Friday, June 13, 2014

Five Things on Friday: YA Edition

This week in the news: some terribly upset woman wants us all to know how disappointed she is in us because we are reading below our level. Never mind the fact that I thought I left reading levels behind when I graduated high school, or at the very least when I received my degree in English Pantsing Literature.

In "Against YA," Ruth Graham goes into great detail about why "grown-ups" shouldn't read YA. I, as you may have guessed, think she is completely wrong. For a few reasons. First of all, my love, my passion has always been in genre. I started reading horror novels when I was about nine. I read my first SciFi novel in the third grade and I grew up on fantasy. The thing about reading genre is that there will always be a bunch of morons that think that genre writing isn't serious writing. Unless it's in the non-segmented "Literature" or "Fiction" section of the bookstore, it's useless prattle and not worth of your time.

Of course, they ignore that some of our greatest works of literature are "genre." Frankenstein is science fiction. Dracula is horror. Pride and Prejudice is romance.

The thing with YA, is that you can't even really compare it to genre. Because it's not a genre. A genre is topic area and YA contains within it's boundaries romance, mystery, fantasy, science fiction, horror and yes, literature. YA is not about how a book is written, but how a book is marketed. So, why shouldn't we read outside our market share? If they make an edition of Pride and Prejudice with a sparkly pink cover and give it a huge poster in the YA section of Barnes and Noble, are the words inside going to hold any less value?

So, for those of you who don't like being told what to read, I have compiled a brief list of:

5 Young Adult Books You Should Read Right Now

1. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee - Literature - That's right, I'm going there. To Kill a Mockingbird may be one the most universally beloved books in American literature. And it's widely considered to be YA. Why? Because the main characters, including the narrator are children and it deals with (among other things) the trauma of realizing the world is not as fair as you thought it would be. This book is as good at 35 as it is 15 and I don't think I'll ever "outgrow" Lee's haunting and perfect story.

2. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs - Fantasy - Although this book wasn't what I was anticipating, it was so much more. This is a story, at its heart, about finding yourself and your tribe. The only way I can really describe this book is to say that it is delicious. I savored every word of it and was genuinely sad when it ended. That may not be what Ms. Graham is looking for in a book, but for me, a story that sucks you in, keeps you reading and leaves you feeling bereft is enough.

3. The Giver - Lois Lowry - Science Fiction - I would argue that The Giver is the book that started the dystopian craze. As well it should. Because not only is it a riveting cautionary tale about the future, but it contains a deeper story. It actually contains quite a few different stories, and if you don't believe me, you should read all the different interpretations in the Goodreads comments. But for me, this is a story about the effects of our constant desire to shut out the negative. Not as children, by the way, because children intrinsically know that they should feel what they feel. It's adults that need this lesson.

4. The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman - Fantasy - In a story that mirrors in both style and concept, The Jungle Book, Gaiman manages to craft a character and a story that is even more compelling. The main character, Bod, grows up more or less adopted by a pair of ghosts and a vampire caregiver. He is surrounded by a graveyard full of otherworldly "family." It's a quick read, but one that says everything that is needed to know about the family you are given and the family you build, about growing up and moving out and about facing the world outside.

5. Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury - Science Fiction - I especially included this, because though I'm sure that Ms. Graham would never deign to read my little corner of the web, I think this is especially a book she should read. Yes, this is the story of future where all books are outlawed. And I suppose that's not exactly what she's getting at. But I'm not sure how far off it really is. If we are to believe that she has the authority to tell us what lacks value in literature, how far off is that from saying that no literature holds value?

So, as for me and my house, we'll read whatever we damn well please. And in the immortal words of my very favorite YA author: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” 
― Madeleine L'Engle

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I'm with you. Read whatever you want because, honestly, when I enter a bookstore I'm immediately drawn to the children's literature. I'd rather find books I can't wait to read to Ellie than find one for myself. Maybe that's weird, maybe it's the three years of elementary ed. classes in college, but I LOVE children's books.