Okay. So normally I don't like to get drawn into online kerfuffles, especially when they're started by trolls, but this one was hit a nerve. It actually doesn't have anything to do with me, but everything to do with one of my favorite book bloggers, Kristi at The Story Siren. She's one of many online book reviewers who specializes in YA, and she's one of the classier ones. Snazzy blog, great book choices, thoughtful reviews. In the know. I appreciate that and read her blog frequently. (and not just because she likes my books).
But this week she posted her usual "in my Mailbox" where she talks about the ARCs that have come in during the week and what she's bought for reading. And got a blast of negative anonymous comments accusing her of hogging all the books, requesting too many review copies, and being "too old" for YA. The nasty comments (which she may or may not have deleted by the time you read this) continue on the next post, again claiming that she's taking review copies from publishers that would otherwise go to legitimately teenaged bloggers and saying again and again that she's too old. There was a lot of swearing, and not even in an interesting way.
Basically, it was the height of tacky. And the whole point behind it was idiotic anyway; Kristi gets sent books because she posts decent reviews on a regular basis and runs a great-looking blog. Teenaged bloggers often don't get books because they don't review often enough or don't have enough readers. Blogging well is practically a part time job and frankly, most people regardless of age aren't cut out to be great blog reviewers.
But that's not what offended me, because Kristi knows all that and so does most anybody who is engaging all of their brain neurons.
The real thing that grated my cheese was this idea that a blogger ought to step down from YA lit because she's no longer a teen. Um, no. Actually, allow me to clarify:
The average YA author is older than I am and all of us are older than our intended teen readership. Does that mean we ought to be writing adult fiction instead? That would be a lot of unhappy Twihards if Stephanie Meyer decided to write Twilight as an adult series. The thing about YA is that the kernel of it, the point of it, the entire theme of the genre is coming of age. Coming of age is something that we can understand at any age. It's being on the cusp of something new. It's making that leap, deciding what to do with yourself. It's doing anything for the first time. That's the point of YA fiction, and it's something that anybody can enjoy. Look at the success of TWILIGHT. Harry Potter. (and yikes, SHIVER).
To say that adults can't read YA because they aren't the same age as the protagonists is as ludicrous as saying that teens can't read adult books because they aren't yet adults. It's ultimately condescending, either way. Adult saying to teen: "you won't enjoy this movie/ book because as a teen, you haven't experienced loss/ cheating/ tax evasion/ other adult theme." Teen saying to adult: "you won't enjoy this teen movie/ book because it's been too long since you were cool." No. You cannot say that.
I'm sorry, but every single bone in my body protests against that. It's just as bad as someone telling me something is a "guy book" versus a "girl book." That sound you hear? The sound of my skin prickling.
At 27, I still read mostly YA -- is that wrong of me? I identify more with the character issues in a lot of YA -- the growing up, the jumping off cliffs, the newness -- than I do a lot of adult fiction, which deals with fatigue, mid-life crisis, marriage issues. Am I the only twenty something who feels this way? Nope. There's also thirty somethings, forty something, fifty somethings who prefer the genre . . . age is irrelevant when coming to reading. There's no "this is right for this age." "this is wrong for this age."
There's this: "This book is right for me." "This book isn't my thing."
That's the only truth there is in reading. As a reader and as a writer, never forget that YA is a marketing distinction. It's books placed in a certain section of the bookstore because they will probably appeal to teens. It doesn't mean they won't appeal to anybody else. And it doesn't mean that that's the only place in the store they could go. We write the best books we can about the characters we care about, no matter how old they happen to be. And I don't care who's reading my books. I don't care if it's grandmas with fake teeth or teens with ipods or toddlers drooling sippy cups on the pretty blue ink. I just care that they're being read.
So whoever it is that was posting anonymously on The Story Siren, you probably won't ever read this. But if you do, I hope you take away this. You can't tell people what to love. YA is for teens and anyone who's ever been one. I think that just about covers it.