Friday, November 30, 2012

why i hate ya [1] YIH8YA

A few years back, I wrote a series of posts on the subject Why I Hate YA.

But a few years back, I was just an immature whelp of a writer who had no idea how deeply this hatred could bore its way into the soulless core of my being.

Okay. I'm just kidding.

I think the reason why I frequently find myself hating YA is that most people don't know what my YA is. But an awful lot of people talk about YA, even though they can't specifically define it, which means they also don't know what they're talking about.

And I remember when I wrote that series a while back, some concerned person posted a comment like this: Well, if you hate YA so much, then why do you write it?

Um. Er.

But here's THE BIG REASON why I hate YA.

People say the following things to me:

"Oh. You're the guy who writes books for kids."

"Oh... So, when are you going to write a REAL book... You know, one for GROWNUPS?"

I know I'm not the only writer out there who gets asked those presumptuous and preposterous questions, but maybe I just get annoyed by them more than other people do.

I'm shrugging as I type this; I don't know.

Here's the thing: My YA is not an age-level, it's a genre. I do not write books for 12- to 18-year-olds. I write books for everyone to read; they happen to be about what I call essential experiences (themes) of adolescence.

Some of the things that happen to adolescents can be pretty brutal, and frequently the reading-level of the stories I write is pretty challenging. Nevertheless, I write YA, but it's my YA and it is most certainly not an age-level.

Not only that, but I know an awful lot of unimpaired, legal-age adults who have never read a book because they do not know how to. And then I get sixth- and seventh-graders sending me emails about books like The Marbury Lens.

Go figure.

In any event, I do recognize that there are plenty of writers who churn out books that are for 12- to 18-year-olds. That's fine with me. That's their YA. That kind of YA can get a little condescending, stereotypical, watered-down, and preachy; and for some reason a lot of people involved in the for kids aspect of YA can sometimes act like they're "saving" kids from the potential horrors of the real world.

I don't know about that, either. I do know that if I was was incapable of saving myself from the shit that happened to me, I'm probably going to be a complete failure at saving a classroom of ninth-graders in Iowa from anything.

So that's the big convoluted reason why I hate YA. It has become far too simple for the general public, as well as purveyors of books to wrap the genre up tightly within the boundaries of specific ages and grade-levels. But we all know--and there are heaps of data to prove this--that what is called "YA" is mostly being sold to, and read by, Grownups.

Why? Because YA is "Real Books."

And if that's the case, and we can characterize YA as a genre, then maybe it would serve some purpose to discuss the relevant features that make "real" YA. I'm not a literary expert, but I can tell you about what makes my YA.

And that's what I'll be posting about in the next installments.