I drafted a blog entry, then deleted it. I drafted tweets, and deleted them. Unfortunately, the bibliophile in me refuses to let this go without a statement.
If you read my blog and pay attention to my book posts, you might notice I love books. Especially sci-fi and fantasy books. And I definitely like YA Books.
Why does a not-teenager-anymore woman want to read young adult books? After all, I’ve heard the spiel from others that are my age. “If I wanted to read Judy Bloom…” Well guess what? That might be good for you, but I happen to like Judy Bloom. In fact, I’m not sure how I would’ve survived puberty without Judy Bloom. “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” truly was a lifesaver.
Am I fan of sparkly vampires? No, not really. I’m sorry, vampires should not sparkle. Am I fan of dark? Meh, depends on the dark. And sure, Twilight smacks of not only one, but TWO control freak/domineering/stalker type guys chasing after one mentally ill girl. (Seriously, only someone mentally ill would spend 3 months in a spinning room after her boyfriend left her. OK, so that scene in the movie made me a little motion-sick and I’m still not ready to forgive them yet.) Does that make it dark? I’m not so sure. I’ve read dark. I mean at the end of the day the girl gets the guy, beats the bad guys, and lives forever happily after. How dark is that?
My complaint in the recent WSJ article regarding “dark YA literature” is that obviously these people do not spend enough time in the YA section of the book store. I do. I’ve found plenty of great books there that I would not necessarily classify as “dark”. Before you start whining that a book is dark because there are very common to today’s life calamities, remember this one fact: Every story needs a conflict and a resolution. The Brady Bunch had issues, problems to be solved, yet who would ever call it “dark”?
So why do I read YA? First, there’s plenty of great story lines out there. Creative ideas in the genres that I love that play off the standard answer. I’ve read books about sparkly vampires, fallen angel vampires, and vampires requiring a DNA test before they’ll vamp you. Who knew there were so many different ways to envision vampire lore? Why should we trap ourselves into a Nosferatu coffin-shaped box?
Secondly, in quite a lot of YA, I see less foul language and sex. That’s right. I said it. Sure, there’s some YA with sex in it, but often it’s behind closed doors. Let me make this simple for you to understand. Sex can be a wonderful thing, but really, unless you are the one actually taking part it’s kind of sweaty and weird. I really don’t want to read about it. Especially not for 20 odd pages. (Yes, I’ve had THOSE books passed my way. When you only want to read 75 pages out of a 320 page book, there’s a problem.)
I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a prude, but if you want to, have at it. I’ve been called worse in my life. Just know that if I am reading a book and I start seeing the words “heaving bosom” or “throbbing member” or other such colloquialisms, that’s when I start skipping pages. I’m married, so I get quite enough of that action on my own without the need of a book.
Some of my favourite people and authors are YA writers. Maria V. Snyder is an excellent example of a great person, a YA author, and having her name on some truly wonderful books that I recommend to many. I could easily see a person picking up her first novel, reading the back, and thinking, “Gee, that sounds dark. This woman’s on death row and gets out of her execution by becoming a poison taster for the king?” Well sure, that seems pretty dire, but if you put the book down you will not only miss a well written and excellent book, but you’d miss out on something that I’d never classify as “dark”. Once more. Conflict – it’s needed.
As a teenager, I can promise you that books are what got me through. I always kept a book on me. I’ll even admit here that I read in a great many classes to stave off boredom. I turned out just as screwed up as the rest of the planet, but no more so than most. The bonus I had was that I got to go on many adventures through the books that I read. I felt like I wasn’t alone being so unpopular, because so many in the books that I read were also unpopular. Obviously, people must feel that way often enough if so many books deal with it.
I traveled to the bottom of the ocean, the center of the earth, to Mars. I read about gods, armies, time travel, and dragons. From the horseback riding of Valdemar to soaring through the air on a dragon’s back on Pern, my heart lived for the fantastic adventures that brought light to my days.
Books bring light. They spark the imagination. They broaden our horizons. They make us think.
Of course, thinking would be bad. After all, we all learned that 2+2=5, right? Oh wait, it’s not 1984 anymore. If you’d like to pretend it is, I bet we could call in the Firemen, too, for a good old-fashioned book burning.