Books have genres so that readers can archive what to read next. Easy enough— they’re literally meant to help sort out the likelihood of what you would rather enjoy. So then why is it that some people shame readers for trying a book with a designated audience when it’s practically like a subsequent use of genre? The easy thing to say would be to not care about what others believe and read whatever the hell pleases you, but words often don’t carry the same amount of power as our emotions do—especially in regards to feeling embarrassed over something we love.
The most prominent example of this age shaming is, obviously, the Young Adult genre.
What defies a young adult? Perhaps he/she is a person between the ages of thirteen and twenty-five. Fine, that seems reasonable, right? However, what many people don’t seem to grasp is the fact of the matter— YA Literature is an offered category meant to suggest books for a certain audience. It’s not an ultimatum. Reading YA Literature does not mean you must be considered a young adult by societal standards. It simply means you enjoy books written for juveniles.
While I’m on the topic, this also doesn’t not mean you are a “better reader” (whatever that implies) if you avoid reading YA. It’s true that there is a common trend amongst YA books where the writing, albeit clean and concise, may seem a bit mundane in comparison to other genres. That much I will grant the opposing view. But I’ve also read a multitude of YA that was written better than many adult fiction novels, and no one ever complains about that. There’s a certain impression that YA books have poor writing, lack creativity, and consist of mainstream plot devices. Yes, I’ve heard of and read books that fall to these accusations—but I would never define an entire genre based upon a few lousy novels. It goes for every written work out there.
Likewise, we shouldn’t shame young adults who dislike YA literature and would rather read other genres. Your age doesn’t exemplify what you read, and it doesn’t restrict you from enjoying what you want to. Choose a book as though you have no age—no designated reading level. Save that bullshit for elementary school, and make sure you leave it there.
And although I mostly witness age shaming in regards to judgmental readers, another prejudice I’ve encountered is genre shaming. Like YA, the biggest genres that faces animosity are the romance and erotic genres. Is someone less for wanting to read about love? Does it make them perverted or desperate? Because for many, it would appear that way. And I’m here to tell you enough is enough.
Customer: Oh my lord, there’s an adolescent in the romance department reading erotica. Oh, the blasphemy. Someone find her mother and have this child exorcized of her foul thoughts!!
Me: Excuse me for treating myself to some divine smut and lemon(ade). I didn’t realize I wasn’t allowed to have sexual thoughts as an eighteen year old human being. Uh-oh. They’re going to toss me in the asylum again for this one.
I, for one, am a platonic-asexual women who has dated before and never really been into the whole idea of love. Don’t ask me why—I just never feel attracted to people I meet. I’ll develop strong friendships and kinships, but thats about it. Ironically enough, romance is one of my favorite genres. I always hope for some kind of love fest in any book that I’m reading. However, I always feel hesitant to go near the romance section of a bookstore because of the judging looks I’d more than likely receive. It also doesn’t help the fact that 90% of romance books have sultry covers with half naked women swooning into the arms of a disheveled looking man, muscles flexing and all. Oh no, I won’t even get into that matter. But I will remind you that authors have little to no say over the cover art of their stories. The industry just sees one thing and they paint the other million books the same. Don’t be like the industry. Be an individual, with cognitively complex thoughts.
Let it be known that good writing doesn’t always come with a good plot, and vice versa. You can have the most epic storyline of all time…with basic and bland diction. Or, a medical journal with the best diction you’ve ever beheld. Read whatever you want, whether it be one or the other. But don’t judge others by thinking them any less for their preferences! Truly, we should be happy people are even reading at all. It’s obviously not a secret that technology has taken over what used to be a huge golden age for literature, and no I don’t mean #bookstagram, blogging, or booktube. Out of all my friends, maybe two others read? It’s not as popular as you think. So definitely don’t discourage it!?
Another aspect to consider is the diversity amongst YA books when it comes to writing style and plot. While it’s generalized together, there are absolutely series that host explicit content which will make you question whether it’s truly YA or NA (New Adult). This is because YA doesn’t necessarily mean age-restricted material. Rather, it’s a type of writing that mostly consists of material that is relatable and considered beneficial for development. And by development I mean exactly that—for are we so different than the characters we read about? Do we not all go through change at young and old stages? We’re constantly developing. YA just so happens to heavily emphasize the importance behind development. That’s honestly how I perceive the genre.
YA is for everyone. Romance is for everyone. Reading is without limitations or oppressions. Let’s not place judgment where freedom would rather reign, shall we?
Genre shaming and age shaming are completely unacceptable. Don’t discriminate what you don’t understand, and certainly never subdue someone’s happiness with your misguidance.
Read what you want and don’t you dare feel ashamed about it.