Sunday, August 11, 2013

YA All the Way

I read teen 99% of the time. I used to mix it up more, but around the start of 2013, I realized that since my passion is YA, then I really shouldn’t make time for much else. Excluding the occasional JK Rowling experiment, Neil Gaiman bestseller or Young Reader stand-out (Riordan, Lowry, etc.), I strictly read YA fiction.

I write YA 99% of the time. I have on the rare occasion, written short stories with a more personal feel that would be considered NA (New Adult, an up-and-coming genre), but that’s usually to get out some frustration. Then I move back to my teen characters.

So for the most part (99.9%), it’s YA all the way for me.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate adult or kids fiction. I do. There are outstanding, worthy books in all genres. But YA is my passion and therefore it’s my focus. This is what I believe, but sometimes I have problems sharing it.

Like, a few months ago when I showed a mother and her 20-something daughter to the teen section at the bookstore (don’t worry, it’s my job). The mother commented that teen didn’t seem appropriate for her daughter any more since she was in her 20s. I didn’t want to alienate the mother, but I didn’t want to hang the daughter out to dry. So I mentioned that I will occasionally pick up a YA novel. (Occasionally? Ha. Try a couple a week.) Then I left them to browse (and argue) on their own. Now, I look back and think, why did I not tell the truth? I can hide behind the fact that I was on-the-job and didn’t want to upset the mother. But isn’t it the 20-something daughter I should be connecting with here, not her mother? Yeah, it should have been.

Or, when a few months before that, a customer walked up to me at the service desk and whispered: "Where is the teen section?" She glanced around, like all the adults in the vicinity were going to point and scream: SHAME! So I said, not loudly but not in a whisper, that I’d show her the way. As we were walking, the customer told me she was embarrassed to admit that she was reading (and enjoying!) a specific teen series. She was probably 30, maybe 35. I pointed out that she’s not the only one, bringing up the popularity of Hunger Games. But why didn’t I take it a step further and say: “It’s okay, I read teen books.” Because then this customer’s opinion of me would have changed, right? She’s judging herself for reading teen, so what’s stopping her from judging me?

Reflecting on these experiences, I wonder what’s stopping me from admitting my passion for YA to everyone. My family knows it. My boyfriend knows it. Friends know it. Some co-workers. It’s harder to admit to co-workers at the bank versus the bookstore. At the bookstore I’m not the only one (can you believe my male GM is a YA fan?). At the bank, I’m probably the only one who reads more than a couple books a year. But my parent’s friends, extended family, customers, strangers? Here’s where I have a problem admitting my passion for YA.

But, I’m going to work on that. And it starts right here, right now. (Cue getting that song stuck in my head.)

So here it is world:

I believe that teen books aren’t just for teens. They are for adults (men and women) too and pretty much anyone over the age of 13. But there’s no ceiling. Turning 20 doesn’t mean we have to graduate to adult fiction. Nor is adult fiction superior. (But that’s another fight/blog post entirely.)

I am YA all the way.

Yeah, I said it. Judge me. Ignore me. However, I prefer that you: Join me.

(Or at least give YA a chance.)

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