Tonight someone made fun of me for enjoying young adult fiction, and that really gets my goat.
It’s not even the fact that he made fun of me (I can enjoy a good-natured jest, or I’d like to think I can). It’s the fact that when I tried to convince him that the young adult genre could have merit, should maybe deserve a little more respect than it does, he just laughed a small laugh and nodded his head at me like, “Are you joking? You have to be. That’s really funny.”
He’s a lit major, like I was, and I know his type, because they were threaded throughout the English department of my school. They were big and loud with their opinions and their disdain, and were good at making ideas they disagreed with seem small and embarrassing to believe in.
They made me angry then, and he made me angry tonight.
Yes, there is a lot of bad young adult fiction out there, but there’s a lot of bad adult fiction out there, too. Don’t throw Twilight in my face and pat me on the head like I’m a simpleton when I say YA has some merit. When you belittle me like that, you make yourself smaller in my eyes.
Adult fiction is not just one genre, and as YA is becoming bigger, it’s becoming increasingly clear that it shouldn’t be lumped together as such, either. There is ‘popular’ adult fiction and ‘literary’ adult fiction – and I believe the same could be argued for YA, too.
YA is becoming a more widely recognized genre that is being read by adults and youth alike, and there are a lot of opinions out there right now about what that means. People are talking about it. Slowly but surely, YA is nudging its way into view alongside ‘mainstream’ fiction.
So don’t laugh it off so easily, Mr. Pretentious Guy I Ran Into At A Party.
Pretentiousness in general makes me angry, because I think it’s an easy way to silence people who might have something valuable to share. And maybe it’s also a sensitive spot for me because I’m often afraid of what I might be unknowingly pretentious about. I know I used to be pretentious about a lot of things and didn’t even realize it. When I met my husband, that’s when I began to become aware of the fact that I scoffed and belittled a lot of things in the world I didn’t even understand. So seeing that pretentiousness in others – well, I recognize what I’m capable of myself in that behavior. And it frightens and upsets me.
I used to laugh at YA too, and then I learned to love it again. It can be a powerful, moving genre that does so much for youth and adults alike. I’m not saying we all have to be on the same page, here – but his laugh and quick dismissal tonight just made me want to kick over a bowl of guacamole, stomp over to Barnes & Nobles to buy a stack of ‘literary’ YA, and leave it on his doorstep.
Don’t shred it til you’ve read it, man. And after you’re done reading, maybe you could actually give me a real response rather than a throaty scoff.