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The YA Debate, and Book 14: The Graveyard Book

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If you follow bookish news on the internet at all, you probably know that, apparently, some supposedly decent website recently posted an article about how adults should be ashamed to read young adult literature. I’m under the impression that, according to said article, every minute that an adult spends reading YA lit is a minute they could have been spending serious classic literature, and it’s therefore bad. I’m also under the impression that this article went on to say that people who read Harry Potter as kids or teenagers will never read anything good in their lives.

You may have noticed my use of the words apparently, supposedly, and impression up there. That’s because there’s no fucking way I am going to read this article. I have two reasons for this:

  • Why would I read something that is so clearly just going to infuriate me? There’s enough crappy stuff in the world that I have no choice about being exposed to, so I do my best to avoid seeking things out that will just put me in a bad mood.
  • I have no desire to support the website that would publish such an article, and I mean this to the extent that I don’t want them getting the few cents of ad revenue they would get just from my click. I honestly believe that a lot of articles that push a lot of people’s buttons are published solely for the purpose of generating ad revenue, because what’s the first thing most people do when they read something that pisses them off? They share it on Facebook. And people who see an article title that pisses them off seem to always click on it. So I try to offset that by refusing to, and I wish more people would, too. Notice I’m not linking it.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure that the person who wrote the article in question had never read Harry Potter in his miserable, boring, stodgy-old-classic-filled life, because if he had, he would probably realize that not only will the people who read it probably go on to read worthwhile things, but that the Harry Potter series itself is incredibly worthwhile.

You can obviously tell that I disagree with the article about as vehemently as it is possible to disagree. Now, personally, I wouldn’t want to read nothing but YA. I feel like I–again, personally–would get kind of bored after a while. However, even if someone does want to read nothing but YA, is there really anything wrong with that?

One of my favorite quotes: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” Madeleine L’Engle said that, and I think she’s right.

See, there are a whole lot of YA books out there that deal with dark, weird, depressing, terrifying, or otherwise disturbing topics, from the mundane to the fantastical. And I think that’s awesome. I think it’s great that these books are getting younger people thinking about topics that scare us. And I also think it’s awesome that adults keep reading them, because it forces us to look at them differently. Maybe it makes us think about things the way we might have as kids, when we didn’t feel like we already had all the answers. It gives us fresher eyes, lets us step back and consider something from a more innocent point of view. And that always makes me wonder why we live in a world where innocent points of view need to consider such horrible things.

I think there’s a reason why post-apocalypse dystopian literature hasn’t really caught on outside the young adult genre. It’s not as if the topic only interests teenagers; I know plenty of adults who devoured The Hunger Games series as readily as any kid. I find that this genre makes me think about the world we’re fucking up, and how the younger generations are the ones who will be left to deal with it. It makes me think about how Katniss is too young to be leading a revolution, but then I remember that 18 year olds are routinely sent off to die in war, and how is that okay?

So no, I don’t think anyone should be embarrassed to read YA lit. I think the people who should be embarrassed are the ones who look at the world in black and white, with a completely closed mind, and refuse to accept that other points of view might at least be worth thinking about. I’m pretty sure half the point of being an adult is being able to make your own decisions, so read whatever you want. I’m not going to judge you. And if you judge me, I honestly don’t care.

Book 14: The Graveyard Book

When I first heard of The Graveyard Book, and in fact until pretty much the time I picked it up in a store a few months ago, it was always as “an illustrated children’s book.” Now, I know Neil Gaiman has written illustrated children’s books, such as Blueberry Girl and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish.

The Graveyard Book is not what any sane person would think of when told that something is “an illustrated children’s book.” The Graveyard Book is, in fact, a full-length novel (almost 300 pages) with occasional black and white artistic renderings scattered throughout.

The Cat in the Hat is an illustrated children’s book. The Graveyard Book is a young adult novel that starts with the murder of an infant’s entire family.

And, most importantly, The Graveyard Book is classic Neil Gaiman, so obviously, I loved it. If you’ve read a lot of Gaiman, you’ll probably find this quite predictable, but if you love Gaiman, you won’t care one bit. Once again, he has taken an ordinary human and put him in a haunting (pun definitely intended) and beautiful secret fantasy world that hides within ours, completely unbeknownst to the rest of the human world. Only this time, the ordinary human is a baby boy who gets adopted by ghosts (who name him Nobody) and raised in a graveyard, learning all the secrets of the dead and otherwise unalive. But danger lurks outside the graveyard’s gates…

So, if you love Neil Gaiman and haven’t read this yet, go get it right now. I’ll wait. Done? Okay!

If you’re unfamiliar with Neil Gaiman, does The Jungle Book in a graveyard sound like a fun story to you? If so, definitely read this! If not, probably still read this, because Neil Gaiman is a master of his craft and I’m sure you’ll be surprised by how much you like this book.

Coming Soon:
15. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
16. The Round House by Louise Erdrich
17. Warriors: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter
18. UnSouled by Neal Shusterman
19. Skin Game by Jim Butcher
20. Lexicon by Max Barry
21. London Falling by Paul Cornell
22. Neuromancer by William Gibson

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About Rachael

Hi. I'm Rachael. I realized one day that, even though I read a lot of books, I often have a hard time remembering them later on. I guess that happens when there's so much to try to remember! So I started The 50 Book Project, with the intention to read and blog about 50 new (to me) books in 2014. I read a lot of fantasy, but I'm trying to branch out and experience new stuff. Any questions? Suggestions? Let me know! Comment, or email me at dearohrachael@gmail.com.

4 responses »

  1. Thank you for writing this. I also heard about the YA-hating article but refuse to read it, for all of the reasons you listed and more. Glad to know I’m not alone.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: The Blahs, and Book 15: The Fault in Our Stars | Oh, Rachael.

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