Last week the child_lit online discussion group, of which I’m an active member, was consumed with responses to Heather Graham’s Slate article, “Against YA: Adults Should Feel Embarrassed to Read Children’s Books.” Timed to coincide with the release of the movie adaptation of John Green’s bestselling The Fault in Our Stars (apparently one of the shameless adults’ favorite YA novels) Graham’s article characterized even so-called “literary” realistic fiction as “uncritical,” “wrapped up neatly,” and generally simplistic. In her view, “even the myriad defenders of YA fiction admit that the enjoyment of reading this stuff has to do with escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia.”
In addition to the child_lit participants, most of whom are teachers, librarians, and authors and editors of books for children and teens, many bloggers have weighed in with posts mostly critical of Graham. And my first reaction, as someone who works with and writes for teens, is that no one should be made to feel ashamed of what they read — not adults who read YA fiction, nor kids who read comics, nor readers of any age who prefer any kind of genre fiction. Shaming people for their reading choices is a reliable way of guaranteeing that they will not read, period.