Sunday, August 9, 2009

Is YA just for Teens?

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.


Casey said...

I couldn't believe the comments that was being left at Kristi's blog. It was insane and very childish! I think maybe they were jealous that she gets so many books (she can't help if she is an awesome reviewer) I guess some people don't understand that not everyone in this world likes the same things.

Danielle said...

After reading Kristi's post, I was angered, but not too surprised. I've had some new reviewers email me for help on their blog and when I started to get to know them, all they cared about is how they weren't getting any advance reading copies. That saddened me. But that someone would actually go out of their way to write a long letter bashing a great reviewer and hard-working blogger is truly shameful. I think it's great that you're posting about this. Things need to be said.


Hey Maggie....tell me about it, drama drama's like, hello people we're here to read, not start a war. Anywho, YA is definitely not just for teens, I'm 24 and I love it. So for the people that say it's only for teens, they can suck it :) Love Ya Maggie! Thx for caring...Kristi didn't deserve it, but hey when you're hated, you're also envied ;D


Jessica Kennedy said...

Great post. Couldn't agree more with you.

Kristen said...

You go Maggie! I'm 24 and I don't know if I'll EVER stop reading YA books. They're just so much more appealing sometimes than adult books. :) Kristi's doing a great job about all this stuff. :-D And it's great to have a YA author blogging and backing us old YA book bloggers up. :-D

Carrie said...

Thank you so much for saying this. At 34, I love to read and share YA books. I feel that they have just as much if not more to offer than most adult fare these days. I will continue to read YA and Children's books for a very long time.

Zia said...

Well put! At 36 I love YA books. The stories appeal to me more than most adult fiction does and I suspect I'll go on reading YA for a long, long time.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Casey - I really do think whoever was posting must be very young and just . . . an internet troll. It's not a serious opposition at all.

Danielle, are you serious? Wow, that would really irritate me! I hate it when I feel like people are using me as a "connection."

Eleni - AMEN.

Jessica - Thanks!

Kristen - And yep, I don't think I'm giving up YA anytime soon (obviously). I don't think you bloggers need me to add any firepower to the cannon, but it can't hurt!

Carrie - Well put!

Zia - Thank you!

Kristy said...

I completely agree with you! I'm 14 years old and my mother (who is 49) and I share books all the time!

Also, as a new blogger and can definitely tell you that that girl does NOT speak for all of us. Or really any of us, as a matter of fact. I started my blog to simply share a love of reading. I currently have one follower. That doesn't bother me at all because that is one more person that is hearing about more books.

Great post! :)

SHERI C said...

I am living PROOF of your theory Maggie. I am 47 years old (GASP!) and over the weekend I walked up to the Barnes & Noble counter and handed over three YA novels to be purchased and taken home for my reading enjoyment!
AGE has nothing to do with getting LOST in a book. Good writing will ATTRACT all ages. It's the creating and design of a great story that lures one in and holds them captive to the very last page that counts in the world of books and readership, not the age of the reader aka audience.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Kristy, thanks! I think it's brilliant you and your mom share books. I hope to do that with my kids.

And Sheri, whoohoo to us old people. ;)

Anonymous said...

The people that review books should be young adult. There's no need for old book hogs to take away reading from people that actually deserve.

Authors that actually send their books to people like Story Siren are making mistakes. Oldies like that have no business reviewing books when the MAIN audience is teenagers. Oh and thanks for calling people that dislike Story Siren gnats but I have to say kudos to ripping Twilight and saying that the male character has golden eyes. I think I'll pass and read Immortal again.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Sigh. Are you seriously going to be anonymous over here as well? I have no problem having a serious conversation about bloggers and what makes a reviewer qualified -- I think it's a worthwhile conversation to have -- , but I'm not going to do it with someone who doesn't have a name. And I don't think people who dislike Story Siren are gnats. I think people who leave clouds of nasty, cuss-filled comments on peoples blogs are gnats. Comments like that don't convince anyone, don't add to the conversation, and just look . . . uninformed. Bothersome but not really dangerous = gnats.

And I'm 27. Should I stop writing for teens? Should the author of Immortal?

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