I know you sometimes take it personally when someone doesn’t like a book that you love, but that’s the beauty of life: people are allowed to have differing opinions. When it comes to the Young Adult (YA) genre, I recognize that it’s not written for me, as the demographics of the genre sway more toward women than men. By the same token, I know most women aren’t going to read the science fiction or fantasy books that men seem to enjoy (this has its own problems, which I’ll get to later). With the enormous influx of YA books hitting the marketplace after the success of the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series, there are plenty of books to choose from . . . and not all of them are well written. Regardless, I still occasionally pick up a YA book that seems to have an interesting premise in the hope that it’s the rare gem in the sea of mediocrity.
When I first started reading books via the Goodreads Giveaway system, I came across a book that had an interesting title and cover, but I could not for the life of me finish. When I wrote my review of this book, which did not include a starred rating (for obvious reasons), I was viciously attacked by fans of the author. They would post comments on my review that said things like, “Who the hell is this guy? Nobody has even read his books, so his opinion doesn’t matter,” and, “Nobody will listen to your opinion because you don’t like YA books anyway.” Some of these comments were quite hurtful, all because I posted an honest review of the work. I do realize many books are beloved by most, but when a book by a practically unknown author has over 20 reviews and all of them glowing, I can’t help to think that these “fans” are cyber-bullying the negative reviewers to remove their reviews just because they disagree with something they loved. The books I take more seriously are the ones that have at least a few negative reviews to round out some of the hype.
Everyone is allowed to have their own opinions, even if they don’t match yours.
Sure, I have some qualms with the YA genre, but I think I’m justified in my opinions. After all, most authors are trying to grab a piece of the success by marketing to an oversaturated market. If an author says their work is “YA,” suddenly they have a ton of readers who would read their book merely based on that single fact, let alone if it was well-written or not. Sure, I’m certain some authors truly believe in the genre and want to write in it because it’s comfortable to them and it’s what they commonly read. I see it more as a cash-grab.
With the barriers to entry for publishing a book considerably less than they used to be, there’s a lot of books out there that aren’t that great. I’ve struggled through many books that seriously needed an editor, let alone a good one. Consequently, all genres of fiction these days have a large number of subpar works that are just as readily available as the good ones. But, as I said above, the YA genre has considerably more books entering the market, thus making it seem that more YA books are poorly written when compared to other genres.
There are two reasons I primarily don’t like the YA genre. First, is the formulaic clichés used to define the genre. Sure, other genres have their clichés and trappings, like the almost constant misogyny (even in today’s books), expositions on racism, and “heroic male” archetypes of the science fiction and fantasy genres. As for YA, from the almost required love interest/triangle to a main character who has some extraordinary ability they can suddenly use flawlessly to the (also overdone) dystopian future setting, these tropes end up being unoriginal and derivative. I put most of my blame on The Hunger Games since it seems most of these YA books are clones to try and repeat that success. Look no further than the Divergent or Maze Runner series for a less-impactful narrative. When I do find a YA book I like, it’s usually because it still has some semblance of the structure of the genre, but explores it in new and compelling ways. However, more often than not, authors are just trying to write the “next” Harry Potter, Hunger Games, or Ender’s Game.
Many YA books are reusing the same formula.
Secondly, because most authors are writing YA for an audience who is not, themselves comprised of young adults, a lot of objectionable content is flowing into this genre. Almost by definition, a young adult should be someone between the ages of 12 to 18. This would then imply that the target demographic should be the types of readers who can handle up to PG-13 movies without an adult guardian. With this rating scheme in mind, this should restrict the genre to the amount and type of profanity and violence, as well as enforce the absence of sexual situations. Instead, what I have found time and again is that authors are writing for adults in the guise of the YA genre because they know adults will buy the book because they are fans of the genre. Sure, I know teens these days encounter harsh swearing, violence, and sexual situations in their lives, but does that mean they have to be subjected to it in their media consumption as well? In fact, since these boundaries have been pushed so much, a new genre known as New Adult (NA) has been created to accommodate these more adult situations. When we forget the roots of the genre and its intended audience, it merely enforces my thoughts about writing YA as a way to cash in on the craze.
In conclusion, I merely want to remind all readers that they can like whatever books they want to like. If you adore YA books, then don’t let me stop you from reading them. Just, when you encounter someone who holds a different opinion of the books you like, maybe hear them out instead of browbeating them about how “stupid” their qualms with the book are. Perhaps you might develop a critical eye and be able to identify which books are truly noteworthy and which ones were written merely to get into your wallet. I am open for an even-tempered discussion on this topic, but only if you’re willing to listen to both sides.
Just please . . . calm down.