Can’t read anything when your nose is pointed straight up

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/03/28/the-power-of-young-adult-fiction/adults-should-read-adult-books

This article came out a few weeks ago, and after careful consideration of all sides of the story–I’m still mad.

Really? You’ve never read these books, you don’t intend to read these books, you have no idea what they’re about, but you know for an absolute fact that they’re not worth your time and have nothing worthwhile in them that could possibly amuse you or make you think? After all, as an adult, you know everything, right? Oh, they’re good enough for kids, since of course kids are incapable of understanding or appreciating “the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults.” But not for [sticks nose in the air and assumes a haughty and mildly constipated expression] adults.

Now, not all YA/children’s books are good. I hate Twilight- I couldn’t get past chapter 3 before I wanted to kill Bella just to stop the whining. And that was before she met Mr.Sparkly Pants- I have massive issues with that highly abusive relationship storyline and Bella’s complete lack of characterization or development over the entire series. However, despite not being able to finish the book (and I read Harlequins and made it through all 3 seasons of Veronica Mars), I still know what it’s about, what happens, themes, etc. I have reasons for calling it Twicrap.

That said, I did love Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, the other two highly popular series the writer mentioned. The Harry Potter books aren’t the greatest and most original works of art ever created, but they’re a very solid story told well. The characters develop, explore their world, learn and grow and make the reader think alongside them. The Hunger Games is a reimagining of Greek mythology blended with Roman history-Theseus and the Athenian sacrifices to the Bull of Crete presented as Roman gladitorial games to entertain and control the masses. Gosh, those stories go back about 3,000 years and they were written for adults, weren’t they?

A good story is a good story. And if it is truly good, then it will stand the test of time. I started reading Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series about 20 years ago, and I’ve reread it at least once a year since. Every time I read it, I find something new to think about, because I have grown and changed and I have a different perspective on what the characters go through. The fifth book,The Wizard’s Dilemma,argued that if you have sworn to respect and defend all life, then that includes life you don’t like, such as the cancer that was killing the main female character’s mother. Cancer cells do what they are meant to do-they grow and live and multiply. You can’t really blame them for that. When I first read this, I had sympathy for Nina, but I thought the book had a point. I felt much differently when my grandmother died of pneumonia. It’s a disease, it’s alive, but I didn’t feel much respect for its life at the time.

I’m not even getting into the argument for parents, teachers, child psychologists, social workers, or anyone else who interacts with children or young adults on a regular basis to know what their children are reading and learning. Or writers, editors, publishers, booksellers, or librarians (hi!) for whom reading YA books is their job, an argument which Joel Stein also forgets about.

So to conclude this rant, mind your own business Joel and quit reading over my shoulder, because the sniffing is distracting me from Alanna of Trebond learning to deal with bullies and Cimorene of Linderwall refusing to marry someone she doesn’t like and Hermione is trying to study.

Also (I lied, little bit more rant), many of the comments on this article mentioned C.S. Lewis’ fantastic quote on adulthood, which is completely spot-on, so I’m going to add it in here. /endrant

“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”  ―    C.S. Lewis

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5 thoughts on “Can’t read anything when your nose is pointed straight up

  1. Lewis could almost make me like Christianity. Almost.

    I know other people who don’t care for Duane’s work, and fair enough, whatever floats your boat, etc. As I said, I can’t bloody stand that useless twit of a poorly-written Mary Sue by Stephanie Meyer. I’m just saying, try it. Unlike the lie your parents tell you about broccoli, it really won’t kill you.

  2. I feel very guilty to admit that I read the Twilight series a couple years ago and enjoyed it, although I felt embarrassed to be seen in public with a copy of New Moon in my hand. But my enjoyment waned and I’ve gotten over my Twilight phase! I think I enjoyed it partly because it is *so* badly written; the frequent descriptions of Edward just made me laugh. A bit of light relief in amidst all the dark, ‘literary’ heavyweight books I was reading.

    That New York Times article made my blood boil. I am an adult but so what if I want to read The Hunger Games? Before he judges, the author would do well to actually read a few YA books and THEN judge. I could rant on about it but you summed it up perfectly!

  3. I know what you mean- I read Nora Roberts books during exam times. Sometimes I just need the literary equivalent of potato chips- no nutritional value and I just shovel them into my brain.

    There are a lot of silly stories out there, and there are lots of them aimed at YA girls. The problem is taking them too seriously for too long. Bella and Edward is essentially the story of Buffy and Angel- teenage girl, older vampire, forbidden love, biting, love triangles, secrets, vampire leaving ‘for her own good’, yadda, yadda. The difference is that Bella and Edward make every wrong decision that they possibly can, and they never learn. They never grow or change as characters. They have no journey, and they never realize how bloody silly they are. Buffy and Angel loved, fought, broke up, got back together, realized they could never be together, broke up again, angsted, and GOT OVER IT. And at her worst, Buffy still retained some agency and sense of personality. She told her sister outright “No boy is worth your life, ever.” She may have wanted to die, but she never tried to kill herself (over Angel, heroic sacrifices & dying for her sister don’t count for this argument). Twilight is written for 8 year old girls who desperately want to be 15 and have their first boyfriend. I get cheesy fun. I don’t get women in their 20s (or 40s) who honestly believe that Bella and Edward’s relationship is in any way realistic, healthy, or romantic. It’s obsession and abuse and a complete absence of taking responsibility for one’s own actions. Edward ‘can’t help himself’ because Bella smells like a well-done sirloin with all the fixings, and Bella ‘can’t help herself’ because Edward is Teh Pre-etty Sparklie One.

  4. Pingback: Today I Read…Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World | wadingthroughbooks

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