It doesn’t take a genius to decipher that I like reading. You merely need to glance at the book propped in my hands and at my glazed, barely-there look and it’s pretty obvious. People, however, are naturally curious – they see a book in your hands, they see that you most definitely are somewhere else entirely, a world of words – and they want to know one thing.
What are you reading?
Cue, judgement. There is, undoubtedly, a snobbish element to reading. After studying English Literature for three years at university, I am all too familiar with ‘high-brow’ literature; literature that has a value, worthy enough to be studied by eager yet sleep-deprived students. There is canonical literature – classic novels, epic poetry, elegant dramas – and then, at the other side of that spectrum, there is, essentially, ‘trash’.
As a huge fan of the Young Adult genre but also an avid classical reader, I’m faced with a level of criticism. I have studied Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, Dickens, Woolf – the list can go on – yet how can I read books that are aimed at teens? Books that rely on overwhelming hormones, angst, and forbidden, predictable love?
I tell them: I enjoy it. I love this genre. They assume it’s my guilty pleasure.
They couldn’t be more wrong. The term guilty pleasure suggests that there is guilt associated with enjoyment. For me, as a YA reader, there is no shame. There is something undisputedly amazing about this genre, unlike any other genre I read. It manages to encapsulate the full spectrum of human emotion, but instead of presenting it in this serious, adult way, it injects humour and lightness. Yes, I admit to reading books about teen romance, clichéd and heart-wrenching, but ultimately real. I’ve been taken to other worlds with fantastical lands and chilling, dystopian governments. I’ve read books where I’ve hated the main character and loved them – yet the one thing I’ve never been able to do is to stop reading. YA is a genre that will hook you, line and sinker, from the very first word, pulling you in page by page.
I’m not saying that this doesn’t happen with other genres – of course it does. However, there is something liberating about YA, this unrestricted genre that can be read and enjoyed by anyone, of any age.
I’ve watched this genre grow from something to be dismissed, to a genre that has astounding power on the publishing and film industries respectively. You remember that young adult series called The Hunger Games? That incredible book that has produced – so far – two incredible films that have destroyed every other competitor at the box office? I thought so. How about a book – and now a series of films – called The Hobbit? Yes, The Hobbit is a YA book – a children’s book, essentially. One can’t deny Tolkein’s excellence, but there are still some who insist on reducing YA to ‘trash’ even despite this famous addition to the genre.
2014 is the year of YA. With so many film adaptions hitting the big screen this year, you can’t deny it. Vampire Academy, Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, The Maze Runner, Mockingjay Part 1. Young Adult is without a doubt taking over popular culture, and I will be begging any person who goes to see these films to read the books.
Let’s get rid of the snobbery here, let’s remove the guilt from guilty pleasure reading. Reading is reading – it’s that simple.