By Jessica Cozzi
The concept of adults believing others should “act your age” and “read your age” is definitely nothing new for Young Adult readers anywhere.
I’ve been running a moderately-popular Young Adult review website, The Book Bratz, for quite a few years, and Fordham is not the first (or the last) place where people have looked down upon my reading choices, believing they are somehow more mature and worldly than I am because I’d rather not fall asleep from the boredom of reading Dickens.
After reading the From The Desk article a few weeks ago, I found myself saddened by yet another assumption on who YA readers should be and what the genre supposedly represents.
As someone that has been working in the publishing industry for nearly seven years, particularly focusing on Young Adult and New Adult stories, I found myself a bit taken aback by the hasty assumptions that were so quickly thrown around in the piece. I have built an entire website, online presence and career with major publishers from the ground up thanks to the YA genre.
There have always been plenty of snap judgements about who YA readers should be, how the plots are “poorly written ploys” and many of the popular works were “trashy” and “shallow.” Their depictions of YA weren’t of the world I had known and loved. But the article still had me doubting my love for the genre. Was I immature or unintelligent because I couldn’t stand to read classic novels? Or were older YA readers being categorized all wrong?
Rather than taking the article personally, I took to my blog’s Twitter account (which has only about 5.9K followers) and tweeted one simple question: “Do you read YA even though you’re 18+?”
I wasn’t prepared for what happened when I picked up my phone an hour later — over 100,000 people had seen, shared and responded to my tweet. It was going viral in the online book blogging, author and reader community. My DMs were overflowing with eager 18+ readers who wanted to share their opinions and have their voices heard — readers, teachers, librarians and even YA authors themselves.
Overwhelmed with the rush of mini Twitter fame, I opened my laptop and got to work — I asked everyone who reached out to email me a short blurb on why they still read YA even though they’re over the age of 18. I thought we’d only get a handful of emails back, and I planned on putting together a post on my blog where I could feature them. However, over 500 answers came in.
To me, YA is such an important factor of my life that I could never see myself living without. People are so quick to brush off teens as being whiny, dramatic and over reactive, but when you think about it, there’s nothing a teenager goes through that doesn’t also occur in adult life as well — heartbreaks, new relationships, friendships, loss, terror, fear or trying to find themselves. As someone past the age of eighteen, I can assure you that I definitely still feel all these things and more, even in my “adult” life — at Fordham particularly. YA is so important to me as a reader because, it is constantly adapting, changing and diversifying for starters.
The other responses I received were just as important. One reader said that YA allowed her to dream again. Another said that YA tends to focus on universally important themes that don’t disappear as you grow up, such as finding yourself and grief and loss.
The point of the matter is that there are many varied reasons why people read YA — some logistical, some emotional and some just because they like it! The YA market is booming exponentially with diverse, hard-hitting, real stories. Maybe adult fiction sales aren’t suffering because readers are immature — maybe it’s because adult fiction needs to catch up on the diversity and emotional fronts.
Instead of being hurt by the sharp, pretentious judgements thrown toward YA readers, I actually find myself grateful for this particular instance. If “Act Your Age, Read Your Age” had never been published, I probably wouldn’t have been prompted to ask that question on Twitter. I wouldn’t have received over 2,000 messages from 18+ YA readers and authors all over the world.
And I definitely wouldn’t have been able to launch an entire new series on my YA book blog where we get to shine light on the voices of these older readers, all talking about why they read and love a genre that has been there for them since their childhood and will be there forevermore.
The fact of the matter is that nobody else has the right to be a gatekeeper on literature, no matter what our personal opinions on the subject may be. Don’t get me wrong — Atwood, Martel, Christie and Dickens are all monumental writers with incredible stories. But those who choose to pick up their books are not better or more intelligent than those who lean toward less pompous stories.
The best part of the book world is that everyone has a multitude of options to choose from — and nobody has the right to stand on a pedestal and lessen others’ intelligence or maturity because of it.
Jessica Cozzi, FCRH ’20, is an English major from Long Island, New York.