I wasn’t going to write any new stuff this week, because I’m in the depths of my dissertation, but when I get shouty I get shouty, and someone has to hear me.
On August 19th, TES printed an article titled Why Young Adult Fiction is a Dangerous Fantasy, saying how the YA fiction genre is full of tired predictable storylines and has dumbed down teenagers. The author claimed it has led to generations of teens who will never be literate, because they spent their formative years reading Twilight rather than Voltaire.
Some points to raise. First off, YA is not a genre – it’s an age group, and there are many genres within.
But let’s move past this and get to the heart of the issue – the content. I’ve spent the last three months immersed in YA fiction and it’s been the most exhausting, but most eye-opening, three months of my life. It’s been all I’ve read. All I’ve written about. All I’ve discussed.
Let’s not talk about how Twilight is brain mushing our children. Let’s not say that every single book written for a teenage audience features the same hashed story over and over. Let’s not shame people for what they read. Let’s not undermine someone’s intelligence for reading “the wrong kind of books”.
Let’s instead praise how much good YA fiction is doing. We may not all agree with the choices or the execution, but Zoella’s WHSmith-backed book club has gotten a plethora of young girls to put the phone down and pick up a book.
Let’s talk about how the books they read teach them what they need to know – how to be an adult. They want to see people their age fighting the same demons they fight.
Holly Bourne has challenged countless stereotypes, and has made young girls aware of some behaviour toward them that is simply not ok.
Louise O’Neill has gotten us talking about how we see our bodies – and how others see them.
Markus Zusak has revealed racism, stigma, and how to push that aside and see the person inside the label. It’s shown us world history in a way we can relate to.
Lisa Williamson has opened us to how acceptance doesn’t always come from where you most want or expect it to.
Rainbow Rowell taught us that it’s perfectly ok to be different, to be the Shy One, or the Crazy One. There are a lot of young people who need to hear that. I know this, because I was one of them.
Suzanne Collins showed us how to overcome your fears or upbringing and stand against any adversity facing you.
Let’s talk about how young adult fiction is so widely loved and respected, 55 per cent of young adult titles are bought by those over 18.
Let’s not shame readers for what they enjoy. Reading modern fiction makes as much a literary mind as a diet of Dickins and a bowlful of the Bronte sisters.