S.M. Carrière . com


Dear Ms. Ruth Graham

Posted by S.M. Carrière on June 9, 2014 at 10:30 AM

Good morning, Readers!

I'm a little late jumping on this bandwagon, but I needed some time to get my boiling blood under control lest I say something irreversibly damaging.  But still, I think I need to respond to this.  Yet again.  It's not like I have done it before.  Ever.


In any case, on the 5th of this month, an article went up on slate.  You can read it HERE if you really want to, though I'd have no idea why.  It's entitled Against Young Adult.  It also sports the tag-line 'Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you're reading was written for children.'


Look, Ms. Graham, I'm actually not a huge fan of YA as a genre.  I tend to find it dull and difficult to relate to, and always have, even when I was in the demographic these novels are supposedly designed to appeal to.  That said, I am not the arbiter of good literary taste.

And neither are you.

Your entire article smacks of baseless elitism, and I am sick to death of reading similar articles by people who are compelled to exalt themselves as superior through their tastes in literature.  More often than not, those people have not actually enjoyed literary fiction all that much, but still have sticks too far up the own backsides to admit that Harry Potter was amazing... even if they secretly think that.

I'm not, of course, accusing you of the same.

The truth is, adult literature is not superior in any way, shape or form.  It is different, yes, but superior?  You cite The Fault in Our Stars by John Green as an example of young adult that has sub-par writing and is undeserving of the wide, adoring adult readership if has; a readership, you lament, that could spend its time reading "superior" adult literature.

Fine.  Defend 50 Shades of Grey.  No, seriously.  That book is adult, and it is some poorly written dreck (my apologies, Ms. James).  There are numerous other books (even classics) that, by all standards, are terribly written.  The classics have managed to make themselves above such criticism merely by being labelled as classics, when all objective observation reveals that they are quite terribly constructed (and sometimes obnoxiously dull).  And it may behove you to remember than many of the classics revered today were considered populist dreck in their time.  There is plenty of absolute rubbish in all genres, and literary fiction is absolutely no exception.

Moreover, what on earth makes you think that readers are exclusive to one genre over another?  It is entirely feasible that readers of young adult also happen to pick up literary fiction of the adult variety; even if they are more subdued about it.

Look, I get it.  We all get it.  Young adult is not to your taste.  It's not to my tastes either, if I'm honest.  You know what is?  Massive tomes of fantasy and science fiction à la Steven Erikson and Frank Herbert.  I've been reading these genres since I can remember, skipping young adult entirely.  That does not make me any better than those who love to read young adult, nor does it make me any less than those who read literary fiction.

You, for some reason, bemoan the satisfying ending common in young adult, claiming that it is not a reflection of real life.  There is nothing wrong with seeking a "satisfying" ending.  If I leave a book without some sense of satisfaction - be it tears of sadness or joy - then, to my mind, the author didn't do their jobs.  Ending a story without giving the reader satisfaction is not emblematic of adult literature, as you claim.  It seems to me to be no ending at all and a signal that the author might not understand story-telling quite so well as they pretend.  Stories, after all, have a beginning, a middle and an end.  Human life is much the same, incidentally.  It starts.  Things happen.  It ends - in death (100% of the time) - the same death that you bemoan young adult heroes sometimes suffering in their stories.

All of this to say that unended stories are, quite simply, not to my taste.

I greatly fear, Ms. Graham, that your own prejudices against young adult stops you from seeing the great depth available in that genre, and I'm not talking merely about the sheer volume of titles available.  I'm talking about the topics they tackle, the thoughts and philosophies they possess and the incredible richness of all of these that young adult books can provide to their readers if one just looks a little deeper (you know, like they teach you to do in every English class ever).

I feel that, by denying yourself an open and honest look into young adult, you are denying yourself the possibilities of the genre; seeking and therefore seeing only the superficialities of which, in your mind, the genre is solely capable.  It's like standing in a room of rainbows, wearing glasses that deliberately render you colour-blind.

And I have one last beef.  Young adults are not children.  They are exactly as the title suggests: young adults.  Perhaps it's high time we started valuing them as adults instead of belittling them and their passions as childish.  They are not.  Young, yes.  Children, no.  Treating them as children and their passions as childish is thoroughly insulting to young adults.  It takes away their agency, of which they have a phenomenal amount if they simply apply it.  It detracts from all that they can, and often do, bring to the spectrum of adulthood.  If adulthood is all about abandoning one's passions and shedding anything fun for the sake of not appearing childish, then I want nothing to do with adulthood, thank-you very much.

So, no.  These books were not written for children.  They were written for the adults who have not abandoned who they are and what they enjoy because someone else thought that being, in your own words, 'snobbish, joyless and old' is what adulthood is all about.

One last thought.  If people are flocking in droves to this genre over what you consider to be a more appropriate genre, perhaps it is because there is something missing in adult literary fiction.  Perhaps, just perhaps, it is because there is some spark that readers are seeking, that draws readers in like moths to a flame.  If adult literary fiction was so very superior, it would be the flame that draws those moths.  If it is not, then perhaps the problem is not the readership, but the genre.

Young adult is not to your taste.  Fine.  But keep your ego in check.  You are not the arbiter of good literary taste any more than I am.

As for the rest of you, read whatever you want however you want.  Now if you'll excuse me, there are shape-shifting people I must go rewrite.

Here is today's random picture:

Image courtesy of Books Direct.


Categories: Writing and Publishing, Random Musings

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Reply Éric Desmarais
11:04 AM on June 9, 2014 
Great post! I was livid when I read the article last week.
Reply S.M. Carrière
11:18 AM on June 9, 2014 
Éric Desmarais says...
Great post! I was livid when I read the article last week.

So was I, which is why I waited until I could get level-headed enough to write about it without every second word being very "adult."