Sunday, January 29, 2017


Students are to post reactions (minimum 350 words each) to the assigned reading/listening linked below. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

"Against YA: Adults Should be Embarassed to read Young Adult Books" by Ruth Graham: "I’m a reader who did not weep, contra every article ever written about the book, when I read The Fault in Our Stars. I thought, Hmm, that’s a nicely written book for 13-year-olds. If I’m being honest, it also left me saying “Oh, brother” out loud more than once. Does this make me heartless? Or does it make me a grown-up? This is, after all, a book that features a devastatingly handsome teen boy who says things like “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things” to his girlfriend, whom he then tenderly deflowers on a European vacation he arranged." Click heading to read the rest of the article.

"I Write Young Adult Novels and I Refuse to Apologize for It" by Rachel Carter: "It is clear that Graham did a (very) little bit of homework, reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, two extremely popular contemporary YA novels. I’ve read and enjoyed both of these novels, and to hear Graham reduce them to a proverbial eye-roll was more than a little disappointing. Are these love stories? Yes. Do they sometimes employ romantic language that, as Graham put it, “left me saying ‘Oh brother,’ out loud more than once?” Perhaps. But at their heart, these are complicated stories about family, class, death, and how we form connections with people when our everyday lives are filled with turmoil. They’re about love, too, but to claim that they are only cheesy love stories with “uniformly satisfying” endings is a lazy reading of two well-written, moving novels." Click heading to read the rest of the article.

"The Death of Adulthood in American Culture" by A.O. Scott: "I will admit to feeling a twinge of disapproval when I see one of my peers clutching a volume of “Harry Potter” or “The Hunger Games.” I’m not necessarily proud of this reaction. As cultural critique, it belongs in the same category as the sneer I can’t quite suppress when I see guys my age (pushing 50) riding skateboards or wearing shorts and flip-flops, or the reflexive arching of my eyebrows when I notice that a woman at the office has plastic butterfly barrettes in her hair". Click heading to read the rest of the article.

"Ashamed of reading YA? The fault lies not in our stars but in our stores" by Alexandra Petri: "Ah, the arbitrary divisions of bookstores. Now it’s “Young Adult” and “Serious Fiction for Older Adults” and “Romance” and “Science Fiction.” In Dickens’s day, “Books About Winsome Orphans” and “Books About Prostitutes With Hearts of Gold” stood where “Teen Paranormal Romance” and “YA But Specifically YA About Finding Yourself” (a category I actually saw at a Barnes & Noble recently) stand today. I’m sure they evoked about equal measures of sneering. (Dickens was especially gifted and managed to get his book stocked on both shelves, guaranteeing that "Oliver Twist" would be a platinum-level bestseller.)" Click heading to read the rest of the article.

"Can 35 Million Book Buyers be Wrong? Yes." by Harold Bloom: "Taking arms against Harry Potter, at this moment, is to emulate Hamlet taking arms against a sea of troubles. By opposing the sea, you won't end it. The Harry Potter epiphenomenon will go on, doubtless for some time, as J. R. R. Tolkien did, and then wane." Click heading to read to open PDF and read the rest of the essay.


Ryan Allen said...

This debate is the same as the one in any other field of creativity. Why watch Big Bang Theory when you can watch Seinfeld? Why listen to Drake when you can listen to Kendrick Lamar?

On one side Ruth Graham says YA books simply aren't challenging enough for people past a certain age. On the other, Rachel Carter says fuck you, I like YA - it's sufficiently enriching.

I think Alexandra Petri makes the most sensible argument, which is effectively "Keep reading without limiting yourself to one section of the store, and celebrate whatever moves you"
That's how I feel about all art. People who start from a love of the art itself will gravitate toward and eventually arrive at the boundary pushers.

In my experience, work that's more challenging and takes more work to grasp is often more rewarding than work that isn't, but there are most certainly exceptions. Carly Rae Jepsen's last album, full of immaculately produced endlessly saccharine 3 minute pop songs, has been more enjoyable for me than any number of lo-fi black metal epics.

Harold Bloom discusses Harry Potter, which has proven for nearly twenty years now to be a literary starting point for millions upon millions. While I might agree that the books are nothing special from page to page, I’m appreciative of them as a stepping stone from “books are boring” to “WHERE’S THE NEXT ONE?!”. In my eyes that’s effectively a public service - giving people something to grab onto.

I might personally think a particular 30 year old would gain more from a reading of 1984 than one of Twilight, but ultimately, that's a projection of my values onto someone who isn't me. All types of factors need to be taken into account before such a claim can reasonably be made. Does this person read in search of an multi faceted, dimensional story or to avoid being reduced to silence at the water cooler? For escapism or introspection? To inspire their own writing or to fall asleep more easily?

All I or anyone else should say is start with whatever makes you feel something and see what roads it takes you down.

jaclyn liccone said...

When it comes to YA and reading in general, I don’t think there should be a limit on what a person can read. If a 30 year old enjoys Harry Potter, good for them. I disagree with Ruth Graham when she says, “Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.” Why should they be embarrassed? It’s only a book they enjoy reading. If a person is lucky enough to find an author or series that reaches out to them and they fully enjoy the story, the writing, etc., more power to them. I feel that books are labeled by age just as a gage for children to know what level they should be at, but once one overcomes the childhood years where reading more mature books can be difficult, then I don’t think it should matter who reads what.

I like how Rachel Carter explains that although these books might be considered YA, there are bigger messages within the book that reaches adults such as family, class, death, and human connections. These are aspects that people deal with no matter what stage of life they are in. In fact, I think adults are more likely to fully understand the message behind these YA books than children. Once the brain is developed more, it notices more and picks up on more while reading. I know for myself, a YA book that I read when I was a teen, meant something different to me when I read it at age 22. I find that re-reading books after I've grown up and matured has made the book mean so much more to me as a whole because I recognized new ideas, concepts, writing styles, etc within the books because I’ve become more knowledgeable myself.

When A.O. Scott compares adults reading YA to 50 year olds riding skateboards, I couldn't help but think how different the two are. The act of reading is completely different than a grown man participating in a common childhood activity. Reading sparks emotions and curiosity, and in my opinion, I think those adults who enjoy YA books have a brighter imagination than those adults who don’t, and this has nothing to do with riding a skateboard at age 50. Alexandra Petri is blaming adults reading YA on bookstores. She says each generation brings a “new set of unforgivable stylistic offenses.” Now we’re blaming the setup in a book store as the excuse for YA books to attract adults? Sounds kind of stupid to me.

The authors who are writing these YA books are adults themselves. Obviously authors of YA books are going to enjoy reading their book if they wrote it. So how is this any different than another adult also enjoying it?

Zakiya C said...

I find the argument of who “should” read what genre or category of book to be quite idiotic and time consuming. The need to define anything and put into a little labeled box is a useless phenomenon that has been used to degrade the beliefs of others. This is just another instance of that happening only on a less critical scale, but even then it is a social issue.
For those like Ruth Graham, who believe that adults should read books that don’t have the safe and cushy ending, that is your opinion. If you want to read something that makes you think outside of just your imagination with ambiguity and more “adult concepts” go right ahead. Reading books that challenge your way of understanding is important to grow, but should that only be for the adult reader?
The claim made by A. O. Scott that people indulging in work that is not for their “age group” is showing the fluidity of age is amazing. As entertainment, books and television, grows, the want to interact with the material does as well. A child trying to understand the world around them should have access to the “adult books” that will show them the ambiguous world ahead. The adult who has lived a life should have the ability to feel nostalgic by reading a book that looks back at the teen years of high school, those were possibly a simpler time.
A book is for the reader’s personality, not their age. The point of reading is to let your imagination take in the information and make it important. If we keep focusing on who should read what and what category a book belongs in, we are going to miss the point. Reading is a long lived tradition for anyone who wants to delve into the mind of the creator and enjoy, or not enjoy, the ideas within the pages. So please, please just enjoy reading whatever you want to read, and let others do the same.
And for the reader who reads those books that aren’t in your “age group” keep reading. Your interest in books is more important than any other opinion. So read what you love and keep reading.

Leah Usefara said...

When I first read through Graham's article, I went along with her argument. The second time I read through it, I felt irked to no end. I agree with Carter that Graham seems to be judging the whole genre through very specific books and concentrated on them with very few themes in mind. First, Graham implies that other than the "realistic fiction" like The Fault in Our Stars, everything else is trash. Where's the rest of our genres? Where's the fantasy and historical fiction? Regarding The Fault in Our Stars, I disliked the romance, one of the things Graham focuses on in the novel, but I still cried. I empathized with the girl with cancer and the boy who's estranged from his father. I disliked the unbelievable romance and the annoying boy spouting cheesy one-liners. I cared for the main character who needed a friend. This is something Graham forgot about; the complexities and the weaving of different themes and ideas. These books don't put all their eggs in the romance basket. She also thinks that adults reading YA will lure them away from their correct path like a pretty girl to a married man. However, there isn't a minimum of books that a person can read in a certain amount of time or the person reading YA instead will get converted and spurn the adult genre. I can read whatever book I damn will please. Being YA doesn't make a book immature and being an adult book doesn't make it mature. Scott was an interesting read because I identified with him because I hated the automatic cringe or instinctive embarrassment that I feel when I cruise the YA section of the library. Then again I feel worse cringe when I see someone pouring themselves over a book that I personally view as horrible or crass like Fifty Shades of Grey or Shiver. Then again, that's just a difference in taste and not genre discrimination. Read what you want though. I'm sure many people would balk at my kindle library if they ever saw it.

Michael Mintz said...

Young adult fiction is an arbitrary idea, loosely based on young adult protagonists or childish adult protagonists. For example, Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy, can be considered a Young Adult book because of all the antics the main character goes through and the complete and thorough silliness of the story. However, the story itself is filled with a massive amount of theoretical philosophical ideas, that if it didn’t have the silliness of portraying those matters would definitely be considered an adult book. The book itself questions the importance of self, humanity and answers while also asking are we really that important in the grand scale? It has a nihilistic view on life, and often jokes on subjects like gods and other things. Such a book heavily engrossed with so many philosophical questions yet can still be considered Young adult, shows that the idea of young adult books is inherently flawed. Of course, on the other hand you have books like Eragon or Ender’s game which can easily be considered Young adult because of their protagonists. However, the amount of death and destruction that occurs in both books is beyond ridiculous, in Ender’s Game *SPOILERS* the cause the genocide of a whole alien race that was trying to defend itself. *SPOILER END* This sheer destruction in both stories is a lot more serious if you ignore both main characters are teens. The whole concept of Young adult in my opinion should be destroyed as it just stigmatizes types of book because of their protagonists causing adults to feel wrong reading them and lowering the amount of people who could read those books. The same should go with the idea of ‘Adult Books’ there are plenty of very low key ‘adult books’ that are a lot tamer than Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy, or Ender’s Game. Though they might have sex scenes which force those books to become adult books. Instead books should be classified on Genre not the reader base who should read this type of story. That just alienates types of readers while making those who do read those types of story feel wrong.

Susan Lee said...

I actually did not agree with Graham’s standpoint at all. I read Fault in our Stars and I didn’t think it was childish at all. There were elements to it that were very mature. The underlining sadness that is evident in the book would probably won’t be understood by the younger audience. Also I this made me doubt whether Graham even read the book because if the male protagonist were to be summarized in two words it would not be a ‘handsome teen’. There really is much more to the story than the love story between two teens.

I’m reading these articles and reacting to each one of them so I was surprised and pleased that there was a review that was similar to my own. I also thought that there was a high possibility that Graham actually did not read the books. There were so much more than it being a love story. It was so much more than that and reading those books took you on an emotional rollercoaster ride that a simple love story would not be able to.

At least A.O Scott acknowledges that he feels bad the moment he catches himself judging people with those books. I think it is sad that sometimes books are categorized as something that needs to be hid. I personally feel like books like Harry Potter aren’t considered that lame, however. I strongly disagree that those series are viewed that way because there were so many people that were part of the journey that those authors provided us. If anything, I feel like it would be an amazing conversation starter.

I agree with this last essay. Books like Harry Potter have a legacy that no one can disagree with. It has become a part of so many peoples lives and it has played a role in many childhoods. J. K. Rowling did such an amazing job creating a world that was so realistic and beautiful that many adults fell in love with too. I hope that it won’t wane because I don’t view, as J.R.R. Tolkien’s series as dead. I think the productions of his books that are evident today are a proof of that.

Maggie Lu said...

Throughout Ruth Graham’s whole article, I found myself disagreeing with a majority of the points she makes. Adults should not feel embarrassed about reading books written for children or teenagers. I don’t think that these young adult books, like The Fault in Our Stars, are “replacing” the books that adults “should” read. Who is to say people should not read certain books just because they do not fit the age frame the book is meant for? Graham is entitled to her own opinion, so it’s not wrong when she says The Fault in Our Stars didn’t make her cry. But the main issue I see is that she believes that certain books are only meant for specific age groups, which I find absurd.
As Rachel Carter points out, there is a thrill to looking back and remembering how you grew up. It’s ok to go back and read those books you read as a teenager. She mentions Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, and I loved that book back when I was in middle school. Even though I haven’t read it in so many years, I would love to reread it just because it was a good read and it would bring me back to my childhood. It may not be for everyone but I love rereading books a second or third time around to pick up on things I may have missed the first time, which is the same thing when you’re re-watching a movie. An adult reading a young adult book doesn’t make him or her any less sophisticated; it just means they are enjoying a good read. I agree with Carter when she says that books aren’t mutually exclusive for a specific age why do people still judge others when they read a book that may not fit the norm for what they are "supposed to" read? The way I see it, if a GREAT young adult book is written, why should that only be limited to YA? Shouldn’t all age groups have access to those books without being judged?
In the last article, Harold Bloom is essentially saying that people who read the Harry Potter books are wasting their time believing in witchcraft and fantasy. He doesn’t see the reason for the hype about these books and claims that even though so many people buy them, it doesn’t mean the books are good. I don’t like that he criticizes her use of clich├ęs because that’s his personal preference, and that shouldn’t affect how he thinks the book is written. And he calls her avid readers “non-readers” who are hungry for “unreality,” but isn’t the purpose of reading to escape into a world of imagination? Harry Potter came out almost 20 years ago and is still read for pleasure today -- I would even argue that it is the world’s most well-known series as readers join in on Rowling’s world of wizardry.

Katie Steely-Brown said...

The “YA Lit debate” is a topic that is SO close to my heart and I am glad I got to read some different articles on it. I’m an English major with the intent on going into the publishing industry after graduation, specifically in the genre of young adult fiction— I’m applying to a summer internship at Scholastic right now!
The amount that I have been questioned on my intended career path is incredible, though. It’s bad enough being an English major, because whenever I tell anyone that, yes I’m an English major and no, I’m not taking a double major in accounting or computer science as a “backup” for my future, I always get the kind-of-joking-but-partially-legitimately-judging-me “Oh, so I guess you don’t want a job then?” or the “I hope you like waitressing!” or even sometimes the “… so are you really in school for a Mrs. degree?” When I explain that no, I have a plan for my future and my career and I explain I’m interested in going into publishing YA novels, it usually just makes it worse. Most adults I meet don’t understand that YA novels are a real thing, sometimes (kind-of-joking-but-partially-legitimately-judging-me) asking me why I’m not even trying to go into publishing real books, as if books only aimed at an adult demographic are “real.” In high school, I remember that the adults in my life would try to push me to read “a real book for once” — aka an “adult” book— because I mostly only read YA novels.
But there’s nothing wrong with YA novels! We should have a genre of books thats based around the lives of teenagers/young adults, because the brains of teenagers are completely different from adults. They have vastly different outlooks and opinions on life, and they want vastly different things than adults do, and an “adult” book cannot resonate with them as well. What does a teenager really want to read— a romance story between 30 somethings who talk about having kids and paying mortgages and getting old, or a romance story that also talks about problems relevant to teenagers, like applying to colleges and prom?
And there’s nothing wrong with an adult reading a YA novel, because all adults were teenagers once. There’s this weird insistence that as soon as you graduate high school, you have to pretend that “those years” never existed— those were your “bad” years, and you have to erase it off your memories and pretend your life started at 18 in college, and that the years from 12—17 were not extremely influential and important to who you are at 35. YA novels are relevant to adults because they can remember the emotions of being a teenager and reminisce, and for once can be allowed to think about their teenaged years and not have to pretend they never happened.
My final thought is on the claim that YA novels are cliche, shallow, and are “uniformly satisfying.” To be honest— who really cares? That does not necessarily make it a bad book. Millions of dollars go into the sales of Harlequin romances, which all basically have the exact same plot— a generically pretty looking woman who thinks she looks average with a busy but average life finds herself attracted to a very attractive man under surprising circumstances, he miraculously is instantly sexually attracted to her (unless it is a slow burn novel), and they spend the rest of the novel having lots of gratuitous hot sex and they are in true love by the end. People like uniformly satisfying plots. It’s why Disney is so popular. It makes people happy to be able to live vicariously in a world for a bit where even if bad things happen in the middle of the plot, you know everything will somehow work out for the best in the end (even in The Fault in Our Stars, where one of the main characters died, the other main character still grew as a person and learned something about life by the end, which is still essentially a happy ending.)
The YA novel industry should continue to publish books, and adults should not have to feel ashamed to say they read YA novels. I know I never will feel ashamed about it. If you need me, you can find me in the YA section at the library.

Brian Nowak said...

oooooo a vast array of opinions, I see.

So, I began with the warrant of Graham's piece, and frankly, felt myself agreeing with many of her points. As Scott's piece mentions, the gut reaction is to agree and to relate to the snobbery associated seeing adults clutching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and The Hunger Games and feel a slight touch of disdain. But he makes an important point that one must revise that opinion and realize that we are all just trying to enjoy literature in whatever way we do.
I want to become a teacher, and that's partly because I never really struggled with reading and writing. For that reason, even in high school, I grappled with many "adult" texts, and got a sort of satisfaction from flexing my mental vitality, even if the translation of Inferno I read was way over my head. Going into college, I continued the trend, and wished very much for my peers to grapple difficult texts as I did/do. In learning about teacher education, though, I found that one must not teach to the students like me, who grasp and love reading, but those who need Young Adult stuff to read at all.
Another important check to my snobbery at seeing adults read or reread harry potter is that I still get a nostalgic thrill from replaying video games from my childhood. I played the new Pokemon games up until 2 generations ago, still consider replaying the classic ones, have a nintendo 64 in my living room, which, as I type this, my roommate's friends who crashed here are playing Super MArio 64... Just 3 months ago, I revisited that beloved classic and got all 120 stars. Because of all of this, as Petri touches upon, it is foolish to over classify every thing from books to movies to TV to video games.

But simultaneously, don't some of these works truly fail to expand our human perspective?
I don't know... maybe it's a vicious cycle.
Because I still maintain that that's what good-- or perhaps effective art is supposed to do: teach us a thing or two about the human perspective. Shit, I don't know.

Samantha Glass said...

This week we read two snobby articles- one by Ruth Graham, claiming that a huge problem plaguing our society is that over half of the people reading YA novels, are adults, and one by Harold Bloom, who writes that Harry Potter was a stupid novel. Graham writes that YA novels are “unifying satisfying” and simply takes the reader back in time, reminiscing on the past. She argues that there is no insight from adults, and therefore the books are not worth it. Harold Bloom has a similar argument, wondering why the Harry Potter series is so popular. He thinks it’s because they’re easy to read and since every millennial has read Harry Potter, it’s just a trend. I think both of these authors are just being mean and should give other novels other than Harry Potter and Fault in Our Stars a chance.
I much prefered the point of view of the next three authors we read: Ruth Carter, who writes YA fiction to give back to the genre who helped her navigate adolescence; A.O. Scoot, who argues that “Nobody knows how to be a grown up anymore”, so popculture is investing in storylines bringing us back to our childhood; and Alexandra Petri, who is upset that bookstore put certain types of books in YA genre and argues that is why we read such a limited section of literature and she wants everyone to read what they want and open up those closed borders (pun intended) (Also: her argument sounded a lot like Alex’s).
The article I found most interesting was A.O. Scott’s. I found myself wrestling with a lot of his ideas and arguing with his arguments. He writes that America has always been about a bunch of rebellious boys (i.e. leaving the reign of King George and starting a new country in America) and that has informed all of American literature and today, pop culture. He argues that “All American fiction is young adult fiction”, filled with “boys’ adventures and female sentimentality”. He points to the fact that this is changing, with more female comedians and shows such as “Broad City” and “Girl” leading the way in media about adults acting like children. He makes this weird that point that “girls” are revolting, but what about the boys? That part made me so angry! The boys have been revolting forever!!! They always get to revolt-- remember your argument about the revolting Puritans? Or about Mad Men? I was totally on board with Scott’s argument until he made that weird comment.

Melissa Cecchini said...

I'm going to preface my comment by saying: being an adult sucks. You have to set yourself alarms for ungodly hours and talk to people even if, in your mind, the thought of speaking to another human being is comparable to staring down a beast of nightmare. Not to mention the myriad of problems happening in the world today that would make any brave knight throw down his sword and put up his hands in defeat. We're expected to "grow up" and face the world in all its horror and then, to top it all off, we have to give up the stories that brought us hope and comfort for so many years? I refuse. I will continue to read my adventure stories and my predictable romances. Because, at their heart, I believe books are nothing more than escapes. I don't really think they're ALL meant to teach us some valuable lesson about ourselves or the world around us. At some point we run out of lessons to teach, and it's exhausting trying to both teach and learn a lesson as weighty as that.
I think in some cases we were meant simply to meet a character and fall in love, either with them or with their adventures. You can travel the world in books, even travel to different worlds. You can be an assassin, a knight, a king, or simply a person who finds their love. You can hide away in your mind no matter where you are, and get lost in a world that is arguably much better than the one you were plopped down into. Who really cares what kind of world it is? Or what language it uses, or the supposed monotony of it? I don't really think it matters what kind of book it is. As long as it's something that immerses you in its plot and makes you really care about it. Because the only bad kind of book is a poorly written one, and those exist across all genres.
Now that I got that out there, I'll respond to the readings so that we all know I actually did them.
I did find Petri's article the easiest to read. I identified with her opinions the most, especially the point that the Our-Books-Are-Better-Than-This attitude has always been around, just like the larger Our-Generation-Is-Better-Than-Yours argument has been around forever.
I couldn't really empathize with Scott's, I've never looked down on what anyone was reading. I've mostly just scribbled it down on whatever was available to me as something I'd like to read.
I don't even think I made it to the end of Graham's article, I was just really angry. How could someone who claimed to be such an avid reader ignore such a large chunk of it? It just came across as so pompous. Does the genre have cliches? I'd be lying (and terribly) if I said it didn't. But there's also a lot of really awesome plots and characters in those books, she just never took the time to read them.
I got a lot of smug satisfaction reading Carter's article, because she said all the things I would have in response to Graham. I might have actually scared my roommate at one point by very loudly exclaiming "HA! You go girl!" in an otherwise quiet room. Oops.
I also didn't make it very far through Bloom's article. Does Harry Potter have issues? Yes. Will I read an article exposing all of these issues and ruining the book for the rest of us. I will not.

Benji Sills said...

I feel like this is a debate you hear a lot when you still enjoy reading YA books after high school. I know that I myself will often justify reading these books to other people, making self-deprecating jokes about my own reading abilities. I think I become defensive and use this mechanism because many people agree with Ruth Graham's sentiment that YA books aren't sufficiently challenging after a certain age. It's considered "kids stuff". But I am much more on board with Rachel Carter's analysis. I think the genre itself is not indicative of the quality of the writing or the maturity of the themes. Sure, there are many YA books with simplistic themes that don't challenge emotions or strive to impact in that way. But to make sweeping generalizations that YA books in general cannot be every bit as powerful as adult fiction is insane. "The Fault in Our Stars" was mentioned above - a great book and one that features complex, emotional themes that are relatable to all ages. Even the most popular series among YA readers, Harry Potter, only became as popular as it is because of its accessibility to all ages. It's universal themes and well crafted writing don't take it out of the YA genre, they just elevate it as a superior example of YA writing. Great, deep and thoughtful YA doesn't make it not YA - YA as a genre is not synonymous with childish literature. To say that all YA books are shallow and lacking challenge to adults is to say that all adult literature is powerful, impactful and smart - and with bestsellers like "Fifty Shades of Grey", I think it's pretty obvious that genre generalizations can't be made like that.

Siming Hsu said...

This seems like a debate that has been going on in the background for a long time now. Ruth Graham while substantiated in the (limited) evidence she provides, goes on a rather holier-than-thou speech about how adults should be ashamed of reading and enjoying YA literature, which she reduces into essentially trite stories about trite teenagers who are, in her opinion, given much more significance and emotional connection than they deserve. On the other hand, Rachel Carter vigorously defends herself against Graham's criticisms: for her, reading and writing YA is not something she, or anyone, should be ashamed of.

I tend to lean more towards Carter's side of the argument, or rather: live and let live. Graham, who comes across as "the role of scold, snob or curmudgeon," as A. O. Scott points out, likens the separation of YA and adult fiction as a kind of boundary; in order to fully experience literary maturation, you must step from one to the other. If you don't make this step once you are an adult, you ought to be embarrassed for still milling about in the world of teenage dramatics and coming of age. Or, as A. O. Scott makes a case for, perhaps the definition of "adulthood" has just devolved to a point of idealization of immaturity and reckless youth.

Rachel Graham seems offended by adults who enjoy YA fiction. A. O Scott seems offended by adulthood in general (though he claims, unconvincingly in my opinion, at the end of his article to be "all for it,"). Rachel Carter is offended by those like Graham and Scott who seek to devalue the meaning and depth of stories that span a vast umbrella of topics, some of which are rich and emotionally heavy. I'm more of the opinion of Alexandra Petri, who blames this divide that has happened between different types of books on the unnecessary categorization of literature that happens in bookstores, and thus in the collective minds of readers.

They don't need to be pitted against each other, and nor should readers be berated for their tastes. As long as people are getting enjoyment from literature, however deep or shallow, isn't that something we can all agree is good?

Rachel Westerbeke said...

When reading Ruth Graham’s article “Against YA,” in the back of my head I could hear the voice of the Planet Fitness commercials claiming his gym is a “judgement free zone.” I can’t help but think it is completely unnecessary for someone to judge the reading preferences of another especially if they, like the members of Planet Fitness gym, are only trying to improve themselves and expand their horizons. Also, if we’re going to decide to judge others’ preferred entertainment, it is certainly more likely that I will be found smirking at a 40-year-old with Fifty Shades in her hands (an unquestionably adult book) versus a 40-year-old reading The Fault in Our Stars.
As far as her insinuation that Young Adult is less sophisticated than adult novels, I would say that the YA genre does contain themes that may be mature for some adults let alone teenagers and definitely contains lessons that may be relevant to older readers. Dead Poets Society is the first to come to mind as Neil Perry struggles to weigh his desires against pressure from his parents which leads to devastating consequences. To me, the outcome seems to send a message that is directed more toward parents and older generations than to its teen readers. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is similar in that the theme is possibly more important for older readers who cannot relate to the protagonists as readily as younger readers yet often have the responsibility of ensuring the well-being of teenagers like Neil and Charlie.
One characteristic that may make YA harder to define as quality literature is that the subject matter and style is very fluid in relation to cultural changes in society. Classics seem to transcend cultural changes, but often popular YA is most relevant to the time period in which it was published. The types of protagonists and the types of conflicts are always changing which may cause some older readers to be less appreciative of the category and very judgmental of YA authors. Having torn through the classics section of the library in middle school, my appreciation of YA began more in high school after I had significant experience with novels that people generally agree are sophisticated and worthwhile. In a lot of YA, I am still able to find the deep, lyrical prose that attracted me to classics initially.

Louise McSorley said...

Critics who attack adult readers of YA, I think, tend to have one thing in common: they're adults. But more specifically, they are adults who missed the explosion of YA/MG with Harry Potter and, to a more crucial extent, Twilight. I won't lie, I think Harry Potter is a vastly superior series than Twilight, but I do sympathize and even understand people's admiration for Twilight and "Twilight-like" books. Graham's article goes after Twilight and Divergent as "transparently trashy...which no one defends as serious literature." And to be fair I never read Divergent (I only saw the first two movies, and I only the first one was excellent—if not atypical for the YA category). And nor would I defend Twilight as necessarily "serious literature." Yet I enjoyed the novel (and every book after except Breaking Dawn, which I have yet to will myself to finish) and it helped to make me a better writer by drawing out inspiration to go out and read all the terrible (and some excellent) fan-fiction about Twilight. I even wrote one. I also noticed that Graham liked to focus on realistic/contemporary YA as being decent literature. She gave out the impression that only these types of YA novels could be defended, which I really didn't like.

I think that if you were a teenager during the huge YA explosion, it's easier to defend the good (and bad) in a fair way.

This is what Carter's article defends. She takes on Graham directly and defends not only her reading of YA, but her writing of it. I loved what she said about finding the subject matter fascinating: "There were high stakes for everything—if my crush looked at me, if I passed my science test, if I was invited to a party. There is something extremely satisfying about writing characters who have the capacity to feel so passionately." I completely agree with this! There's such flexibility in YA to do (almost) anything that you want and that freedom drives so much of the passionate characters and stories.

You grow as a reader, writer, and overall person when you have an eclectic taste in novels. You become more open-minded and are less afraid to try new things. And if the things you try aren't very good, you can admit that in a fair and respectful way.

Dan O'Connor said...

After reading through all of the articles I did not find Rachel Carter's rebuttal to Ruth Graham as very persuasive. Having identified with certain aspects of Graham's piece, namely the "the excitement of graduating out of the kiddie pool and the rest of the padded trappings of childhood: It’s the thrill of growing up." As a younger person I felt a similar desire to remove myself from what I perceived as being more juvenile. Like the myriad things which made being an adult seem freeing and cool (staying up late, cursing, alcohol, driving, etc.) more "sophisticated" literature was just another aspect of entering into the adult sphere for me. Carter's piece read as genuine to me, but as anger and vitriol and not necessarily as a well thought out argument to counter Graham's point.

The O.A. Scott piece and the Alexandra Petri piece were where I found the most middle ground of arguments being made. Scott seems to factor in larger forces at work than simply focusing around YA literature. His thoughts on the concept of adulthood and the desire of American literary traditions to escape that, coupled with the growing role of female creators in media, made for an interesting read. Petri's article seemed the most middle ground. Her stance on the matter is generally where I see myself most of the time as being neither really for nor against. Though I have often felt that spending to much time reading YA is an obstacle to achieving literary adulthood (a statement I'm not even sure means anything) there are YA novels which I've pulled a great deal of enjoyment and connection from.

Overall I don't believe that a person should feel truly ashamed of what they are reading. Choice and taste vary wildly between people, but I think there is something to be said for what Scott and Graham seem to touch upon in their articles which is a shying away from or completely ignoring adulthood. Children's literature and YA material are especially important for young readers as they are capable of opening minds to ideas which aren't overly complex. For adults that can serve as a momentary escape or dose of nostalgia, but if they are not challenging or provoking thoughts about complex issues of anything like personal identity or emotions or something YA novels might be just as bad as reality television. I believe that a person should be able to balance different levels of material.

Ilana Shaiman said...

Should adults be reading YA? In my opinion, yes. Or at least, if they want to, than yes, because why not? In “I Write Young Adult Novels and I Refuse to Apologize for it,” Carter brings up an excellent point that YA novels are the kind of books that teens read “with a flashlight under the covers long after they are supposed to be asleep.” These are the books that had us turning the pages and tuning out everything around us because the protagonists were both relatable and offered us something different from our personal experience or our known way of life.
For me, the series that had me enthralled was the Twilight Saga, which “Against YA,” refers to as “trashy” and something that “no one defends as serious literature.” While I now think that there are definitely some problematic elements of this series, such as the relationship dynamic between Bella and Edward, I would not go as far as to say that this does not count as serious literature. In fact, it was one of the most serious pieces of literature in my life as a teen, since I wasn’t big on reading at that age. My mom read the books too and loved them, and I think that’s something incredible because it was something that she and I could connect on and enjoy together.
In “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture,” Scott argues that the patriarchy is dead, along with the male adult supremacy in modern TV shows and literature. He says, “In the universe of thoughts and words, there is more conviction and intelligence in the critique of male privilege than in its defense.” I don’t know if I necessarily agree with this, I think he is right that there is more a critique of male privilege in this day and age than in the past, but with the current political administration of the US, I think it is clear that male privilege is far from over.
Harold Bloom’s “Can 35 Million Book Buyer’s Be Wrong?” describes J.K. Rowling’s writing as having “aesthetic weaknesses.” I give him credit for going against the grain here in trying to take apart one of the most popular global series of this generation, but I think he is wrong to say that her writing is aesthetically weak. I know people that reread the books dozens of times, just to catch something new that they missed in the first few readings. I don’t think the series would have been made into a world at Universal Studios if it was weak writing.
Alexandra Petri says “Every generation brings its new set of unforgivable stylistic offenses and apparent malfunctions of taste.” I disagree with this because I think that if people are enjoying a piece of writing, whether it be a book, blog, short story, etc, then it is good writing. And I think age is irrelevant when it comes to choosing what you want to read. Reading is about pleasure, there shouldn’t be so many rules attached to it.

Colleenie vonVorys-Norton said...

I am not an adult or any where near being an adult. The idea that one day I'm going to have to be an adult freaks me out. This made my readings of these articles probably different than what the writers intended. They were probably writing it for other adults to read, not a teenage girl. On some level, I understand where Ruth Graham (Against YA) and Harold Bloom (Can 35 Million Book Buyers be Wrong? Yes.) are coming from with their opinions. They are well read individuals who have strong ideas about what makes a book good and bad. They want to be challenged by their readings and spend that time expanding their minds and not reading books that were made for children. But not everyone is like that. Sometimes people just want to escape this society and their problems and go into a world where the most stressful thing is a high school science test.
Sometimes, real adult books are just a lot of people to take in without breaks. I personally have been reading Stephen King's Misery on and off for about half a year now. It's a mentally taxing book, and it's still an amazing book but sometimes you need to stop reading about a man basically getting tortured. Again, I'm not an adult so maybe that will change in the future.
I don't believe that every book needs to be life changing or the greatest novel ever written. Sometimes it's nice to just have an easy read book where everyone ends up happy and the story wraps up nicely in a little bow. I don't think that this is a bad thing for YA books to do. No one reading a YA book is looking at it and thinking that it is a true story. They know that it’s fake. I don't understand why adults feel the need to hate on that fact. Yeah, everything ends nicely but it's a fiction story with fictional people. We read to feel something so why not make that feeling good?
Going back to Ruth Graham and Harold Bloom, everyone has different preferences and likes. So what if some adult likes reading a simpler book? So what is another adult likes to read a complex book? Why is this something that people need to be judged on? I don't know, I'm only a teenager.

Crystal Lam said...

Reading Young Adult fiction has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. Ever since middle school when I ventured into the "teen" section of my local library, I never turned back to the cozy children's section with its little chairs and tiny chapter books. In the big kid section, there were always high schoolers sitting at the big tables doing their sophisticated things. I would stay out of their way to the side, perusing the shelves lined up against the walls. It felt good to know that as a twelve year old, I was in a section with the older kids. Flipping through the pages, I delighted in reading about supernatural creatures and teenagers twirling around in Victorian England. It was an escape from childhood and a passage into the literary world. While I have read my fair share of badly written books, I never realized them for what they were until years later. At the time, I was immersed in the world of the character's, gasping at their dramatic reveals and blushing for their actions.
While I think everyone has the right to read what they want to, there is a certain age where people start to outgrow what they used to like reading. Where Shailene Woodley became a woman who would no longer act in young adult movies, common folk also mature in their literary material. Adults can read young adult novels if they would like because there are many quality young adult novels out there. However, it probably shouldn't be the only thing they read. In high school, I had gone through most of the young adult novels in my library. I began walking through the adult section when my mom wasn't looking over my shoulder and into my book bag. The adult section of the library is much larger yet darker. Literally, the lighting was dimmer in the bookshelf aisles. The content itself was more morbid than young adult novels but at the same time more boring. Some were just hard to get through. Young adult fiction is fun and it doesn't require much thinking. It doesn't even need prior knowledge. How bookstores and libraries separate the sections definitely leaves much to be desired.

Sierra Commons said...

I sure hope I don't end up a grumpy goose like Graham, Scott, and Bloom. I'm definitely biased given that I'm basically still a Young Adult (or close enough to one) and you can pry my YA out of my cold, dead hands. But I feel like the two sides of the argument, at least in these articles, could be summed up as people having different tastes or different things they want to get out of reading a book. God forbid someone actually just read a book for fun.

Going back and forth between these articles was hilarious (although most of the 'YA is bad you should feel bad for liking it' were solid slogs and upsetting to boot). Really, those against YA (Especially Graham and Bloom) really only focus on one or two books. Very, very popular books. So popular, in fact, that these two authors were annoyed by their popularity and felt it necessary to tear them down in a 'haha I'm so much more sophisticated than the uncultured masses' sort of way. And then they just tack on a 'oh and the rest of YA is trash too' because why not, right? Never mind the fact that there are plenty of YA books out there that really hit on mature themes and plenty of adult books out there that are just straight up guilty-pleasure. Bloom doesn't seem to get why people like Harry Potter because it's like some book about rugby he read once. 'Hurr durr if it's not a book about something properly mundane it's simply awful'. Bruh. BRUH. There is magic. MAGIC. I don't get why it's so hard to understand why people like it? An complex world of fiction with great characters who grow and a good story will be o-k without the best writing in the world. It's called a difference in taste, please get over yourself. Not to mention a lot of those who love the book are either kids who it was written for or parents who said 'thank god I don't have to read them that stupid caterpillar book for the millionth time' when it came out.

And the one article, "The death of adulthood"? Try 'Help society changes over time and I don't like it'. Scott talks about the death of Patriarchy so much that all I can conclude is he has tied together the traditional "man" character with being a real adult. This article felt more like a lament of the doing away with harmful male stereotypes than a real criticism of YA.

Maybe there's a problem with reading YA, or escapism, or whatever you'd like to label it as. But I think we all take ourselves a bit too seriously. Petri quotes Linda Holmes' statement that there is not enough time in our lives to read all of the books we want to read. So why waste it reading (or harping on) books we don't like?

Marina Martinez said...

I disagreed with the article "Against YA: Adults Should be Embarrassed to read Young Adult Books" by Ruth Graham. I feel if a person who is of any age can write young adult novels, then it should be acceptable for any age to read them as well. There’s nothing wrong in indulging in perhaps a guilty pleasure of reading a book that isn’t quite as mature as you, at least these people are reading. It reminds me of the fact that some people watch reality tv which can be considered trash, but it’s sometimes just fun to take a break from your own life and watch these stories unfold. Additionally, just because these books are meant for a younger audience doesn’t mean they can’t invoke a passionate response or inspire.

I found it amusing that the next article, "I Write Young Adult Novels and I Refuse to Apologize for It" was about a woman who unapologetically writes YA novels since my initial response to Graham’s article was the same. Plus, she brought up a great point, that you shouldn’t overgeneralize these books as all having these happy endings and being filled with simplicity when many contain so much more.

The article "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture" by Scott brought up some interesting points. I feel that his questioning of if there are even adults had some grounds. I don’t think age matters as much as maturity and experience. A young person can see a lot more and know more than an older person. It’s hard to say a person has grown up when I think people are constantly growing.

The article "Ashamed of reading YA? The fault lies not in our stars but in our stores" by Petri rang true to me. I think it’s very hard to categorize a story and people should read whatever they want. The article “Can 35 Million Book Buyer Br Wrong? Yes” came off as snobbish to me. I feel the author acts like a reader can only read one type of book when they can read all different genres. I love the Harry Potter series and disagreed with several of Bloom’s opinions on it.

Jenny Huang said...

At one point in my life, I firmly believed in the idea that I should be transitioning into more “adult” literature, and so I forced myself to start reading books that were well beyond my age: books like Les Miserables and Lolita populated my bookshelves when my peers were still reading Divergent. After going through that phase in my life, however, I found myself gravitating towards a lot of YA literature throughout high school because I believed I hadn’t experienced enough of it – and I do believe that there is a large stigma against the idea of YA literature in general. In both Graham and Bloom’s articles, I believe that they take an entirely too narrow of a perspective on YA literature. Graham writes that at one point, people have to graduate from the “kiddie pool,” which is to say that YA literature does not provide the amount of depth that “adult” literature does. I agree that YA literature tends to be more selfish, focused on the main character, but I believe it can still teach even adults a lot of lessons on introspection and how they deal with the world around them. By giving us characters who are still developing and growing in the world, we are seeing the world from a perspective of “characters who have the capacity to feel so passionately” (Carter). I believe that that provides a skill for people who are trying to be writers (especially of YA literature, but also of just any literature) because it gives them a chance to explore human feelings to their absolute depths. In terms of Graham’s viewpoints, I believe that she generalized YA literature too much, as Carter says in her article. She takes on the perspective that the teenagers in these novels are not viewing the world in a critical way, just because they are meant to be pleasurable.
What bothered me about Bloom’s article was one of the points he made about Harry Potter being not imaginative – I believe the very opposite. While Harry Potter does use concepts and ideas that are old, like magic, Rowling spins it in such a way that adults and children alike feel immersed in a world, and while that is not indicative of any phenomenal writing skills, it caters to a different type of skill that many writers are not able to achieve – a generational satisfaction and passion for something. I also am someone who believes very strongly in the power of reading, and I believe that extends to most things whether they are “adult” or not – you still learn something from every experience of reading. I think it is somewhat elitist to present the idea that YA literature provides you with nothing but an “unsurprising ending.” Who is to say that all literature must be surprising, anyhow?
The article that I actually found the most fascinating was the one by Scott in the New York Times titled “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture.” I really enjoyed his thoughts on how TV shows and literature and other things are bringing about a new age of feminism, but I also think he brought up an interesting point in that it is okay for adults to no longer be “adult.” And that brings into question the whole fanbase of adults who read YA literature and the implications behind them doing so. While I don’t believe that it is wrong or in any way meaningless to read YA literature, I think that a healthy mix of both YA literature and adult literature is the best way to really provide you with perspectives on inner feelings, as well as perspectives on the outside world. Does it perpetuate the idea that “growing up” is no longer “growing up”? Maybe, but I still think there is so much to learn from YA literature that it won’t be something considered detrimental to society.

Becky Clark said...

Out of the five articles, I started with Graham’s. My first reaction was anger. I was like one of those people Scott described as going on Twitter and being mad that someone told me what I should and shouldn’t be reading. Graham and Scott both seem to think that adults who read YA are trying to avoid maturity or don’t know what a good book is but I disagree with this completely. I read YA because I like how they are normally quicker than adult books and have more fantasy/magical elements. Graham only used popular YA books like TFIOS to support her ideas however if she looked at the category more as a whole, I think that she would find there are books that don’t always have a satisfying ending, like the works of Laureen McDaniels. She is only barely skimming the category with books that Hollywood has turned into movies.

For me, Carter described what I was thinking perfectly. YA and fiction are not mutually exclusive where you read YA only as a child and then graduate to adult fiction. The books are interchangeable for all ages and both offer great reading experiences. There have been some YA books that made me think about issues that are normally considered “adult”, like the Unwind series by Shusterman that asks the reader to think about pro-life vs. pro-choice. There have also been some adult books that have ideas that are considered YA, such as Romeo and Juliet. I believe that there is no definite distinction between YA and adult fiction, rather the categories are fluid, more like a scale where a book can fall somewhere between the two.

Graham, Scott, and Bloom all appear to be book snobs, especially with Bloom deeming Harry Potter a worse children’s book than Carol’s Alice. All three of these people fall under Petri’s category of people who disapprove what others are reading because “it is Not As Difficult As the Things We Used To Read.” What all three of these people fail to realize is that the more modern books like Harry Potter get people who wouldn’t read something like Alice to read. Isn’t it better that people are reading something, even if it’s not a classic, than not reading at all? I saw this a lot working at the public library in High School, especially with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. These are by no means the best book or a literary masterpiece, but they got kids who would never step foot in the library otherwise to read. Book snobs seem to forget that a lot of normal people do not enjoy reading or rarely read. If a book like Harry Potter gets them to read, then let them read it.

the fool said...

This debate about personality and consumer identity flames up in the hearts of bitter critics who forget the history of literacy. Most people don't understand literary technique, most people don't go in for deep thinking, most people have lousy educations. Most people work hard, stress out, and want to be entertained. They want to turn off. This obviously annoys the type of critic who thinks other people should like what they like. The critic who gets paid based on how many people choose to buy the books they write about. And/Or they could just want more friends. Read these books! Validate me! Talk to me!

I don't know much of anything about YA writing. I think i read one in middle school; along with Tolkien and everything else on the fantasy shelf. I read whatever series they had for elementary school kids in elementary school. My adolescent reading was more mindless adult entertainment than well written YA. From Rachel Carter's words it sounds like my time would have been better spent in the YA section than with the Griffith war thrillers and James Bond books I devoured day after day. Who thinks our imaginations don't affect our reality?

Today I would prefer if more people read the books I like to read because I think they are useful. And i think this is what the anti- YA camp gets into. Life changes constantly and we keep making choices without critical awareness of the conditioning or consequences of these choices. Thoughtful literature deals with this narrowness of perception by blowing it up and hitting it from different angles. Books can show the fantastic complexity and richness of our world - the good and the bad. They break the presumed norms and show perspectives most people won't ever get in their daily routine. They also show readers how to break routines and change their lives.

The sort of novels i like most are ugly as shit. They show the truth behind the screens and spectacle of consumer capitalist nihilism. They offer terrifying visions of the patriarchy by normalizing the impulse behind it. Without this sort of knowledge and a healthy channel to express it, we are left with the sort of arrested development passive aggressive sullen boy manhood that Ao Scott rightly criticizes.
We should all probably read more YA and balance our oxfords with a skateboard.

Aliyah Green said...

I think that Ruth Graham was condescending in her thinking of YA books. There is so much that a person can learn from a young adult book that does not stop at the age of 17. She made it seem like you had to be stuck thinking like a child to truly enjoy a book made for young adults. Stories and great characters have no place for being genre specific.

When she said, “I do not begrudge young adults themselves their renaissance of fiction. I want teenagers and ambitious pre-teens to have as many wonderful books to read as possible, including books about their own lives. But I remember, when I was a young adult, being desperate to earn my way into the adult stacks; I wouldn’t have wanted to live in a world where all the adults were camped out in mine. There’s a special reward in that feeling of stretching yourself beyond the YA mark, akin to the excitement of graduating out of the kiddie pool and the rest of the padded trappings of childhood: It’s the thrill of growing up,” I thought she was being very judgemental. She does not seem to understand real joy because she had it stripped away from her a some point in her life.

Rachel Carter was just the counter argument I needed to hear. She directly references Ruth Graham’s article and brings up ideas that I really feel. Like Jaclyn said, the books that I read as a teen also meant something different reading them now. I do notice more in what I read because I became a better reader than I was at 15. Rachel Carter made it alright to just read a young adult book for enjoyment unlike Ruth Graham who made it seem childish.

Alexandra Petri also broke down the idea that young adult is even a genre. It is instead a category. A category that you should not feel ashamed of because you may still feel like a young adult Petri says. People should read good books and if those happen to fall in the young adult category then so be it.

Sara Hankins said...

Many people are up in arms about Graham's essay, and I was feeling a bit of their indignation as well. Who is she to tell us what is or is not embarrassing to read, what is or is not appropriate for our curious minds? The only book I ever felt self conscious about reading in public was "50 Shades of Grey", and that was only on a kindle. Then again, I am still in the target age group for YA. I see adults reading the Hunger Games and was excited that I could talk to them about a book I enjoyed and get some stimulating book-club type conversation about the story. I couldn't do that before when they were reading "adult" books that I had no interest in. I never thought about how the adults thought about our literary discussions, at being able to share their opinions on novels with a high schooler.

Maybe they got the same amount of excitement that I did at being able to discuss the story. Hearing my mother's adult friend's take on "The Hunger Games" allowed me to notice some underlying theme that I would not have picked up on my own, and giving my take on the story was refreshing. I get pleasure at being able to share my love or anger or sadness about a story with people who can empathize, and maybe that same reason is why many folks, teenage and adult alike, are turning to similar books. We all want to connect to other readers and gain new insights to the works we read. If YA is popular now and just as stimulating as "adult" books, why should one be denied a great read and intellectual discussion based on someone's age? A good book is a good book is a good book, and don't let yourself fall into judging a book by the section of the store you found it in.

Sam A said...

Ok, so I wrote a gigantic post only for it to get deleted by being over the character limit. Another lesson in being too verbose.

So, I'll boil it down to two main things.

Be realistic about the books you are reading. If it is YA, then chances are that it is not the most groundbreaking literature out there. If you are reading advanced literature and enjoying it, then take a second to realize that not everyone is going to enjoy that and there is still value in a book that is simply for pleasure.

An adult reading Harry Potter is just enjoying themselves. It doesn't mean they are dumb.

Conversely, if you are reading Looking for Alaska, then don't pretend that it deserves to be on the same plane as The Brothers Karamazov. It isn't.

Be realistic. Sure YA doesn't produce groundbreaking novel 95% of the time, but that isn't really their function...

Just do what you enjoy and put this stupid Chevy vs Dodge, Starbucks vs Dunkin, Apple vs Android, YA vs Adult fiction thing to bed. Let's all agree that it is rather pointless....

Christopher Yi said...

I do see Graham’s point. It seems, from her perspective, YA is becoming increasingly myopic in that components of these books are packaged way too neatly making them predictable. I also understand that without challenge, people will cease to grow and that ambiguity is more realistic in that things are not so clear-cut and evidently defined in real life.
Still, I don’t think clean stories are necessarily more indicative of being less “adult” because what the fuck does being an adult mean anyway and why is it even important? Is it more adult to seek out the more difficult, harder to digest material or is it more adult to accept what you like and accept what other people like and not feel insecure about it?
I think it’s silly to be embarrassed about reading YA as an adult. Any book can bring perspective, and stories share the unique thoughts and observations of its authors and, to me, that is a precious, precious thing. It’s easy to dismiss, it’s hard to understand and accept why others might like something that you don’t. Turning up your nose out of snobbery seems more childish and limiting more than reading a book that might not necessarily be for your demographic.
“The Death of Adulthood in American Culture” really hits the nail on the head when it mentions that the lines of being an “adult” are becoming increasingly blurred. In this day and age, there are so many amazing wonders to be found from different forms of media and having the elitist mentality is so old-fashioned. As mentioned previously, I can understand where writers like Graham and Bloom come from but I believe mix of YA and adult books is the best way to keep perspective of an ever-evolving world.
The formula for YA does not necessarily make them uncritical. They are a mix of the relatable, transparent, and complex, which I think is closer to real life than constant ambiguity. Everything is relative, you treasure things because they’re important to you and that in itself is good enough. Read on, nerd out, take pride in growing, and take pride in looking back.

Elaina Yu said...

I think this is such a strange argument. I see the side that looks down on young adult genre (I’m not gonna say I’m above trashing Twilight and the like at any given opportunity), but I am also vehemently against people judging other people for the things they like (as long it doesn’t involve harming someone or something.)
To say that it’s shameful to read young adult is a vast insult to people’s intelligence and empathetic capacities. Adulthood sucks, and childhood is simpler and, more often than not, many of the same lessons in childhood stories can apply to current situtions.
As someone who has been criticized in multiple creative writing classes and outside spaces for being too flowery or “smultzy,” I despise when people degrade things they don’t understand or appreciate. The close-minded snobbery that people have for topics / genres / styles / etc, is inherent pretentious and against anything outside white literature. You don’t have to like it – we are all entitled to our opinions – however, you better have read it and did your research, and it sure as hell does not mean you get to say anything if you cannot tell the difference between your own tastes and what is working for the piece itself.
So, to go back, young adult serves so many more purposes than entertain. It provides solace, comfort, a different look. Harry Potter readers are known to be more open-minded, tolerant, and empathetic than non-readers. Yes, it has its flaws as everything does, but simplicity is wisdom and mocking people who seek that in young literature is
And to quote Woody Guthrie, "Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple."

Syeda Khaula Saad said...

I do agree with Bloom’s assertion that 35 million people CAN be wrong about something, but I definitely do not agree with anything else that he writes. Bloom’s degradation of the Harry Potter series is not only pretentious, but also has the eerie sense of someone who had a sad childhood, and I say this with all of the bias possible to muster up. Bloom talks a lot about how “Harry Potter” is not well-written and how it does not deserve to be as highly ranked as it is, but I heavily disagree. “Harry Potter” is a large part of the reason why I, and I know millions of other children, really began to fall in love with reading and literature. Not only is Rowling’s imagination creative beyond any other thing I was exposed to at the time I was considered a Y.A. reader, but the way it is written is so clear and concise. Bloom also complains of the cliches of the writing, but for some people, they are not cliches yet. For people who have just started reading longer novels, “Harry Potter” is the first time they are reading commonplace descriptions in writing.
Also, every time I have heard of someone bash “Harry Potter” (which is not often because it is awesome), I like to compare to “The Chronicles of Narnia.” The movie? Amazing. The aspects of imagination? Incredible. The way Lewis is able to world-build is impressive. However the book is so boring. I say “book” instead of “books” because I never felt the urge to read the first part of the series. And this is why: While Lewis takes time with description and could be considered by Bloom to be literate, he takes away from the excitement of the world, and of the Y.A. genre. The reason that I read every “Harry Potter” book twice and was given the seventh book as a birthday present because my best friend knew I loved it, was because it was so much fun to read. And Rowling’s world is not AS complex as Lewis’s, at least in my opinion. But it resonates so much better with the Y.A. and M.G. audience because it makes them excited to read. And while Bloom cannot make sense of this because of the lack of complexity in the writing, it is okay. It is still one of the most successful series in history because it is worth to be considered as a classic.

Aishik Mukherjee said...

Any conversation regarding how a harmless pleasure should be viewed by the anyone else seems to boil down into accusing the participants of the crime of conformity. Ruth Graham in ”Against YA” mentions several times that it is okay to read whatever you want yet always contorts to then blaspheme those who choose to read something she decides they shouldn’t read. Her argument is messy and seems to be more projection of her own self criticisms than objection towards what the rest of us read. Her evangelism is evident in the lines where she says “ But I remember, when I was a young adult, being desperate to earn my way into the adult stacks; I wouldn’t have wanted to live in a world where all the adults were camped out in mine. There’s a special reward in that feeling of stretching yourself beyond the YA mark”. This opinion of hers is not meant to help all those who may be subjected to it, it is meant to scold those who disagree with her. Her points circle the notion that there is a line between art and entertainment, as a child you are excused from limiting yourself to entertainment, though as you age you must force yourself to look beyond enjoyment and study art and contemplate what adults should be contemplating. Simply put, Graham wants to punish what she believes to be a thought crime, and with no subtlety; “Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children”. She seems like she would be of the camp that believes healthy food should not taste pleasant.

Victoria Kim said...

Ruth Graham encourages readers to explore and read whatever they wish to and never mind the age, especially when reading YA, but at the same time, proceeds to criticize the YA genre, stating that YA books ask adults to abandon the mature insights that they have acquired with their experiences. Graham argues that emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction is nowhere in evidence in YA fiction. She believes that YA books present the teenage perspective in an uncritical, ideal way that makes adults "roll their eyes." On the other hand, Carter, Scott, and Petri all seem to disagree with Graham in that they believe YA books allow them to feel young again, giving them the chance to experience the thrill of remembering how they grew up and what it was like to be young. YA books give everyone the chance to conceive adulthood as the state of being forever young. Before I read these writings, I never really thought much about what defines the genre of YA fiction. It was always fuzzy for me, because I feel like YA fiction walks on a fine line placed between child/ young-adult hood and adulthood. Other than age- what defines "young"? One thing I agreed with Graham was that adults enjoy reading YA fiction for a sense of escapism and nostalgia. Escapism not in a sense of seeking distraction from unpleasant realities, but more of wanting to feel what they've felt before they were exposed to a variety of experiences. I don't think YA fiction asks adults to "abandon" the mature insights though- I think its more of just giving them the opportunity to see things in a perspective of a younger, past version of themselves. It was interesting to see both sides of what people think about YA fiction. I have read YA books where I thought about my past experiences when the character made a certain decision/ did something. It's hard not to judge/ incorporate mature insights, but the thrill does come from nostalgic sentiments that make you wonder what you would have done when you were in their position, not yet exposed to the full reality out there. In that sense, I feel like this genre is very undefinable.