Teens should be embarrassed to read adult literature


Used with Creative Commons License from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/asheborolibrary/1151115869

Used with Creative Commons License from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/asheborolibrary/1151115869


This week Ruth Graham wrote an article for Slate titled “Against YA” claiming that adults should be embarrassed to read Young Adult (YA)  or children’s fiction. Not since the Patriot Act have you seen librarians this angry.

Graham describes YA in terms such as simple, worthy of eye rolling, uniform, uncritical, and immature.

Words that enraged many readers, authors, and educators who then took to social realms to #PromoteYAInstead . Thousands of people, clearly not embarrassed by their book choices, posted pictures of some of their current or favorite YA reads. A beautiful response to a poorly constructed opinion piece (that doesn’t reflect most people’s opinion).

But the words Graham used to describe Young Adult books struck me as more than just a bash on literary preference. It is a reflection of how some populations view teens themselves.

Simple. Worthy of eye rolling. Uniform. Uncritical. Immature. 

I’m willing to hypothesize that Graham doesn’t hang out with teenagers much.

If she did, I think it could not only change her perspective on teen literature, but probably on teens themselves. Graham asks:

 “But how can a grown-up, even one happy to be reminded of the shivers of first love, not also roll her eyes?”

Probably because they can relate. They see teens as optimistic, influential, valuable parts of our society and they can relate to them in person and through stories.

She warns:

“But the YA and “new adult” boom may mean fewer teens aspire to grown-up reading, because the grown-ups they know are reading their books.”

It is possible, although highly unlikely. It isn’t common that you create a reader and then they stop reading as a protest to a generation of people wanting to understand them better. I would say what is more likely to happen is teens would stop reading because they are embarrassed to read adult literature. 

Adult literature written by a population viewed as elite, snobbish, and extremely judgemental.

Teens are not going to stop reading YA literature because adults are reading it,  because they are not the ones judging. We are.

They are going to continue to read whatever it is that compels them to keep reading. We should do the same. They are going to continue to adore authors who take the time to get to know them and appreciate them. We should do the same. They are not going to tell people what they should, or shouldn’t be reading. We should do the same.

We have no reason to be embarrassed about reading YA. However, Young Adults are being given more and more reasons to be embarrassed to read anything intended for adults. Including Slate.




  • I think reading ANYTHING is good for you. Magazine articles? Cool. Blogs? Cool. YA? Cool. Romance? Cool. The key is to keep reading – the more you read, the more your personal database expands. Each time you read something new, you take something away from it. A better understanding of teenagers, a deeper insight into mankind, a good laugh, and EVEN a good eye-roll are worth the read. Shaming people for what they want to read is ridiculous – we should be encouraging people to keep on reading. Regardless of what it is.


  • “Teens are not going to stop reading YA literature because adults are reading it, because they are not the ones judging. We are.”

    I got to this part, threw my hands up and screamed “YES!” at the monitor. Brilliant, and incredibly well-worded.

    I said before in another discussion, reading YA helps foster discussions for me and my two daughters. And I refuse to be shamed for enjoying the YA books I’ve read.


  • Deborah the Closet Monster

    I read adult literature from third or fourth grade. After a few years, I decided I preferred kidlit; it wasn’t constrained by the same tired ideas of “correctness” toward which adult books seemed to strive. I continue to prefer kidlit, for exactly the same reason I did then: much still is “written by a population viewed as elite, snobbish, and extremely judgemental.” There is a great deal that doesn’t fall within this realm, but there’s a much lesser likelihood I’ll be confronted with these things if I pick up any kidlit. There is so much possibility in them . . . unlike the “this is how things are and should be” perpetuated by writerspeople like Graham.


  • I’ve not read a lot of YA that speaks to me, but then there are also lots of “classic” works that don’t speak to me either. I wonder if Graham would also look down on the mysteries or science fiction I enjoy? Reading is a wonderful pleasure, so people should simply read what they enjoy reading. Graham is an idiot.


  • you are spot-on here. my tween reads adult fiction but she prefers that few people know which titles or authors because she’s afraid of her “readiness” being questioned, as though someone else than she can best decide what she’s “ready” for. gah!


  • What’s funny is that I find the kind of cynicism-for-the-sake-of-it of many literary adult books much more worthy of eye rolling than sincerity in a teen book. Like the kind lampooned in Male Novelist Jokes (http://the-toast.net/2013/11/04/male-novelist-jokes/).


  • I didn’t know this was thing my younger brother who I raised passed some ya about a vampire to me, I read I enjoyed and we discussed ….and I never knew it was thing others enjoyed nor ridiculed. I am a book worm though and enjoy all written words so to me to rejoice in what he loved and discuss with him was natural, like I said its not something I knew there was some opinion about.

    I think its sad the was we pigeon hole so many things and I am going to ignore this new found knowledge and continue to do whats right for us…..he reads, we can relate and that for me is enough


  • Yes, Teen always search adult video, book, picture etc.


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