Monday, March 26, 2012

Smarter than You Think

Granted, this is one of those areas where I'm definitely speaking more from my own feelings on a topic than anything else but I have to say I get irritated when I hear people putting down adults who have turned to Teen and Young Adult fiction as being incapable of understanding the nuance of adult fiction.  So before I get further into why I feel that YA is a viable genre for adults to read without judgement let's just get some bare facts out of the way.

I have a degree in literature. 

I can analyze fiction with the best of them (thank you Aunt Sherri for giving me a complete base in archetypes to make this a simple task).

I have a great dislike for modern "literary" fiction (I'll get deeper into this in a moment).

Okay now that those basic facts have been addressed I'll continue.  I've long felt that Young Adult or Teen fiction does many things better than their adult counterparts though I don't think that it's because they're always more skilled writers (though sometimes I do feel that's the case).  More than anything though I feel like the reason that YA fiction is often more successful in garnering readers isn't because it's easier (have you read some YA fic?) I think it's because the writers are less caught up in being "important".  Rather than spend their time making themselves seem somehow better than everyone else these authors instead focus things where they should...on the story and the reader.

There is no doubt in my mind that John Green is one of the most literate voices of my generation (I'm speaking as someone his age not as a teenager).  What he's done in books like Looking for Alaska or An Abundance of Katherines is at a par as far as pure skill goes with any of the authors who are today's golden literary children.  But he chooses to write for teens.  And not only does he write for teens but he speaks to them.  He hand signed every pre-order for his latest book, The Fault in Our Stars, not as a marketing ploy but as a thank you.  How many "literary" authors do you know who would do that?

The most recent Teen Blockbuster has been, of course, The Hunger Games which I like infinitely more than Twilight.  The Hunger Games series is acutally a good platform for my point since it's something that many people are familiar with.  A quick reading of the story and you see a girl who's fighting to the death in gladiator style games.  And that's all well and good.  But a deeper reading tells a much different story.  It tells of a society so corrupted that it uses the deaths of children as entertainment.  It shows how easily a person, no matter how morally and physically strong can be manipulated by those with more power.  It shows us a world and a hero that is far from perfect and how even the smallest choices (and refusing to act is a choice) can have far reaching effects.  Is it really fair to discount those thoughts just because they were written for a young audience?

Now let's get into my issue with "literary" fiction.  It seems to me that all too often modern literary fiction falls into two camps the "let's be so completely incomprehensible that everyone sees me as a genius" camp and the "let's put my character through an emotional wringer" camp.  Neither camp really has an interest to me as a reader.  Because, here's a big surprise for everyone, I read to enjoy books.  This has led me to the fringes of the literary world.  Instead of reading the latest literary titles I long ago moved to reading Fantasy, Romance and Teen.  Yep.  Teen.  And I'm not ashamed of this fact.  I look forward to a new book by Sarah Dessen, Libba Bray or Deb Caletti with as much anticipation as I do something from Sherrilyn Kenyon, Julia Quinn or Eloisa James.  This doesn't make me stupid.  In fact, I think it makes me smarter because I'm smart enough to know that my intelligence doesn't hinge on how people judge my reading habits.  I'm better (and smarter) than that.

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