Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ignore the YA Scorner

Picture this.

You are sitting in public, waiting for an appointment and occupying your mind with a young adult book that has you hooked. Or maybe you are browsing the YA section at Barnes and Noble, running your fingers along brand-new spines and debating whether or not you really need to add that second book to your bag. (You do, by the way.) A smile stretches across your face as your novel's plot plays out as you had hoped or as you realize that you need not two, but three, recent YA releases.

And then you feel it: the shrinking stare of a YA scorner.

This person could be a parent, a friend, an English teacher, or even a stranger. He or she does not have to say anything about your reading material; you can see the thoughts running through his or her mind. Why don't you read something with more substance and vocabulary? That novel was published in the past 50 years and has a teenage protagonist, and therefore I have no interest. It's okay to read that kind of book occasionally, as long as you read challenging books too.

Even if the YA scorner says nothing, he or she can make you feel like slipping a bookmark into place and hiding your book in your bag. However, this person should not make you feel this way. YA literature is just as important, just as well-written, and just as valid as adult novels or classics, and you should not let anyone convince you otherwise.

In my experience, YA scorners seem to think there is a standard regarding what makes a novel “good,” and that a set of traits defines each category of fiction. In reality, neither of these myths is true.

First of all, quality fiction has no definition. Hundreds of elements can go into a person's opinion on a book: its entertainment value, its writing, its themes, and its ability to connect to the reader, just to name a few. Every individual places a different amount of value on each equally valid reason for enjoying a book, which means no novel can please everyone. One reader may love a book for its legendary symbolism while another reader may hate the same story for its slow plot. This does not label the book as “good” or “bad;” it simply shows that the two people have different tastes.

Even if society could agree on standards for books, it would mean nothing regarding standards for genres. Every book has its own strengths and weaknesses that are not defined by its category. In any genre, you can find cute and fun books, stories that will bore you to death, stories that will make you think, and so much more. Anyone who says differently is only showing he or she has not read widely enough to understand that not all books of one genre are alike.

When YA scorners criticize your reading choices, either mentally or verbally, they are not telling you that your taste in literature is lesser or that you are not as intelligent as they are. Really, they are saying, “I personally value the traits stereotypically associated with classic novels and/or adult novels over the traits stereotypically associated with YA novels. And I have yet to realize that these traits are not confined to categories as strictly as I think they are.”

YA scorners' thoughts and comments speak volumes about their own reading tastes, but they say nothing about yours. You know YA is not inherently worse or better than any other category, so the next time you encounter a YA scorner, let his or her words slide past you as you turn another page of your YA novel.


  1. Woah, awesome discussion post Emily! I personally have never encountered a YA scorner and I am glad for that, but I know there are many out there like this and it's terrible! Firstly, they should be glad that people are reading and if it's YA or whatever, if they don't understand it then they shouldn't judge.

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

  2. I don't really mind YA scorners in book stores or libraries. I let them mind their business just as I mind mine. But when the critique starts coming from people I know personally, that's when I hit the fan. I have this one friend... great person, loves reading, is really literate and studious and sophisticated. But when it comes to what other people read? As long as it isn't a classic or an international bestseller or centers around some deep shit, she thinks the book is useless. God, how I hate that. And the worst part? When you try to talk to such people about why not all YA books are about angsty teenagers running around looking for love they put on that condescending smile and nod at you with pity in their eyes.Ugh.

  3. I've never met a YA scorner either, but I do get self-conscious of going into the children's section of the library. I don't know why, but I really want to take out a book that was specifically in that section, and I got scared of going in and being judged

  4. Hey Emily! I just want to tell you that you’re nominated on my Sunshine Blog Award! Feel free to check it out if you choose to accept:

  5. Wonderful post. I think reading is important, regardless of what you are reading. Not everyone can relate too or enjoy classics and if you don't have to read it for school, then who cares? Read what you like. Besides, some classics are actually YA The Outsiders and even To Kill a Mockingbird fits YA a bit.


  6. Ugh, there's a girl at my homeschool co-op who is like this. She's all about the classics and thinks YA is lame. We were debating Divergent and how the movie would stack up to it one day, and she totally scoffed at the fact that a guy-friend and I thoroughly enjoyed Divergent. I want to strangle her sometimes. Several of the classics are really good (Jane Austen, To Kill a Mockingbird, C.S. Lewis's writings), but YA is just as great.

  7. I've never met a YA scorner. I see plenty of adults browsing the YA shelves in bookshops. However, I think fear of being judged does stop people from getting YA books from a library if they are in the kids' section. The library that I go to recenly took the YA books from the kids' section and put them in its own shelf but in the adult part. I never really cared where those books were, but I see more people my age browsing that shelf now.

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  9. I've people asking me if I read books other than YA fiction but coming from people who don't read all too much, they're in no position to judge me for what I read.

    As for perusing YA shelves in libraries and book stores, I always fall under the radar because I look younger than I am. Seeing how most people think I'm not much older than 20, I've been able to avoid curious stares. I don't usually see adults in those sections either though, so I'm not sure if they're not all that interested in YA books where I live. Then again, popular YA books are interspersed throughout the largest local book store, so in a way it's neutral ground where adults can pick up these books without feeling out of place among teens or drawing attention to themselves.

    Still, I agree with you. everyone should have the freedom to read whatever they want without being judged for it.

  10. I have a friend who just doesn't read YA.

    I loaned him my copy of The Fault in Our Stars.

  11. *applauds* I kinda want to do something immature and possibly inappropriate when there's a mention of a YA scorner around. Hello, we're in a bookish place, why is there judgement around? I always felt like that when I read in public and they saw a YA book. People have different interests just like they do in sports, movies, and food. At least we ARE reading and not sitting around, unable to even spell "contemporary"

  12. Hi, I loved reading this blog post. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that instead of saying YA scorners are not saying our choices are not as good as theirs but that they don't like our traits as YA readers. It is a bogus way of thinking but that is what they are saying.


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