light romances out there, and there's nothing wrong with a light romance, but there are also some truly amazing books that blow my mind - and I'm an adult. Take Delirium by Lauren Oliver. A book set some time in the future where love has been declared a disease, and all 18-year-old's must undergo a surgical procedure on their brain to remove their ability to love. A life without love - not just romantic love, but familial love and platonic love too - is a life without music or art or any form of real creativity, but there's no passion. No strong desire for anything. Just happily going along doing what you're told by the government. Until Lena falls in love, and has everything she has believed to be true turned on it's head, yet knowing this fragile, beautiful thing she has discovered is dangerous, because if people found out, the procedure will be forced on her, or she could be killed. This is not a little light, dumbed down reading. Or how about Don't Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble. A LGBTQ YA novel that, as well as being a beautiful romance, looks at the harsh realities of what homophobia can lead to - horrendous physical attacks, and is unflinchingly honest about what some gay people go through; the day after day relentless abuse, all for committing the "crime" of falling in love. It forces you to face that this is the world we live in. This is not a little light, dumbed down reading. And that's just two of so many powerful novels that are challenging teens and provoking discussion and a shift in thought every day.
The fact that not only are you dismissing a whole generation as stupid, but are also making a judgement on my own intelligence based on what I read is so highly insulting, I can't even put it into words.
Taking things away from YA now, I remember a conversation I had with someone a few weeks ago. I asked them what they read. Their reaction was amazing, and so, so sad. I can't remember their exact words, but he was saying that the books he reads aren't anything that important or of much worth, fiction about the military and espionage - said with embarrassment and worry about what I would think. He rushed on to say that he does read some Tolstoy, but not to impress, but as if it would make up for the other books he reads in my eyes. That I may approve more of Tolstoy.
Now, I have nothing against classics - they're generally not for me, but there are a few I would like to try as I feel I'm missing out - but I feel it's really sad that someone would feel that they have to mention that they do read some classics so they're not judged for what they read. That's just awful! I haven't read it myself as it's not my cup of tea, but a lot of people have moaned about Fifty Shades of Grey. I, personally, don't have a problem with it. People are picking it up and reading it. People who may not have read anything before. People who may then pick up other books, try out other authors, other genres. Any book that gets someone reading - whether it's a classic, Fifty Shades, military novels, non-fiction, crime, whatever a person may chose - is fine with me. The fact that people are reading is what counts. Who is anyone to judge anyone else based on what they read?
We should be proud to be readers, whatever we read. We shouldn't feel embarrassed about or ashamed of what we read. Nor should we be judged.
I am not ashamed.
N.B. for the non-readers, I don't want you to think that I feel you should be ashamed for not reading. I don't think you should feel ashamed at all. I think you're missing out on the wonderful experience that is reading, but I don't think you should feel ashamed. Everyone's different.