Yesterday, I clicked on a link to a debut adult romance novelist’s book, and in reading one of the negative reviews, the reviewer suggested that while other people obviously enjoyed the book (most of the reviews were favorable), it wasn’t for her and perhaps better suited to a YA reader.
This made my BLOOD BOIL. It is not the first time I’ve seen adult readers of various novels indicate that YA is a less-than category, not as “good” as books written for adults. Similarly, I’ve seen reviews of YA novels where adult readers quantify their reviews with “For YA, I guess it was good,” and go on to say things like the protagonist seemed immature (yeah, Karen, she’s SIXTEEN and in HIGH SCHOOL, what did you expect??) or denigrating a plot thread because THEY think high schoolers wouldn’t do things the characters do.
As both a high school teacher and a YA novelist, I’m appalled by how people really don’t understand what today’s youth goes through. Most YA authors (and ALL the ones I know, personally), don’t just assume teens have certain behaviors. They RESEARCH. They ask questions of the Twitterverse and on their Facebook statuses. They are sometimes, like me, high school teachers who are in the trenches with teenagers EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Some are parents of teenagers.
YA is not a “lesser” category. Yesterday, I tweeted about my outrage and YA author Sarah Darer Littman replied that it reminds her of the people who always ask her when she’s going to write a “real” book. YA BOOKS ARE REAL BOOKS. I have a classroom library of YA novels three bookshelves strong. And every year, I have the pleasure of replacing books for the next year’s students because some students borrow my REAL YA books and then don’t return them for one reason or another. Their struggles are real. Wanting to read books about teenagers like themselves who are experiencing things they experience is REAL.
Let’s stop looking at YA as the redheaded stepchild of the literary universe, please!