Saturday, August 16, 2008

YA, Adult, YA, Adult

Chasing Ray has links to the latest YA versus Adult smackdown, this time within the science fiction world.

Click thru to Chasing Ray for all the links and quotage; per usual, there is the standard lack of a definition of YA, defining YA as something it is not, referencing what one did as a teenager and then using one's own experience as evidence of a some universal norm that the world should follow in terms of what one does and does not read; etc., etc.

I just want to throw a few things out there.

I read a lot of sf/f as a kid, both stuff written for kids (I adored H.M. Hoover), teens (what was out there) and adult stuff. As I've written elsewhere, as I got older, I stopped reading sf/f.

Why? Well, cover jackets like the one in the article saying "we don't need no YA" is one reason.

Another? I didn't much like the adult sf/f I was reading. For a variety of reasons.

After reading Harry Potter, I realized there was still good sf/f out there, and returned to the sf/f written for kids and teens. And I haven't given adult sf/f a second try (outside of some horror or the like; stuff that isn't really sf/f).

Oh, maybe a handful of adult titles that I read for the GSTBA, and the adult sf/f books I got assigned always were the ones that had made me stop reading: books in endless series, books that were way too long, and authors that were in too in love with their characters and worlds (it was much like spending a time with a parent who is convinced their darling child is smart, charming, and talented...perhaps for a half hour, yes, but not for seven hours).

Ha! That is the challenge to the adult sf/f readers out there: can you give me a standalone book that is less than 300 pages? If so, I'll read add it to my post-Printz reading.


R.J. Anderson said...

Oh, my word, this kind of thing makes me want to bang heads. Like a lot of the commenters on the original thread, I went very quickly from the Narnia books and The Hobbit to Dune and Ray Bradbury. But that wasn't because I thought YA was for kiddies so much as because there was hardly anything I could find that actually fit that category. Sure, I read the big SF/F doorstops, but truth was I skimmed a lot of the boring blather, description of faster-than-light drives, obsessively detailed renderings of alien societies and such because those things got in the way of the story and characters for me. It wasn't until I was an adult that I could go back to read a book like Dune and actually be interested in some of those world-building details.

So basically it seems to me that YA SF is skipping the parts that a lot of teen readers would already be inclined to skip (or else just give up on the book altogether), and forcing writers to tell a more concentrated and condensed -- and in many cases more potent -- story as a result. What's wrong with that?

Some of the commenters on io9 seem to believe that length is the primary standard by which the quality of a book should be measured, and that their favorite "adult" SF/F books are superior because their length makes them automatically "more complex" than the average YA novel. Well, if that's the case, shouldn't that make the Harry Potter books automatically better than, say, The Left Hand of Darkness or many of the other SFnal classics?

Pfft, I say.

R.J. Anderson said...

(Though after all that being said in the previous comment, I'd like to add a rec to a less-than-300-page standalone novel by one of the SF greats: Connie Willis's Bellwether. Not exactly traditional SF by any means, but it really is a great deal of fun.)

Anonymous said...

Seriously, nobody is listening, are they. I am SO TIRED of the "when I was a teen I didn't NEED YA books because I was smart enough to read ADULT books" argument! SO WAS I! My favorite authors in eighth grade were Charles Dickens and Lois Duncan. I enjoyed them both thoroughly then, and even nowadays I... well to be honest I think I enjoy Lois Duncan more just because I don't have the time for Charles Dickens anymore!

Anonymous said...

By standalone, do you mean something that isn't part of a series? Or do you mean something that has a beginning, middle and end of it's own? If you mean the second, I would recommend that you try Lois McMaster Bujold's Warrior's Apprentice. I think you'd like it. It's fast paced and it's funny and comfortably angsty as well. Space opera at it's very best.

tanita✿davis said...

"'s hard to deny your knee-jerk response that there's something slightly distasteful and pedophilic about an adult reading stories aimed at people under the age of 18."


Anonymous said...

I read both Sf and YA. There are some great writers in SF. The community as a whole? Disappointingly stupid.

They haven't realized that most of the Science Fiction that they loved so much as YA's was . . . YA. Most of the writing they honor and award and crow over-- is suitable for fourteen year olds. They insist that this is because fourteen years olds "have grown up brains that are ready for adult works." I say it's because most of SF readers are still reading books for young adults.

Scalzi? YA. Orson Scott Card? YA. Haldeman? YA. Heinlein? Most of his work was YA. The best of it certainly was. And the worst of it was . . . juvenile--a YA mentality trying to pretend to be grown up.

But these books have sex in them! Scalzi's have men with green penises! Yes, I know. It's shocking. And they are YA. People who think the books they read are for adult books just because there's sex and new ideas in them, those people should grow up.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. I was cranky. You labeled this post "RANTS," so I did.

Eva M said...

SF under 300 pages? Hey, that's hardly fair, as it leaves out some of the best stuff by Walter Jon Williams, Vernor Vinge, and other wonderful writers. Would you accept 318 pages? Then try Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder.

By the way, I read any genre for any age group, as long as the book itself is well-written and gripping. I guess that makes me a real pervert! :-)

Anonymous said...

This kind of story bothers me so much -- so much time spent marking off territory, so little time spent saying, "Hey, there's room for all kinds of readers and definitions here!"
My recs for sf/f under 300 pages:
Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner (though if court politics and such are not to your liking, this may not be the book for you.)
I second Connie Willis' Bellwether. So fun.
The Bone Key by Sarah Monette is a spooky collection of interconnected short stories.
The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia McKillip.
Just some thoughts to check out!

Anonymous said...

I have a few favorites that all come in around 300 pages -
The Chronoliths - Charles Wilson
Replay - Ken Grimwood
THe Mirror - Marlys Millhiser
From time to time - Jack Finney
The Sterkarm Handshake - Susan Price (might be a YA title)
and I, too, love Bellwether by Connie Willis (and her Doomsday Book - but it's way too long to fit your page criteria!)

Hope you will enjoy some of these!


Brian Mandabach said...

Idk. We label all kinds of stuff--just need to keep it in perspective. Not too profound today.

But I really need help with my list of recs for the library at my new school, which need a lot more YA as well as more of everything that teens like to read. Check my latest blog if you get a chance. :)

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Uck! Reading things like that makes me break out in a rash. The most ironic line in the post?

Adults and teens are different in all kinds of ways, but surely they can meet in the world of fiction

Yes, surely they can, if adult fiction writers and readers can get over their god-complexes. Seriously dude, no one thinks you're a perv for checking out M. T. Anderson's FEED or Suzanne Collins' THE HUNGER GAMES from the YA section.