Thursday, December 18, 2008

The New Yorker discovers Y.A. (finally)

My friend Brian pointed me to the discussion of a Kathy Koja novel called Headlong (which I haven’t read) over on one of The New Yorker’s blogs (I can barely keep up with the magazine, so I don’t regularly read the blogs).

If you’ve been reading good contemporary YA for a while, this is bound to be a little painful, but it’s worth it for John Green’s excellent comments on the first section of the discussion. 

Personally, this reminded me of a rather famous quote of Madeleine L'Engle's: "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

Now here's my rant. Shouldn't critics of all people realize that where a book ends up in a bookstore and how it's marketed is more often than not a function of business necessities and very human hunches? Come on. These categories don't come from on high and they're certainly not set in stone. Be critics. Look at the books critically before you generalize. It seems a grave sin against good criticism to assume so much about so many books based on so much dim memory and so little actual reading. Do you assume that In Search of Lost Time is a book about a cookie because that's what everybody talked about when you were a kid?

End rant.

Now that they’ve discovered YA, can they start spelling “teenager” correctly?

1 comment:

A.S. King said...

This probably isn't going to make me very popular, but I'm starting to see part of this problem as coming from within, not on high. I've heard YA book discussions where certain books were described as 'too challenging' or 'not easy.' I've also seen really great, deep YA books [cringingly] over-simplified in reviews to make the books seem more appealing to the assumed YA audience. These things are not being said/done by snotty adult lit reviewers. They're being said by people (reviewers/bloggers) inside the YA community, who seem to have differing ideas, themselves, about what YA means.

I think before we can expect the outside world to understand YA and talk about it with respect, we need to emit a feeling of solidarity, which is impossible if we don't all agree to the fact that like any other genre, the work within YA is wide-reaching, always growing, and might not be for everyone.