There’s an interesting wave of discussions going on right now about YA sections of bookstores. Do adults read YA? Should they feel dorky for doing so? When shopping for YA, should they bring a teenager along to make them less conspicuous?
The discussion was started by Cory Doctorow, whose new book was mentioned in my previous post. He’s telling his adult science fiction fans where to find Little Brother, and about how many other awesome books there are in the “undiscovered” YA section.
Of course, as the folks watching Christopher Columbus sail in must have thought, being “undiscovered” is relative. And John Scalzi responds on that point, noting that YA (especially science fiction and fantasy) is actually much healthier than adult fiction in the sense of sales, cover designs, writing, and general vitality. YA has been well and truly discovered by readers, publishing houses, etc. It’s just that some adult fans of sf/fantasy don’t know that much about the new wave of awesomeness.
Here’s John’s post: “Why YA” (in which he says many appallingly nice things about me).
Mind you, the best part of these two posts are the comment threads, which consist largely of adults saying, “ZOMG, have you discovered this YA author yet?” to each other. Granted, they’re mostly talking about stuff that you guys already know about. But it’s always exciting to see new people getting enthused about the coolness of our world.
And for added amusement, you also get a few, “But I read adult books as a kid. Surely I am too mature to read teen books as an adult!” As if you guys don’t also read adult books. I mean, sheesh.*
A related amusing thread in these comments is how many adults are scared of going into the YA section. Like, they’ll be laughed at or arrested or something.
Anyway, it’s always interesting to see how others see us.
*The “I’m too mature to read YA” assertion reminds me of a guy I met at a party a few years ago. Upon finding out that I write novels, he said, “Oh, I only read non-fiction. Because that way I’m learning something.”
Now, there are many ways to skewer this position, but I figured the simplest was to say, “So you must watch only documentaries, and never movies with a story.”
He sputtered a bit and said, “Well, no. I don’t just watch documentaries. But movies are entertainment.”
Even as he said this, his expression showed that he got my point. Saying that he read only non-fiction was meant to make him sound smarter. But what it really suggested was that he saw reading as work. Sort of like medicine, reading wasn’t supposed to be pleasant, but to improve him. And what did it say about him that reading was work and watching a movie wasn’t?
Now, obviously, lots of very smart people read mostly or only non-fiction. (This is a golden age of narrative non-fic and science writing, for one thing.) But the smart ones never declaim that it’s better for them, just that they like it more.
Not reading/watching/listening to whole genres on principle is rarely a good look.