• Gina Denny

Signs you need to stop reading YA

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

I love me some YA fiction. John Green, Cinda Williams-Chima, Suzanne Collins, Tahereh Mafi, Dan Wells, Robison Wells, Scott Westerfeld, Lauren Oliver… this list could get long. Young adult fiction – fiction aimed at teenagers, and specifically high school students – captures a very exciting time of life. Good YA fiction deserves all the accolades and attention the category has been receiving over the last several years.

If you’ve been scoffing at YA, dismissing it all as “Twilight Wannabes”, you might want to check it out.

But most people who are reading this blog aren’t on the YA-scoffing-bandwagon, and I think it might be important to note that there might be signs that you need to take a break from YA fiction.

And this is a totally serious list. I’m tired of being at book club or a mom’s group and hearing people insult a whole category of books for reasons that are not the books’ fault.

– You get annoyed when characters make impulsive decisions. You know what kind of decisions sixteen-year-olds make? Impulsive ones. Seriously. Think back to when you were fourteen or fifteen years old, and think of your favorite memories. Disgusting games in a diner? Chinese fire drills? Ditching history class? Drawing on your sneakers? Coloring your hair purple? Jack-in-the-Box trip in your pajamas? Now tell me how much planning and thought went into each of those moments.

– You’re annoyed by insta-love. I know. I could probably put the word love in sarcastic air-quotes and call it insta-“love”. Because you’re right, an overwhelming majority of those teen couples won’t last the year, much less a lifetime. But I had my first boyfriend at sixteen. From our first kiss til we broke up and stopped speaking to each other forever, the entire relationship lasted a little over four weeks. And yes. It felt like a real relationship. It was dramatic and generated a lot of gossip and I probably thought I was in love.  So a teen character falling in “love” after only a few weeks of knowing someone… not so weird.

– You think the vocabulary is childish. Guess what? You have a Master’s Degree in Psychology. The average target audience for these books? Yeah, they haven’t taken their SATs yet. They don’t know what “pedantic” or “erudite” or “antediluvian” means. This isn’t an insult to teens, it’s just a fact that most teens don’t have a vocabulary to rival an adult with a postgraduate degree. If the “childish” language bugs you, the problem isn’t with the words, I can guarantee that.

– You hate that the parents are always “missing”. I’ll admit: I want the parents/adults to be missing for a logical or plausible reason. But if the story is about a teen, then a teen needs to solve the problem in the story. She can’t turn to her mom and get her mom to fix things.

– You think it’s all derivative. If you’ve read LORD OF THE RINGS eight times, and the BELGARIAD twice as many, then you probably thought ERAGON was a rip off. But you know who hasn’t yet read those 30-60 year old books? Teenagers. ERAGON introduced a whole new generation of kids to a genre that they might otherwise dismiss as “old” and “dull”. You know why they keep remaking the movies you loved as a kid/teen? Because kids/teens today don’t want to see old movies. They want to see new movies. And they want to read new books.

So, if you read DIVERGENT or TFioS or THE HUNGER GAMES and found yourself saying… well, all of these things, then maybe you’re just not into YA. And that’s okay. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

Here’s what you’re allowed to say when asked: “I didn’t enjoy it. YA isn’t really my thing.”

Here’s what you’re not allowed to say: “It’s so stupid. I don’t understand why any sane person would read that junk. I mean, COME ON….”

If people ask why you don’t like YA, sure, you are welcome to talk about all the reasons it’s not your bag. But please recognize that those reasons are your reasons. I don’t read romance, just as a general rule. There are a dozen reasons why, and none of them make the genre “bad” – they just make it “not the genre for me”.

So, hey, don’t go bagging on a whole section of the bookstore just because it’s not your thing. After all, you wouldn’t insult every Italian restaurant in the country just because you don’t enjoy tomatoes, would you?

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