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.