28 January, 2013

YA Pride & Prejudice (More on Shame and Stigma)

(No, I'm not talking about YA Pride -- that's a few months from now, in June.)

Are you a proud reader of YA? I am! I mean, I read other things too. Graphic novels. Cat care handbooks. Sewing manuals.  But I haven't had to defend any of those, really.

Last October, I wrote a blog post called YA Shame and Stigma. It was a reaction to some comments Warm Bodies author Isaac Marion wrote on his Facebook wall. (Before you balk, I did ask him for permission to quote--I did not set out to provoke him, just to analyze his opinion and engage a community dialogue.) The post just passed 6,000 views yesterday, which is... mindboggling to me. Thank you all for reading and sharing your opinions.

I have been thinking about it a lot this week because

1) Warm Bodies hits movie theaters this weekend! AAAAAAAA! I can't wait. I'm sitting here hitting refresh on the movie theater's website every couple of hours to see if they've posted movie times yet. I'm jealous of Thuy because she's already seen it twice and it's not even out until Feb 1. I think I might be disproportionately excited...

2) The Youth Media awards were announced today, ushering a new crop of awesome books, including YA novels, to the fore. (Which Isaac will probably not read either, but, you know, he's busy writing a prequel and sequels to Warm Bodies.) Also, Tamora Pierce, who commented on the original post, won the Margaret A. Edwards award, and now I really really want to go to ALA Annual. (Another blog post about that coming up soon.)

3) Because of the movie release, a lot of people are finding the original "YA Shame and Stigma" post again, which is awesome; however a lot of people are also saying "Ugh! Now I don't want to read Warm Bodies, because of what he said about YA, which I love so much I want to marry it." And to that I say, whoa, Nelly!

Read widely and read what you want, but I think deciding not to read Warm Bodies for that reason also follows the same narrow line of thinking people apply to not reading YA. Decide not to read it because zombies freak you out--ok, fair enough. I don't read realistic fiction about terrorism for the same reason. Perhaps you don't like romance and prefer, instead, the biography of a fish. That's cool, too. But just think: the author is not the book. You may like him, you might not, but the bottom line is, I really liked his book and I recommend it highly. You may be missing out on a book you'll like by deciding to skip it. Just maybe!

I like to think I'm not so prejudiced that I'd refuse to read a book because I think, *blanket assumption* all books of that label are rubbish. (Except the Fifty Shades books, and only because it's somewhat difficult to get "in the mood" when I'm laughing so hard that I can't read through the tears in my eyes. Exception: the chicken cookbook parody, which gets me in the mood for food.)

The point of all this, if I can underline, italicize, and bold it all at once is, If you're lucky enough to live in a free country, read what you like--there are books of all kinds because there are people of all kinds. Recommending your favorite books does not mean you have to deprecate someone else's. *gets off soapbox*

4) I've read so many other reader responses to the topic and want to share them with you. There are lots of possible responses, and none of us is really wrong or right, I think. There is just our opinion, and then there's someone else's. What is YA and why should we read it? So many variations. I agree with some, but not all of these; still, I think they're all pretty valuable as part of the dialogue.

If I missed your post, please leave a link in the comments and I'll add it to the list.

Newest first:

Teen Librarian's ToolboxWhy YA? (again) Fear & Loathing in YA Literature

Muteswann: Why I Read Crime Fiction and Teen/YA Novels

Bookshelvers Anonymous: The New Adult Category Revisited (Ah, the NA category... I'm flip-flopping on this topic still. I first said Nay but I think I'm now a very cautious Yea?)

Nick Hornby via RJ Anderson via Sarah Rees Brennan (This is what happens on Tumblr.)

Word for TeensYA shame & stigma, what we're buying and why I want to go into the industry

YABliss: YA in Theaters

Reading Nook: Book & Blog News

WhatchYAreading Podcast: Do Not Read the Madness Underneath (18:42 onward... I actually have some issues with this, not with what they say about YA or Isaac Marion, but about the price of books. But, you know, they probably didn't work in a bookshop for 13 years.)

Rachel Hartman: I'm off to Calgary (Congrats on your Morris Award, Rachel!)

Jessica CorraThe Great YA Debate (I posted a comment but it didn't get published. I don't remember what I said.)

CuddlebuggeryBuzz Worthy News: 15 Oct 2012

The Readventurer: Odds & Ends on the Web: October 13th Edition

Book a Week: Let's Cut the Shit: "Young Adult" is Patently Incorrect

Pass the Chiclets:  Isaac Marion and his view of YA as a ridiculous, pointless category

Marie Lu: Another Day, Another YA Label Battle (Prodigy will be out an hour after I post this :D)

If you have links to YA reviewers' posts about Warm Bodies, which, let's face it, really crack me up especially when they gush about what a great book it is, add them to the linky. (I'm lookin' at you, TeenLitRocks. You totally give me the giggles.) I feel like the best "revenge" is to get as many as possible YA readers to read and enjoy Warm Bodies.  I know, I'm backwards like that.

If you, like me, are freezing from the toes up and need to get the circulation pumping in your extremities, read this interview from  February 2012 or another from December 2012. Grrr! Arrgh! >.< I want to like you, Isaac, but you're making it tough.

And now, because I don't want to think about this any more this week, I'm going to watch Murdoch Mysteries, which has nothing to do with YA (unless you count the episode "Bloodlust", in which some boarding school girls go gaga over some novel written by Bram Stoker).


  1. there is a lot in the post so i won't comment on it all. we can discuss in person one day. i just wanted to say though that i totally agree that people should read what they want to. i am lucky enough to live in a place where i do have a lot of choices in my reading material and i read what pleases me. i have never understood why some people need to put down what someone else is reading. so what if i don't like sci fi (i totally do). does that mean that you can't read it and find value in it? no. i feel like people are really limiting themselves by saying that they only read this genre or that author. true, i think we all have our preferences, but i would never rule a book outright just because of the genre it's categorized in. doing that only limits me and may prevent me from reading my next favorite book.

    while i don't necessarily agree with mr marion's opions, i still want to read warm bodies because, as you know, i freakin love zombies. plus, i have great people like you telling me that it's a good book.

    in conclusion, i say, don't limit yourself. keep an open mind and read as much as you can. we live in a privileged place where so much is available to us. take advantage of it. also, go see the warm bodies movie. it's pretty awesome. :)

  2. I'm so proud to be a part of the YA community and love your fire about defending it (inspires me to make my own discussion post) I had gone into reading Warm Bodies knowing that Marion would immediately disagree with the fact that I am a (proud) YA reviewer. It felt so good, knowing what his opinion was of my blog, and reviewing it. You're right! It's backwards, but it's our little jab at revenge. :)

  3. I was one that commented how the author's issue made me not want to read the book, though I still am going to because I'm interesting in the story.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with not reading a book due to something with the author. For instance, there's been problems with authors behaving badly towards people who write negative reviews. I review everything I read now and I avoid those authors because what if I don't like their book? I don't want or need to get involved with that drama.

    So if I read Warm Bodies and put it on the YA shelf, I don't want to deal with issue from the author or anybody else about it. I shelve my way and if I (or anybody else for that matter) put your book on the shelf (for example) hated it. Then tough.

    There has been authors on goodreads causing problems with reviewers over shelves so why read problematic authors?

    People can use whatever criteria they want to decide what books to read. If the author is a problem or has views you don't believe or makes sexist jokes on twitter then you can absolutely not read it for that reason. With all the social media and Indie authors sometimes you can't divorce the author from their work OR sometimes you just don't want to spend your money and support some sexist jerk. (Just throwing out examples.)

    So yes, there's a lot of great books, everyone should read what they want, express their views and shouldn't be put down for what they reading. Either way you go, you're always going to miss out on great reads - there's more books out there than anyone could read in a lifetime so why waste time dealing with or supporting authors you don't want to? Why am I being called narrow minded when you're judging me and acting like taking the author into consideration is such a terribly bad thing?


  4. Hi Brooke! You've obviously thought about it a lot, which shows you are not narrow-minded. I did not mean to call you that. I meant to say, if a person uses that as their sole snap decision every time, they may be missing good reads. And if they're ok with that, that's fine. To each their own. I was merely pointing out a consequence. You are obviously not making a snap decision.

    I run into a lot of people who ask for book recommendations from me. I start recommending a book I think they will like, and sometimes they cut me off when they realize it's a YA book. "Oh, it's YA? Never mind, then." My follow up question is usually how many YA books they have read and what they were. About half name a book that isn't YA and say they didn't like it. About a quarter name a book they read as a teen before YA was even a thing. The other quarter have read an actual YA book they didn't like, and usually I'm familiar with the book, so that helps me think of some other books to recommend instead, that are not YA. Then I try to encourage them to give the YA book I recommended a shot if the other recommendations pan out, because they might be pleasantly surprised by it.

    I have also had the reverse situation--a 13-year-old boy who did not want to read adult books, but who had already read just about everything I could sell him on in YA and middle grade. I do mean, *everything*. He did not want to read "girl books", so that also severely narrowed my choices for recommendation. I asked his dad if it was ok that there might be a little romance and maybe some scary things in the books, and he said that was fine, because would read them too and he wanted his son to transition to reading adult books anyway. I booktalked The Shadow of the Wind by Zafon and The Name of the Wind by Rothfuss (uh, totally unrelated books) which the kid reluctantly took home. A month later they came back for more recommendations and the boy admitted adult books were also ok. He really loved The Name of the Wind and had already re-read it once (it's a big book!) but I think he needed the challenge.

  5. Thanks for the clarification. I get my feathers rumpled over narrow minded. I've just seen it thrown out often in cases where it's just a difference of opinion (like Twilight) where it's not due to not being open to possibilities. It's like it's the ultimate brush off insult when people disagree, "Oh, you're just narrow minded." So now it's gotten to be a bit of pet peeve when I see that. I shouldn't have been so snappy over it towards you though.

    The stigma over YA is a totally different issue though where ignorance and narrow mindedness does come into play a lot.

  6. :) No worries. I'm happy to clarify anything I have written and willing to take back things I've said if proven incorrect. That's what dialogue is for.

  7. Thanks, Kristen! :) Leave a link if you do write the post. I love when people talk about it, whether they agree or disagree with me.

  8. Will you want to see it again? I want to go w/ you, haha!

  9. I can't say that I can separate my feelings about an author from his/her books if I'm seriously passionate about an issue - example, racism. If I find out an author is racist (that's an issue I'm passionate about), I'm certainly not going to support him or her. Period. The book could be the greatest thing ever, but my $$, time & eyeball strain aren't going to take it in. In fact, I'll be actively campaigning against reading anything by said author.

    But in regards to Marion, I guess I must not be passionate enough about his elitism, since I read and re-read his book.

    Tanya Patrice