Monday, 13 April 2009

Too Old for YA?

I am an adult blogging in a YA world. I am not an author; instead I am a voracious reader who has always preferred to read the exploits of teen protagonists. The catalyst for this post was an article about Twilight, Gayle Forman and the state of YA publishing. I was quoted as “one adult YA blogger” which completely contradicted their stance of informing the reader about YA being for all readers, no matter their age. The two other bloggers they quoted (or should I say, misquoted) had their names and ages listed, I on the other hand sounded like someone anonymous and somewhat dodgy.

The majority of the YA blogosphere are the core audience and I thought I would list some of the pitfalls of being YA fan/blogger when you are well into your twenties.

The “Teen” Area – Bookstores have their little teen enclave in their children’s area. Of course that is the first place that I walk determinedly to and plant myself as I scour the shelves until I find something to buy. I have yet to walk out of this area without buying something, which is ridiculous when you see the height of my TBR pile. However, if you are there too long and shrug off the assistance of an employee, then you get weird looks. Thank goodness I have my ‘I am an English teacher’ excuse or there might be more questions. Although none of this has stopped me from recommending books, rearranging displays and shoving books at teens in the area.

Bookstore Employees – Those that work in the “teen” area tend to know huge amounts about YA and are great value for a prolonged discussion of Evernight versus Twilight or alternatively, they know nothing. It’s the latter that I get increasingly annoyed with, especially when I order a book by a universally recognised author and I receive a blank look. I get that they aren’t librarians but seriously... they suck. (Couple that with a look asking why I need that book at my age and I am done.)

Explaining my blog – I think we’ve all experienced that glazed look that crosses the face of someone who a) has had to hear about your blog, an author or a book several thousands of times or b) makes that face that screams “you read kid’s books?”. The latter is a problem in YA – those that haven’t read a good YA book and assume that they are all kiddie-ish and are written by talentless hacks. I am turning this around by giving lots of friends some choice books and then watch them scamper back demanding more – interestingly Carolyn Mackler seems to be one heck of a lure for the uninitiated.

Language – There is nothing sadder than seeing an author (my own age or older) using the word ‘rents and expecting the use of that word to give them teen cred. It doesn’t. It also humiliates you in front of your peers (me).

The Romantic Lead – I have sadly realised that I haven’t grown out of many of the ideal romantic leads that I read as a teen. I still am wholeheartedly sympathetic to the guy with the unrequited crush. I also tend to gravitate towards the guys with the sharp tongue, abrasive posture and wicked sense of humour (this also explains why I liked Jess on Gilmore Girls) that tend to treat girls poorly. I suspect it is a universal condition.

Rapid Falling in Love Syndrome – It’s one of my pet peeves of the YA genre and it’s not an age specific complaint. I do feel that at my age I do expect more reasoning and work in a protagonist and romantic lead declaring their feelings for one another. I think I might get annoyed more quickly than my teen counterparts but this is probably speculation (as you guys are brilliant.) As a teen I would have easily accepted it but now I find myself asking WHY? Being hot doesn’t not equate to instantaneous declarations of everlasting love.

Parents – I find myself siding with parents in many situations which makes me feel so old. This usually occurs in novels where parents aren’t caricatures. This is the one facet of YA that makes me feel my age.

I am sure there are many more but I think I will stop fuelling my rant. Expect a list of positives to being an adult YA blogger in the next few days. I would love to hear what you guys think is the difference between teenage and adult bloggers and their reviews of books. Ideally I would like to think that we see the world the same way. But do we?

23 comments:

Steph said...

It would probably be ten times tougher if you were male. Imagine the weird looks then.

The Story Siren said...

I understand exactly where you are coming from, and I don’t have the I’m an English teacher excuse for myself.

Do you happen to have the link to that article, I’d love to read it.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

I think you have a lot of really good points, and it's awful that people can't realize that YA books are not just for "kids."

And I love romance in books, don't get me wrong, but I do get sick of people just falling in love all of a sudden or YA books always having to have that in there...real teen life isn't just about the dates and the lust/love.

-Lauren

Alea said...

This was great Adele. Thankfully I usually drag my sister to the bookstore with me and she looks like she fits a bit more in the YA section. I always do wonder what the cashiers think though when I go up to make my purchase...

Carrie said...

I'm one of those booksellers who work in the Teen section and love Teen books and I know how frustrating it is when booksellers don't know their stuff. I work with some people who don't know a thing about books, let alone YA books.

Chris said...

I've gotten a ton of mileage out of the "I'm a teacher" excuse and, more recently, the "I'm an author and I'm seeing what else is out there" excuse.

Of course, the reality is that I'd be reading YA regardless.

And I think being male actually makes it easier rather than tougher (at my age, anyway), because the staff seem to assume I'm a typical semi-literate twenty-something who's just a bit too slow-witted to cope with the grown-up books.

Bless his heart, at least he's reading SOMETHING...

Steph said...

Ah, I was thinking of older men with beards.
The ones that make you go "There's a creepy Myspace stalker if I ever saw one."
I am always suspectful of middle-aged people in the Teen section, but in future I'll probably just ask them where they blog (who knows, might bump into one of you... anyone in Melbourne?)

Aimee said...

You know, you're totally right.

I'm sick to death of being armed with the excuse: "Oh no, this is for my younger sister/niece:.

Do they not realise that YA as a book section is simply the construction of the day?

Catt said...

This has got to be my favorist (not a word, oh well) rant ever... yeah.

I hate it when people think that YA is just the "moody middle child" of literature and that it doesn't matter. IT DOES! YOur teen years are determining who you're going to be when you get older...

You know what, the next time I see an adult in the YA section, I'm giving them a hug... actually no, scratch that.

But still, I think people who read or write YA are the best people in the entire univers

Jen said...

I don't think there is an age limit for things. They're more guidelines than rules. When I was about 8 I would sneak into the teen or adult section, now at 17 I have to sneak into the kids section. They thing is you dont turn 13 and suddenly not find Judy Blume funny.

"Children's' books that can only be read by children are not very good children's books" - CS Lewis

I totally agree with this.

BTW I also like to rearrange the the books. The employee's give me sort of weird looks when I do this.

Just Listen said...

I think that it's said best when authors say that they write about YA, not specifically for YA.

Erika Lynn said...

I really agree with your blog. I am 22 and a college graduate so while I am in no ways old I am not a teenager and I get some of the same awkwardness from people about reading YA. Here is my counter arguement, this ONLY happens with books. No one thinks it is weird if a grown person likes movies aimed at kids/teens so it shouldn't be that way for books!

There have certainly been a few books that I thought "well I really would have liked that more when I was 16" but that is rare and usually has to do with me personally not the book.

Thao said...

I don't see anything wrong with adults reading YA books. Actually I hope my parents do someday, so they can understand better about my world. And I see teens that read chick lits and kids books, (e.g me) so why can't adults read YA ones?

It's cool seeing adults blogging about teen books to me cos I always know what they think and how they feel about the stories. Their reviews must be fairer and more meaningful too I think. Like I'm a sucker for romance so almost everything that got romance is good for me when sometimes some are not. But adults can point it out easily cos they don't drool over it (as much) anymore.

Lenore said...

I've now read well over 100 YA novels over the past few years, and there have only been a few where I've said - gah! I'm too old for this!

Strangly enough, I don't get the funny looks. But then, my librarian thought I was under 18...

prophecygirl said...

I personally don't think you can ever be too old for a book. I love adults that read YA, and I know quite a few of them. Why should age stop you from enjoying a story?

H said...

I don't mind looking at the YA section (technically I still am YA, but some people assume it's only for people up to 14 or so!). For all they know, I'm buying a gift for someone.
I agree about siding with the parents. I'll see their point, but often I'd still react exactly as the character does if it was happening to me!

Tina said...

I've recently become a very big fan of YA lit. I read both Adult and YA. Recently, mostly YA.

At first I was embarrassed to go into the "Teens" section of the bookstore and library. Why "Teens"? I'd love if it was called YA not "Teens" section. I'm 30, clearly not a teen. I won't give it up, there are to many wonderful YA authors.

I've recruited a few adults (older than me!), who now read a lot of YA too.

Janssen said...

Ah, how I love Jess on Gilmore Girls. Just rewatched Season 3 this weekend, in fact.

Shalonda said...

What a wonderful post!

I love hearing from other 20-somethings and older and their experiences in bookstores and the library.

I proudly hold my head up when I walk straight to the teen section and often I hold conversations with teenagers and parents buying or checking out books!

I love reading YA and plan to do so for as long as I live!

Rock on, Adele!

Emily Gale said...

When I tell people I'm having a novel published, they get very excited - when I tell them it's YA, they put their head to one side and say "Ahhh, that's nice" as if I'm saving puppies.

On the other hand, I bought 5 new YA books the other day and it didn't warrant a single comment from the bookseller... or maybe they're just used to me by now !

Alley said...

I'm only 19 but I already feel like I get the stares when I head into the YA section of a bookstore. Like because I'm older, I should be reading more "substantial" books. And don't get me wrong, I love those just as much, but reading YA gives me a gitty pleasure no other genre does.

Thanks for this rant, and for proving the point that you're never told old to read ANY kind of book.

Emily said...

I read this the other day and thought "huh, I never really feel that way in a bookstore." Which is true - I feel right at home spending hours in the teen and kids sections at the bookstore, sitting with piles of picture books, etc, just like I have done since I actually was a kid and then a teenager. And then last night I stopped by the library to pick up my on-hold copy of The Sweet Far Thing, and this morning I was on the subway reading Harriet the Spy, and in both those situations I realized I did feel a bit defensive of being an adult reading kid/teen books, even though none of the people around me gave any indication of caring. I'm not sure why I have a different reaction in those settings vs. the bookstore - particularly bookstore vs. library.

GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

Yeah, I sometimes find myself feeling bad for the adults/parents in YA books, which is one of the few times I feel that maybe I'm too old for YA.
And as a Teen Librarian, I feel your pain about bookstores. I love bookstores, but I want to talk to knowledgable people who love my books! I have to convince at lot of people I work with to read YA and get excited when I find someone that does.