Ruth Graham, writing in Slate, says, "You should feel embarrassed when what you're reading was written for children." How sad. If anyone should feel embarrassed, it's Graham. She apparently writes this commentary without realizing how narrow-minded, outdated, and ignorant it makes her appear.
Then again, what can we expect from a person who describes a love scene by saying a young man "deflowers" his girlfriend? Perhaps Graham hasn't noticed, but in the 21st Century, women are not passive objects; their first sexual experience is not imagined as a loss of innocence and delicacy. Hazel, the hero of The Fault in our Stars, is not "deflowered". She chooses to have sex.
Graham mentions that it was "once unseemly" for adults to read young-adult lit. When was that, I wonder? I'm at least 10 years older than Graham, who places herself in the 30 to 44-year-old demographic. I've read young-adult fiction all my life, and I don't remember there ever being a negative connotation. She also lists Tuck Everlasting as a sophisticated book from her youth. Except Tuck Everlasting is a children's novel. An excellent book, but not to be confused with young-adult lit.
Graham says she didn't cry when she read The Fault in our Stars, and wonders if that makes her either heartless or "a grown up"? I answer both questions in the negative. Why would "saying 'Oh, brother' out loud more than once," make a reader more mature than a reader who cries? Is it childish to be deeply affected by reading? Is it mature to roll our eyes in cynical dismissal? I not only cried from The Fault in our Stars. I cried without shame.
"These books," Graham writes, "consistently indulge in the kind of endings that teenagers want to see, but which adult readers ought to reject as far too simple. YA endings are uniformly satisfying..." And maybe that's the key to the proper response to Graham's essay. Anyone who thinks the endings of The Spectacular Now, Looking for Alaska, The Book Thief, or It's Kind of a Funny Story, to name a few, are satisfying and too simple is poorly equipped to analyze literature at all. I wonder, too, how Graham knows "what teenagers want to see", and which teens she's referring to. I spend quite a lot of time with teens, but I would hesitate to make such a sweeping statement about any people based solely on age.
Graham writes, "Life is so short, and the list of truly great books for adults is so long."
Here's my edit. Life is so short. Read whatever you like. And never, ever be embarrassed by your choices.
I quickly dashed off this post after Allan brought the story to my attention. More fully fleshed-out responses abound.
Really? Are we still genre-shaming people for the books they like? by Lauren Davis at io9
No, you do not have to be ashamed of reading young adult fiction in WaPo
In Praise of Reading Whatever You Want in New Republic
Slate’s Condescending “Against YA” Couldn’t Be More Wrong - Young Adult Fiction Is for Everyone in FlavorWire
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