I promised myself a while ago–like, when I started this blog ago–that I would never write a response blog post. I have never wanted to get caught up in any drama. Lord, the drama on the internet, am I right? But two things have happened in such quick succession that I am finally using this blog to say some things.
The first was during the episode of my book club, Bibliomancy for Beginners, that aired last Tuesday. Head over to this link and watch the last six minutes or so. Starting at about 1:04:00 I just … blow up. Seriously. I scare my co-Bibliomancers. Because enough of them have taken enough jabs at the YA genre over the three years that we’ve been doing this that I just broke. (Warning: I say some choice things about John Green. While I stand by my opinion, I recognize that this is my opinion and not some cosmic rule.) So I start shouting in defense of it. Enjoy.
Secondly, this article was posted on The Guardian website. It’s titled “Falling out of love with YA fiction.” For the first half of the article, I totally and heartily agree. For the second half, however, I do not.
In a word, you could call my current state of mind: frustrated.
First off, I AM frustrated with young adult publishing as it stands today. As the author of The Guardian post, Hawwa, says,
I’m obviously not saying everyone does this, but I do feel as if there are certain “ingredients” authors feel they must include if their book is going to be published and become a success.
I literally have been posting about this nonsense since 2012, especially in regards to love triangles. Why this is still a thing three years later I have no idea.
Hawwa also brings up this point about romance.
My ultimate opinion is that all this comes down to the fact that these novels often do not explore ideas, but rather that far, far too much of the time there is a romance driving the plot instead.
Hilariously enough, Hawwa uses for one of the examples of this Sabaa Tahir’s debut novel An Ember in the Ashes, which Bibliomancy for Beginners tackled a few weeks ago. Is it a good debut novel? Yes. Did we have one of our most riotously hilarious hangouts ever discussing how the romance in the novel derailed so much of the book? Yes.
I honestly had to stop accepting YA books to review because I was trying to read too much and the predictability and formulaic quality of the plots was making me nauseous. I needed to scale back my reading and be much more selective with my choices, in order to find the books I truly wanted to read.
And I did.
That’s the thing. That’s my sticking point. I will be the first one to say that YA is a problematic fave. But there is so much good that the genre can do, and sometimes people forget that. I’ll be the first to say that I have disliked many of the huge trends that came up (Twilight, The Hunger Games, etc) but you know what? They got kids reading. They got kids excited about reading. I can respect that.
I wrote an extremely long blog post a while ago about why I write and read YA, but the bottom line is this: I want to write YA because I want to write better YA. Hawwa brings it back to a dilution of language as a base problem, but for me … I’m okay with that. I see such a bigger problem. A bigger problem with a solution that’s staring us right in the face.
Do you know why these formulas exist in plots? Because they sell. YA books have become a massive cash crop for a lot of people, and many large publishers want more of that. They want another Harry Potter, another Hunger Games, another Twilight. Because they sell.
So let’s not let them sell.
I, for one, no longer pick up a book that promises a love triangle. I will not spend my money on it. If you enjoy love triangles, that’s cool–I’m not saying that you can’t read what you like. But. If you don’t? Don’t buy them. Don’t go see the movie. I haven’t spent a single dime on The Hunger Games movies after they bent the love triangle into it.
Please God don’t take this as me suggesting you pirate anything. Please don’t do that.
You may be asking, “So then what the hell am I supposed to read if I can’t read anything with a love triangle with it?” Trust me, it exists. I’ve been living on it for a year or more now. Seek out indie publishers. Search Goodreads. You’d be amazed how many people create lists of “books without love triangles” or some such title. This literature is out there. We need more of it. So we need to demand it.
And maybe this isn’t the best solution. Maybe there are other roads, other options. Comments are free and open to all. Please. Because we need people to start thinking about it and talking about it. I will not “fall out of love with YA” because this is my genre. Every book that has impacted me and affected me deeply has been YA. The projects I’m most passionate about writing are YA. I will not sit idly and watch dollar signs destroy what is to me the most powerful and magical genre of writing out there. At the very least, I won’t let them take away my enjoyment of reading.
If you “fall out of love,” then this wins. YA will continue to be rather formulaic. If anything, dystopian fiction has prepared us for this. Be a Mockingjay. Be a Divergent. Choose your favorite rebel and stand up in their name. We needed them in some of our darkest moments. But now, they need us.