Is watching TV better than reading a book?
According to Ruth Graham, a book reviewer for Slate.com, it is. If that book happens to be a young adult novel.
In a column titled "Against YA: Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you're reading was written for children," Graham posits that adults - which she loosely, and creatively, defines as anyone over the age of 18 -should be ashamed if they continue to enjoy literary works intended for a younger audience, say those from the ages of 13 to 17.
I want to reply to Graham with two simple words.
Those two words would, of course, tumble over into a veritable waterfall of titles: "The Giver," "Divergent," "The Book Thief," "The Hunger Games," "To Kill a Mockingbird,
just to name a few.
Graham acknowledges that some books were good when she was a young adult, but claims she would never go back and reread them because she is "a different reader" now.
I am too. I'm also not five years old anymore but I still curl up and watch "The Little Mermaid" whenever I'm sick. Just because it was made for children doesn't mean it has no value for older audiences. I also reread a lot of books that I fell in love with when I was kid because they are still entertaining.
Even though they are meant for "children," some of the Young Adult books I've read have significantly more literary and intellectual value than books intended for adults. It's summer, which means I am inching my way into trashy detective novels. The endings are predictable, tidy and usually happy, even if there is a sinister hint at a sequel. One of Graham's biggest beefs with YA fiction is the endings are too simplistic.
"These endings are emblematic of the fact that the emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction-of the real world-is nowhere in evidence in YA fiction. These endings are for readers who prefer things to be wrapped up neatly, our heroes married or dead or happily grasping hands, looking to the future. But wanting endings like this is no more ambitious than only wanting to read books with 'likable protagonists,'" she writes.
"Confessions of a Shopaholic" is not more valuable than the "Fault in Our Stars" because it is written for adults. There is drivel no matter what genre you are paging through and writing off the people who actively enjoy Young Adult books is ridiculous.
Sometimes, Ms. Graham, I'm not in the mood to read Shakespeare so I grab J.K. Rowling instead. I do occasionally, maybe even regularly, want a likable protagonist. There's a reason I don't read "Lolita" frequently. Of course I like happy endings, and a lot of adult books have them too.
I do not feel even slightly ashamed of this.
You shouldn't either.
My honest opinion is I couldn't care less what anyone else reads. For myself, I strive for a balanced diet of genres and styles, some of which are more challenging than others.
But just to spite Ruth Graham, this weekend's reading adventures might be confined to "Goosebumps."