Alright. There’s been something that’s been on my mind for a while now and I think now is the time to get it out. That something is the concept of genre shaming. To be more specific, I’m going to be talking about YA (young adult genre) shaming.
Now this might be solely from the fact that I’m growing older. I’ve been reading young adult novels since I was eight and I’d never heard any comments about its value or place in literature. But now that I’m almost in my twenties, I’m beginning to see the strange looks and comments thrown my way when I mention Divergent or The Hunger Games. This year was my first year away at a university and being an English major I find myself constantly in the company of English professors and other English majors. All those things combined leaves me in many situations where the YA genre is made fun of and looked down on. I find myself in situations where I’m struggling to remember good classic books I’ve read to hold up as my “favorite book” when in reality those aren’t my favorites at all. I love YA. I love other things too, don’t get me wrong, but YA is what I love to read and therefore what I love to write.
Unfortunately, I see this genre attacked over and over again. YA books are often discussed as complete trash and an utter waste of time. Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent – these are all held up as the perfect example of what not to write. In my English classes we are encouraged to become writers, to make a living, to do what we love, but God forbid we ever write something as trashy and horrific as The Twilight Saga.
I’ve put up with this for a little while now and to be honest, I’m starting to get sick and tired of it. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all allowed our opinions and those are wonderful things, but this concept of genre shaming has gotten a little out of hand.
How is YA less than other literature?
First of all, how is YA less than other literature? Seriously? Sure we can hold up a copy of Gone With the Wind and compare it to Twilight chapter by chapter and come out at the end with the conclusion that Gone With the Wind may be the better piece of literature. But by whose standards? Honestly – and this may be blasphemous for me to say as an English major – I’m going to have a heck of a better time sitting down and reading about Bella’s romance with Edward than I’m going to have watching Scarlett screw up her life.
Stephanie Meyer wrote a novel that countless people have read and she made a fortune off of it. She’s wealthy because of her books. So how can someone call Twilight “bad literature?” What are we basing this definition off of?
It comes down to opinion. Sure there are books that have stood the test of time and continue to be read over and over again, but we’re not talking about specific books. We’re talking about a genre. A genre that is attacked again and again for being stupid, unrealistic, and trashy. YA is one of the top selling genres in publishing today. I don’t know about you, but if a genre of books is selling, I’ll bet you anything that it’s good.
What is this saying to the teenage girls who read YA?
Another destructive aspect of shaming young adult novels is the fact that we’re disregarding the audience these books are aimed at. Young adult novels are written (mostly) for the teenage girl. Now that’s a bit of a generalization. I do realize there are many boys out there who read YA, but right now the statistics and the subject matter of the books tell us that teenage girls are the main consumers for this genre.
Now, let’s pretend for a minute that we all believe that YA novels are stupid, poorly written, and a waste of time. What are we telling teenage girls by believing this statement? What are we saying about the interests, wants, and imaginations of the girls who read YA novels? We aren’t attacking a genre anymore. We’re attacking those girls.
Young girls put up with enough from our media today. Now are we going to start telling them that their taste in novels is stupid as well?
Live and let live.
I realize that most people out there who criticize YA are just stating their opinion. I totally understand when a book or even a whole genre doesn’t sit well with you. Believe me, I’ve had many of those myself. The problem I see is that when we get too caught up in those opinions and start alienating an entire genre or group of writers, and all we accomplish is a division in the literary industry.
We all love books and we all love reading. So why can’t we just leave it at that? Sure there are genres we are going to like better than others. But let’s respect those genres for what they are and respect the writers who put in years of their lives writing for it.