Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a post entitled “Why I Read … Young Adult Novels“. This post isn’t true to who I am any more. I used to walk around the young adult section of a book store and pick out scores of books that I wanted to read. If I walked around a young adult section of a book store now I don’t think I could find very many.
This isn’t to say that I feel that the entirety of the young adult genre is trash, but it isn’t for me any more. I remember reading and really liking a handful of novels but I can’t really remember more than 1 or 2 that blew me away. There were some that made me feel, there were some that I read and enjoyed, but I can’t really tell you that there were more than a handful who made me stop and think about me life.
As I move through my college career I think that I have become not only more picky with the things that I read, but more critical of what I do read. I was told that undergraduate degrees are meant to:
- Introduce you to a field of study.
- Give you basic skills necessary to work in that field.
- Teach you to think critically.
It is this third aspect that I think is most important. You can get a graduate degree in something that is completely different from your undergraduate degree because you learn those first two things on the fly as you go into the specifics of a field of study. That third thing however is taught universally and is essential.
The GRE is a test necessitated by most graduate schools, much like the SATs for undergraduate but where the SAT measures skills in reading, writing and math, the GRE measures ones ability to think critically and solve puzzles masquerading as a test to quantitatively express reading, writing and math skills.
I can no longer read without thinking. I can no longer put aside the sort of blatant dumbing down that I have felt in so many young adult novels. I feel like a fair amount of these books could be great but simply are not. Either because the author does not believe young adults could read or would enjoy the book to its fullest, or because the editors and publishers are not pushing their authors far enough.
Is this a problem of an over saturated market due to the success of young adult books? Is it a problem inherent in the genre itself? I don’t think children’s books have this problem. I’m often surprised by the depth and intricacies of books written for children so what is it about the young adult genre?
I’m not sure, but for now I think I will be sticking to the adult fiction section where more often than not I have a satisfying read, which is something I haven’t been able to say about the young adult genre in a long time.
Have I become like the snooty English major that I characterized in that post? Am I lost?
I know that there are still books in that genre that hold up to my standards. I still read young adult on occasion. I think my problem is not in the label of the genre, it is in the quality of the work at large in the genre. At least I hope it is.
I want to think that I am growing as an individual. I want to think that I am growing as a book reviewer. I hope that I will continue to grow and change.
Now, that being said, do I look down on people who read young adult. Of course not. If you can read it and still enjoy it more power to you. If you really love the genre. That is great. I’m happy that you are reading and reading something you care about. I’m just saying that it isn’t for me any more in the same way that I still have a hard time reading fantasy novels or war novels. There are good books in every genre, but not every genre is for everyone. My taste has changed, but that doesn’t mean I have a better pallet just a different one.