Out there in the interwebs somewhere exists a person with the name Joe Nutt.
Mr. Nutt has published an article that I will not link to here, as to not give his ridiculous idea more attention by way of web traffic. This article argues that Young Adult fiction is a dangerous fantasy.
Now, I do not read YA fiction regularly. I have read it in the past, and I have enjoyed what I’ve read in the past.
I am not an avid YA reader, nor can I name the top YA novels out today.
However, I am against people criticizing anyone for reading anything, .
All reading (even reading his article) is, by nature, reading. And reading is good.
No matter whether that takes the form of a graphic novel, comic strip, back of a cereal box, Shakespearean play, or YA novel.
In the paragraphs below, I will examine some of the points Mr. Nutt makes and attempt to counter them.
Be ready. This article is much more… blunt… than my typical works.
His first paragraph is probably the worst paragraph I’ve read in quite awhile, and that includes the many outrageous things Mr. Trump says.
What he describes is his idea for a YA novel, and it implies that being a transgender school dropout with autism and being a self-harmer is a bad thing. Excuse me. I’m sorry that people are transgender. I’m sorry they have autism. I’m sorry they drop out. I’m sorry they self harm.
Actually, no I’m not.
Because there are people who are transgender. There are people who are on the autism spectrum. There are people who self harm. There are people who have dropped out.
We need books that relate to their readers.
I’m sorry that your classic novels don’t relate to their readers. Not everything can relate. And that’s okay. Not everything has to relate. However, when the goal is to get people reading, having stories that they can relate to is a good thing.
Additionally, having stories with diverse characters and situations is good for everyone who reads them, even people who can’t directly relate. Because empathy is important, and spending time in a story with someone who is experiencing those things can teach us about their situation and open our minds to things we never would have seen otherwise.
As a side note, I don’t believe that embarking “on a magical quest to find an ancient crystal with the power to render all weapons useless” really is a plot line that you would find in a YA novel, anyway. That would fit better in other genres. But I digress.
Next, Mr. Nutt describes his life as a teacher of English. He describes his painstaking efforts to create “genuinely literate adults” as if “literate adults” are somehow not genuine.
Do tell me what the difference is.
Let’s take a look at what our dear friend, the dictionary, has to say on being literate:
Do you see anywhere in there where it says that a literate person has to be genuine or only read a specific type of writing? I don’t.
I see that they need to have the ability to read and write. I also see that they can be versed in literature and/or creative writing. Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at the definition of “literature” as well.
Hmmm. Mr. Nutt appears to be implying that YA novels are not “considered to be very good” or that they might “have lasting importance.” Now, we wouldn’t want to attempt to assume that we know what will be deemed as “very good” and important to future generations, would we?
If we look at the second and third points, we see a much broader definition of literature. Now, unless you can prove to me that a YA novel is not a book, I believe YA fits into this definition.
Next, he states that teenagers don’t like books that proselytize. No, they probably don’t. Then, he insinuates that YA novels are attempting to proselytize teenagers to something he doesn’t clearly define.
He argues that YA is “nothing more than gossip fodder” and is like reading a novelized form of a gossip/celebrity magazine.
I don’t believe so, but even if they were.
People are reading. People are empathizing. People are learning.
Does it matter what form that it takes?
Next he goes on to describe that school libraries (in the UK) are emptying their shelves of nonfiction.
I can’t speak to situations in the UK, but in learning about the state of school libraries at my university here in the US, I see that budgets are being cut. When budgets are cut, libraries take a hit. Nonfiction isn’t always cheap.
Personally, I love nonfiction, and I love reading it. I see the importance of allowing our youth to read nonfiction. I will take the stance of one who encourages people to read nonfiction… just like Mr. Nutt should encourage people to read novels he deems appropriate.
However, neither of us should criticize anyone for reading what they enjoy reading. That’s not our jobs. Our job is to encourage reading in all forms and to allow them the chance to branch out. If they do, great. If they don’t, great.
After that, he goes on a tangent about how we as a society should look at how we’ve starved these poor children from a proper “literary inheritance.”
He says, “There is a world of difference between being able to decode symbols on a page and engaging with the thoughts and ideas of intelligent men and women who have important things to say, things which may even make that adult life, still some years off, a richer and a happier experience.”
It appears, again, that Mr. Nutt has placed judgement on something he shouldn’t be judging.
Are YA authors not intelligent? Do they not have important things to say? Can their novels not make adult life a richer and happier experience?
He then poses several questions to publishers.
Are YA novels culturally valid and something we should value? Do they introduce teenagers to the adult world?
He then goes on to judge publishers for patronizing teenagers and turning them off to reading “with books they think are good for them, instead of helping them seek out and enjoy books that matter.”
Tell me this is satire.
Mr. Nutt is doing the same thing he accuses them of doing. He believes he knows what is best for young readers, and YA isn’t it.
He believes he knows what books matter and what books don’t matter.
That is not okay.
I’m sorry that you can’t see the value in YA, but don’t try and shut off an entire group of books from people who enjoy them because you don’t believe they matter.
Lastly, YA is often read by adults more than teenagers, so everything he’s arguing is nearly invalid anyway.
Thanks for sticking through that with me!
“Literate.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 22 Aug. 2016. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/literate
“Literature.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 22 Aug. 2016. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/literature