Thursday, March 06, 2008

Oh, Grow Up

So, yesterday Roger famously (or infamously?) began a post about reviews and ended up with "Whatever whoever chooses to read is their business, of course, but adults whose taste in recreational reading ends with the YA novel need to grow up."

Last night when I went to bed there were about 20 comments; now there are 30.

As an adult whose recreational reading includes YA, I want to respond. Yet I found I wanted to say more than is right for a comment. So here goes.

I'm rubber
You're glue
Whatever you say bounces off of me
And sticks to you!

Ha ha ha. Cause I'm not a grown up!

Seriously, folks.

These type of one liners are great to get some comments on a slow day (I personally was going to post "Twilight sucks" just for the comments); or to stir the pot just to stir, if you know what I mean.

Or, they can be dead on serious.

I could take apart the sentence; oh, if my YA reading is not "recreational" but for another reason, I'm still a grown up as defined by RR. Or, if I read other than YA, I'm still a grown up (tho I suspect that if the "other" I read is children's and picture books, I may not be meeting the definition.)

Others have already chimed in with some of my points; that the majority of YA is better edited than adult stuff. I mentally red-pen much more of the adult stuff I read; tho, of course, that is not true of all adult; just as it's not true of all YA. Absolutes, you know -- one really should stay away from them.

Which led me to two conclusions:

Start counting or listing the reasons people read, even under the umbrella of "recreational," and you'd need a book. I think it's impossible to draw an "if x, then y" conclusion about any reading a person does, because the reasons people read and what they get out of it are so varied and complex and personal.

When I think of what makes a person a "grown up", what they read does not even make the top 100. Probably top of my list is the ability to see things in shades of gray, rather than black and white; and to still come to decisions instead of using gray to justify any action or inaction. Followed closely by the realization that my listening to you, and understanding you, does not mean I agree with you.

So I guess my disappointment with Roger's post is not so much whether or not he thinks I'm a grown up -- but, rather, that he makes that statement based on such a small part of who I am as a person; and he makes that statement believing it is always true of everyone. That he begins with reading being a choice, yet ends with slamming the choices people make.

I think, as a librarian and as a person, that I should respect the reader; and respect what they are reading. Sometimes it is helpful to know "why" in order to recommend other books. But for the most part -- read your mysteries, your adventure stories, your graphic novels, even your serious literary works. Read Mary Sue Memoirs if that's your thing.

Heck, if you want -- read Twilight. And I'll still think you're a grown up.


James Bow said...

I'm an adult who reads YA literature on its own merits, not just because of the fact that I write YA and need to keep abreast of the genre. I LIKE reading YA. I like the clarity of the storytelling, and I like the sense of wonder and transformation that permeates the genre. Yeah, maybe I'm trying to stay in touch with a childhood that's long past me, but who cares? I think that those of us who maintain that sense of wonder that we had as children haven't grown up, and are the better for it.

I wrote this up for an article in the literary magazine "The New Quarterly", coupled with an interview with young adult fantasy author Kenneth Oppel. You can read the article on my blog here and my interview with Kenneth Oppel here.

Anonymous said...

If being "grown up" means not reading YA lit for fun - who wants to be considered an adult anyways...

Anonymous said...

I've been following the conversation over at Roger's blog but have been too chicken to leave a comment over there because of his hostile responses. Over here, it seems much more cozy and I don't think you'll get angry with me! I've agreed with all the rebuttles made. Makes sense to me!

I've never really read YA Lit (unless you do count me getting on the bandwagon with Harry Potter and Twilight) but this year have discovered how wonderful this genre is! I've read eight YA books this year so far and have enjoyed all of them immensely. We all make reading choices. We all have different tastes. Choosing one genre over another reflects our personalities, our needs, the time in our lives. One isn't better than the other, but I understand how one would miss out on other reading selections by choosing others. Just like how by choosing to play soccer we miss out on basketball. I enjoy adult fiction as well! But I tend to stay away towards genre's I don't like. Does that make me a bad person because I'm not encompassing all the reading world has to offer? No. Just a reflection of me!

Needless to say, I'm enjoying my YA lit. And my non-reader husband who I always wished was a reader is reading The Twilight series. I'll take it!!

Anonymous said...

Great response! :)

I hope you don't mind but I linked to you on my own blog today. I love the discussion this has inspired.


Jess said...

Amen to that.

While I do consume a steady diet of YA/children's books, I do feel the need for the occasional 'grown-up' book. Does this make the YA any less valuable in my diet? No. Do I have to choose whether to read it as a grown-up library school student or as a reader gulping it down for fun? No. I think I'm capable of doing both at the same time - evaluating it for recommending to children, and evaluating it for recommending it to my grown-up friends.

Anonymous said...

Great blog!

I started reading YA again for several reasons including because I write YA. When I was teaching high school, I had to be able to recommend good reads to my student and came across the talented Sharon Draper who had my students, even the reluctant readers, reading.

After reading some Sharon Draper and Rita Williams-Garcia titles, I grew nostalgic for YA as it has expanded a great deal since I was a teenager when my main reads included Sweet Valley High, Babysitters Club, Lois Lowry, and Paula Danziger.

YA is a fun genre and as the Af Am side of YA has grown leaps and bounds over the past 10 years, I want to read and support it.

In addition with so many YA books becoming movies these days, I like to go to the bookshelf and grab the book that inspired the movie.

YA is an amazing genre as is children's literature overall.

If at the end of the day, a person has read a book that has made them think, laugh, cry, or whatever, the author has done their job -- connected to another person through a story.

If a reader chooses to read Faulkner or Thoreau later on, so be it, but if not, the world keeps turning and writers continue to write for their readers of all ages.

That's all that matters.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I don't read Roger's blog...and this now famous post being the reason why. Apparently he has never read a YA novel, leaving ignorance as the obvious underlying issue. :-)

I love my YA and I wouldn't change my reading habits for the world. It not only is enjoyable, but the books I read result in being better at my job. Take that Roger!

Thanks for your thoughts Liz :-)

andalucy said...

I like your definition of a grown up. I'm going to jot that down somewhere.

Sounds like Roger needs to get over himself.

GrammyL said...

I read YA as part of my job, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy it. I always look forward to a new book by a favorite author whether it is adult, YA, J, or picture book. And, I often recommend YA titles to adults if I know they would enjoy a particular book. Are we now to be proofed at the library to show that we are the proper age to be reading books of our choosing?
Hmm, I haven't yet read Twilight, so maybe I'll wander over there next.

Robin Brande said...

Aarrgg! This makes me so mad!

I'm linking to you and ranting away. Thanks for talking about this. SO irritating!!!!

Mary Lee said...

And now he's up to 60 comments and seems desperate to untangle himself from what he probably? surely? hopefully? wrote as a flip and glib post ending but not an invitation to a mob scene. (Although I have to say, readers produce a pretty civilized mob scene!)

MotherReader said...

Okay, so my favorite part of your well thought out and well written post was the "I'm rubber, You're glue" part. I think that says something about me too.

I was trying to get myself all charged up to leave a comment on Roger's post, but I just couldn't do it. It seemed so silly in a way. So if I read adult romance novels or Grisham books, that's fine but it's not grown-up to prefer YA? Like, what-evah.

Hey, I'll leave that in the comments if you leave the rubber and glue one.

Liz B said...

blogger was acting up today, wasn't it?

My problem with Roger's post and comments:
-- whatever Roger intended, it led to some fairly offensive comments, IMHO, about the reasons people read and then judgments being made about them. "reluctant readers," "weekly reader", etc.
-- Roger is trying to have it both ways. He says "people can read whatever they want," but then he judges the WHY behind the reading. So read what you want... as long as your "why" is the correct way.

I don't think the why behind people's reading choices matters, or should be used to judge them, or should be used to judge them and find them lacking.

Colleen at Chasing Ray put it better than I am here; but reading and books, its a small part of a persons life. Why judge a person based not only on WHAT they read, but WHY they read?

Anonymous said...

I think Roger's actual position was a reasonable one -- read kids' and YA books, but don't kid yourself that this somehow makes you superior or that that's all there is. He's reacting against something people say to him that he finds annoying. Obviously he's not telling people not to read kids' books -- that's his bread and butter! He probably reads more kids' books than my super-reader kid does. He definitely made his point in an outrageous way, but to me this is part of the charm of Roger Sutton -- say something outrageous and watch the conversation grow! I admire him for his willingness to take a position he knows is controversial, and for his respectful way of inviting and tolerating opposing viewpoints.

Liz B said...

Mordena, we'll have to agree to disagree.

What I find fascinating about Roger's own post and comments is the way his argument changes and narrows; it's rather late in the game that he pulls out the "I was talking about the people who are proud to only read childrens books" argument.

Anonymous said...

Sure, but my point is that he's just being Roger -- I think he often overstates things just to stir up a little controversy.

Camille said...

Still haven't managed to read Twilight. I just can't seem to move my eyeballs from one word to the next. I've tried. I want to read it just so I can talk with the kids at the jr. high.

I guess, as much YA as I read, there are some books even I cannot manage. Does that make me a grown-up?