Get off of my lawn, YA Lit!: a rant


(The following post has slight spoilers for The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Nothing too revealing, but if you know literally nothing and want to remain knowing literally nothing, skip this.)
Seriously though read this. I cried. Seriously,
Story time: Out of the 18 seniors in my English Literature graduating class, 6 of us did our senior theses on YA lit topics. Our professor tried to dissuade those of us who weren’t planning on going into education from doing those topics, and to consider something “more literary.” She flat out told us she didn’t see much merit in it. My own research discussed how subtext effectively functions for adult readers of The Hunger Games, which sort by nature goes against her point, but I swear I came up with that before she was telling me and my classmates that we should do our papers on Caribbean literature instead.
(I should also say I had another professor who used Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian for our Native American literature class, and it was probably the most effective book we read—not because we weren’t capable of digesting the denser texts, we were, but because even though we’re a bit older than the target demo, it still had and honest, blunt, engaging, funny voice. Never underestimate the power of well-done bluntly honest humor. More on that later.)
As someone who is no longer a teenager, but (I think) still qualifies as a “young adult,” as someone who reads a lot of YA books, as someone who attempts to write fiction for teens and young adults, let me just say that there are so many inherently problematic things with the criticisms of YA lit that actually have nothing to do with the actual books they’re supposedly critiquing. This actually is probably a set of many, many issues I have, rooted in various things I’ll probably go on about in the future, but for now I’ll start with the big one.
That was a really long, expository way of saying: here, have a rant.
So, I recently read John Green’s newest book, The Fault in Our Stars. I think it’s a brilliant book for many spoiler-laden reasons I won’t get into here, and I highly recommend it—it may be my favorite book of his. And I adore everything John Green writes—because John Green writes about incredibly smart teenagers being incredibly thoughtful about the same existential panic that much of culture seems to think is reserved for a mid-life crisis. I love John Green because a common (and utterly absurd, in my opinion) criticism of his books is that his characters are too smart: they use big, sprawling SAT words and memorize the last words of famous people and read a lot and celebrate metaphorical resonance.

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