Read Whatever You Want

By now, all of us proud Young Adult readers have read that article about how we’re all immature, silly people and should be reading real books with unhappy endings and unlikable protagonists because apparently That’s Just What Real Grownups Do.

Oh Jesus

And I could write a rebuttal, about how I read Young Adult books because I like to see women in leading roles without having to suffer rape and abuse in order to become a stronger character, because I enjoy books with a sense of hope and more diverse characters and a story arc that actually leads somewhere and that pointless graphic sex and violence squicks me out. But that would be just as bad, because I’d end up (exhibit A) generalising genres to the point where any interesting commentary is completely negated by hyperbolic rambling.

The fact is, I read many genres. I read classic literature, humour, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, fantasy, science fiction and the odd biography. Some of these books are aimed at adults, many are aimed at young adults. My preference of one over the other isn’t intentional, and comes on a case by case basis of which blurbs catch my interest and which books come recommended by friends and acquaintances (sometimes it works in the books favour, other times… not!) and occasionally I’ll be influenced by a review or film/television adaptation. I don’t think allYoung Adult books are inherently good, and I don’t think all Adult books are inherently grim.

One of my oldest friends thrives on a diet of Young Adult novels. Another friend spoke highly of 50 Shades of Grey. Another close friend has read almost every classic worth reading and reads books on economic theory for fun. My ex-boyfriend loved body horror and drug-fuelled narratives, while also having a fairly keen interest in literary fiction. One of my brothers reads nothing but sports biographies, another heavily focuses on fantasy. And having a basic conversation with each about their lives, I would happily challenge you to choose who belonged to which.

We read the books that interest us for whatever reason they capture our attention and imagination. It doesn’t always speak to our personalities or reflect on us as functional adults and judging people as mature or immature, deep, vapid, intelligent, sensitive or whatever else you like based on what they choose to read is ridiculous. Reading is fun. Trying to shame people out of reading something you don’t think is worthwhile benefits nobody. Reading Hemingway if you don’t find anything interesting about The Old Man And The Sea isn’t going to do anything for you but foster a resentment of Hemingway. If high school English didn’t at least teach you that, I don’t know what it did.

We could get into a very long, interesting and I think important conversation about harmful (or just boring) tropes and themes in some popular books, but while we’re generalising, I say people finding books to fall in love with is an awesome thing, whatever the genre.

Let’s just celebrate that.

6 thoughts on “Read Whatever You Want

  1. I agree.

    You and I write completely different stuff, with different themes and different styles. On the rare occasion that I’ve read contemporary ‘young adult’, I haven’t enjoyed it (though I haven’t read *your* novel, yet!). But would I suggest that people shouldn’t that genre? Never.

    People should read what fascinates them. To suggest otherwise is more than just douche-baggery… it actively turns people away from reading, altogether. Nothing turns more people away from literature than being forced to read it in high school.

    I know people that hate my favourite novels with a passion, and I know full well that my own one is not for everyone. The key is, we have so much choice these days. To put down people for exercising that choice seems very narrow minded.

    Read what you wanna read; write what you wanna right.

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      1. I was going to be cool and not say anything, but nice save.

        And you’re exactly right. I enjoyed reading your book even though it’s not something I’d have normally picked up on my own, but I liked the way you spoke about it and the way you didn’t react badly to the YA comparisons but explained why you saw it as not being appropriate for teen readers (quite rightly!). If you had put it forward as a ‘better’ alternative to YA stories, I’d never have gone near it, and I’d have missed out.

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      2. ‘And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.

        Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.

        You’re also finding out something as you read vitally important for making your way in the world. And it’s this:

        The world doesn’t have to be like this. Things can be different.’

        It’s seriously hard to pick a favourite part of this essay! Thanks for sharing, loads of great points.

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