There are a lot of popular things that I have chosen not to do over the years:
The low carb diet
Learn how to shuffle (dancing... not cards)
Disneyland Season Passes
Carry around a small yappy dog in aforementioned Coach bag
And none of those things are necessarily bad things... they're just not for me. And I'm here today to tell you why I feel the exact same way about YA books.
This is definitely not the popular route to take in blogging, or even the literary world, right now, but, as usual, I don't really care. And, right off the bat, let me tell you that I completely and totally understand why some people gravitate towards this genre. I mean, some people look really good with ombre hair, just not me. And Coach purses are great, well-made bags, I've just never found one that suits my tastes (I'm more of a Fossil girl myself). And the low carb diet is obviously a miracle worker, I just like cookies and pasta way too much.
And my opposition towards most YA books isn't derived from this up-and-coming camp that thinks they're corrupting today's youth. Let me tell you, today's youth is already pretty crazy- it makes no difference if they read about dystopias, vampires, love triangles, or other various situations that conjure teenage angst. In terms of appropriate content, again, they're making babies and getting caught with weed (or worse) the way it is. Does it cause depression or result in a lack of hope about the future of humanity? Not so much. Basically, today's youth will go through a hyper-emotional period of experimentation whether they read YA books or not.
My dislike partially comes from the fact that I feel like many of these books aren't challenging on a literary level. I've read The Hunger Games and The Age of Miracles (I don't care what anyone says, it's YA) and neither knocked my socks off. I've flipped through my students' books and looked at first chapters of others online and I'm just not overly impressed with the writing. Of course all books don't exactly have to be Pulitzer Prize candidates, but as a whole the dramatic, adjective-heavy, "I'm trying really hard to be _______" just doesn't work for me as a reader. Strike one.
Strike two: the subject matter. I know, I know, there's a plethora of topics that YA novels delve into, just like regular big kid books. But there's a lot of similarities and sub genres that simply aren't my taste. I generally don't do vampires, parallel worlds, wizards (unless their names rhyme with Shmarry Flotter), warewolves, zombies, fortune telling, or time travel. And then there's the teenage angst- the romance, the friendship issues, the family problems, the "I've made mistakes but I'm still a good person" plight, and just general "woe is me, no one understands me because I'm seventeen" nonsense. That being said, I do like coming of age stories, but not when they're being written to fit YA fiction, if that makes sense. For example, Catcher in the Rye; JD Salinger didn't write it with the intent of marketing it to teenagers with a boldly designed cover and aspirations of a series. It was authentic and genuine, he wasn't forcing it into a pre-labeled box.
Speaking of series writing- there are so many in YA! For the most part, I'm not a fan of (JK Rowling and Laura Ingalls Wilder are exceptions). I don't like leaving a book on any sort of a cliff hanger; it's one thing to allow the reader to imagine the ending, but another to require that they read yet another book in order to obtain true closure. I know many would disagree with me, but I feel like series writing is a little gimmicky and sometimes seems like a total marketing strategy (and a very successful one). Plus, I have trouble with commitment- it's been years since I read the first book in The Millennium Series and have yet to return.
As I read blogs and talk to people, I feel like YA fiction almost becomes an addiction, and I don't want to drink the Kool-Aid. So many pick up The Fault in Our Stars and BOOM! They've completely abandoned the classics and contemporary adult fiction. I guess it just makes me a little depressed that YA authors are the ones getting these impressive book deals when there are some truly talented adult authors with staying power that are overlooked because their novels may not sell as many copies. And that idea of staying power; my gut tells me that in ten years YA fiction isn't going to be nearly as popular as it is today.
Plus, I work with teenagers all damn day. I really, really don't want to go home and read books starring the hormonal little creatures I just got done hanging out with for seven hours. I see their drama and their growing pains front and center. I see the backstabbing, the drama caused by break ups, and the stress caused by familial problems all the time. On the more positive side, I witness the happiness of new relationships, the excitement over college acceptances, and the optimism that comes with a new job at Starbucks. I spend more time with young adults that I do regular adults; please don't make me read about them too.
If you're a YA reader you've thought of at least twenty-seven reasons why I'm wrong and are starting to hate me. Good! You should be defensive about what you read. Knowing what we like is important too, though, and me saying I don't like YA is no different from someone else saying they're not into sci-fi, fantasy, or bodice-ripping romance novels. But I'm not completely opposed to the genre and have had my moments of intrigue when I've seen John Green books repeatedly. So, you YA lovers, convince me. I dare you.