Thursday, December 24, 2009

Teens that read YA aren't as smart as those that read adult novels

I think the headline speaks for itself, but before I get jumped here, that is obviously not my opinion since most of what I read is YA. That seems to be the opinion of a "YA author" who recently wrote an article for NPR.

This article was brought to my (and many others) attention on Twitter by the lovely Heidi R. Kling, author of the much anticipated upcoming YA novel, Sea, a couple of nights ago. The author of this article, Garret Freymann-Weyr, seems to be under the impression that the genre of YA isn't intellectually challenging enough for teenagers and "Many young adult novels don't set the bar very high in their language, character complexity or emotional nuance, which is why I — a young adult author — like to encourage young readers to venture into the adult shelf." (Taken directly from the article).

Now, I personally have never read any of Mrs. Freymann-Weyr's books and for that reason, I will not judge or comment on what she has written, but it appears that she obviously hasn't read many YA novels over the past 10 years or so. Because if she had, she would have realized that the YA genre has evolved immensely with authors like Laurie Halse Anderson, Elizabeth Scott, John Green, Ellen Hopkins, and Jay Asher (just to name a few).

Mrs. Freymann-Weyr's article, which is titled "Three Books For The Smartest Teens You Know," listed three books that I've personally never heard of, much less read, and honestly if I saw them in the bookstore, I wouldn't pick them up. It seems that she has this idea that all YA books need to be these complex works that challenge the mind, and there's nothing wrong with that, but personally after reading so many serious novels, I need some fluff so I don't become depressed! Not all books need to be these complex stories, sometimes you need something light, fluffy, and unrealistic to balance things out.

I know in the comments, books like Twilight were being mentioned and even Twilight and that series has it's place in YA and has impacted lives. For many it got them to get into reading at all, and for some it's just a nice escape into another world and there's nothing wrong with that. And there's nothing wrong with stories that allow the reader to escape and to have this light story on their minds.

As you can tell, this article (I'll include the link below, and I urge you to go leave your thoughts) really got me worked up. I'm almost 21 years old, which I know some of the other YA bloggers are older, but I prefer YA. I've read YA novels that have more depth, development, and writing style than a lot of adult novels.

So I decided to put together a list here of just a few YA novels that set the bar pretty high, and have character development and emotion that rivals, if not exceeds many adult novels. And I urge you to leave me comments on what I've forgotten (I know I'll forget some), and on your own thoughts, as well as leaving your comments over on the NPR site about Mrs. Freymann-Weyr's article.

You can read the article here.

*My list:
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Willow by Julia Hoban
Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Hate List by Jennifer Brown
I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder
Crank; Glass; Burned; Impulse; Identical; Tricks (all) by Ellen Hopkins
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert
Nineteen Minutes; The Pact; My Sister's Keeper; The Tenth Circle (all) by Jodi Picoult
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan
The Louder Than Words series
Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

*Some of these I have not read, but I do know the impact they've had on others and feel they should be included.

Those are just SOME of the books that came to mind, and I know there are numerous others that belong on this list that I have forgotten and you can leave those in the comments if you would like.

I know this little rant of mine came a bit out of nowhere, but after reading that small article, I just got so worked up and then having to put off writing this for a couple of days just caused it to stew, but I think it was something that should be addressed. I would love to hear your thoughts as well.



  1. I totally agree. Some books may be uncomplex, but like you said, everybody needs fluff every once and awhile. When life is feeling extra hard, some people turn to complex books because it makes them appreciate how simple their life is in comparison, but sometimes adding all that to their thoughts can totally depress them worse then they were before. And also like you said, there are many incredabley 'weighty' YA books out there, like what you said, Ellen Hopkins books.
    Saying that YA books are dumbed down, especially when you are the one writing YA is just, wrong. If you don't believe in people reading it, then why would you write it? Is it maybe a comment on your own intelligence? You aren't good enough to write 'worthy' books, so you write 'crap'? Think before you make such statements.

    Sorry for ranting. =/

  2. I read both YA and adult (I was actually reading adult books before YA) and I can personally say I feel ten times more fulfilled reading YA then adult. A lot of adult fiction is pretentious and unrelatable for teens, so sorry if us kids aren't picking up a thousand pages of Dan Brown on our way to the book store :P

  3. First of all, thanks for including my book on your list. It means a lot to me because I work hard to write books with depth, weight and meaning. I write YA because those are the kinds of books I craved as a teen and I want today's teens to be able to find them and I think there are actually a ton more of books on the YA shelves now than there were when I was a teen and I am so glad for that.

    The comments this "YA writer" made really insult me as both a reader and writer of YA. I think there are many YA books (a lot of them that are on your list) that are much more powerful and interesting than a lot of adult books out there. I think both teens *and* adults should be reading YA because it would open their eyes to the very real things that teens are going through in the world today.

    Anyway, I really can't say things better than you already said them. Thank you for writing this blog.

  4. Ah yes. Because *all* adult books are heavy and complex and worthy of brain stimulation . . . O_o

    Ugh. Some people hurt my head. And this is a YA author saying this? Wow. She certainly thinks highly of herself, doesn't she? She aims so high with her writing because others don't? That's a sure-fire way for me NEVER to read any of her books! I like my fluff and my escapism. When I feel my brain needs challenging, I'll challenge it but since 99% of my reading is for enjoyment, I'd very much stick to the type of reading that I enjoy, not the kind that'll give me a migraine.

  5. Everyone thinks they know what's best, even if they don't. This was a great post, and I totally agree. YA has a lot more goiung for it than fluff, though, as your fantabulous list illustrates. I've read a bunch of them, and they were all really, realy good and very thought provoking.

  6. Wow, great feature. The thing that immediately came to mind when reading this article was: hypocrite. I find it strange that this author is, in fact, contributing this seemingly uncomplex genre, lol. And I definitely agree with you about some fluff now and then.
    I absolutely LOVE Laurie Halse-Anderson, though the only possible addition I can think of is Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols, since I just read it. All of those books you mentioned are amazing (though I haven't read all of them myself), and YA books these days deal with many of the same and other issues that adult novels do: rape, murder, divorce, etc.. Maybe not all of us like to see it, but it's there. I say that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but this is one that I definitely and whole-heartedly do NOT agree to. I'm a teen, and I know some of my friends at school refuse to read YA books because they think they're too "simple," but I can make the same arguement vice versa. I agree that adult novels have their own merit, but that should not and does not discount the depth of YA novels. And I also apologize if I skip Gilgamesh: The NOVEL for a simpler translation of the original Gilgamesh anytime soon.

  7. So if I read all my tacky romances and no YA, I'll be smarter???? YAY!! (Sarcasm.) I don't even know what to say to that. I'm just going to say that I read a ton of different reading levels and some of the best books I read are picture books. So what does that say? :P


Thanks for reading! Comments are always appreciated!