The latest article on YA fiction.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Attacks on YA literature don't generally faze me. I can take it. The recent kerfuffle, for example, about how dark the literature is and presumably how damaging, while slightly irritating, is a normal reaction to teen culture. Similar diatribes have been spewed from similarly puritan mouths for decades. (See "hips, Elvis," "haircuts, Beatles," and "Manson, Marilyn.") The teens think it's hilarious, I assure you, and as the creators and reviewers of YA literature, we should take it in stride. No one of worth is taking such ideas seriously, and it probably helps sell books.

But an article from Slate and making the Twitter rounds right now is pissing me off.

That's because this article doesn't just attack the literature and the authors thereof. (The article's authors are new authors of YA literature themselves, and are probably leaning on the old "Jewish Joke" law: humor that deprecates an entire group is okay as long as the tellers are members of that group.) If it did, I'd roll my eyes, and then roll over and go back to sleep.

But this article implies quite a little bit about the readers of young adult fiction, giving them perhaps even less credit than Cox Gurdon even did. While her article suggested that teens are impressionable (I suppose they are) and should be protected from art (go eat a bag of dicks), this article suggests that teens are something worse than impressionable and weak children: they are vapid.

But readers in Y.A. don't care about rumination. They don't want you to pore over your sentences trying to find the perfect turn of phrase that evokes the exact color of the shag carpeting in your living room when your dad walked out on your mom one autumn afternoon in 1973.

Clearly I have been wasting my time, torturing myself over tiny portions of prose. Perhaps I do struggle a little too valiantly when I describe the tone of a guitar, or the grittiness in a singer's voice, or how good the Coke is at a bar in Greenpoint. But I don't think so. And many teen readers hopefully won't think so either.

And here's another hot tip: YA fiction includes literary fiction, despite what the authors might have you believe. YA fiction includes work-for-hire series (like yours, authors of that article), and it includes mysteries and romances and paranormal and novels that have been the blood and soul and very breath of the author for a decade or more, just like real grown-up books.

And you know what else? Adult fiction includes a tremendous amount of crap, the authors of which very definitely did not struggle to create, and did not spend hours on a single paragraph, and did not write draft upon draft of each chapter. They wrote it "fast and loose," to use the article authors' expression, and this reader, for one, can tell.

So please. In the future remember that if you write fast and loose, and if you have no respect for your audience, it doesn't mean everyone writing in your genre, in your demographic, in your coffee shop, is harboring the same nasty ideas about fiction.

Now if, on the other hand, you wrote that article trying to sell your book and knowing that the YA blogosphere and Twittersphere likes to rail against stuff like this, and so will probably link your article all over the place, well . . . kudos. Good thinking. But your series sounds terrible.