Yesterday was the first time I had been to a bookstore in ages. Considering that most of what I’m reading for this blog these days is YA fiction, that’s the section I headed for first. My sister and husband followed my lead, but quickly became embarrassed. They were uncomfortable being in the young adult section and scurried off to more adult topics.
Granted, neither of them are big fiction readers anyway, but I was surprised that they would feel so self-conscious. What is there to be embarrassed about? Why is it weird to prefer fiction written for young people?
I hate the stigma that comes with reading certain types of literature. If you like fantasy or sci-fi, you’re a nerd. If you read mainstream thrillers or mysteries, you’re not a “real” reader. If you read literary fiction you’re a smartypants. In this case, I think the feeling was that if we were in the young adult section, that must mean we are immature or creepy or stupid for wanting to read material aimed at younger audiences. Yet both of my family members wouldn’t care if they were caught reading Harry Potter in public.
I like YA fiction because it tends to place protagonists in situations where they must grow, mature, or evolve in some way. That, to me, is compelling fiction. I have a strong sense of nostalgia for my late teen years – experiencing first loves, learning hard life lessons, discovering my own sense of morality. So much of how I define myself was learned during that time span, and reliving it or experiencing different paths from new perspectives allows me to reflect on my own journey.
There’s nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to our reading choices. The reason YA fiction has a bajillion book blogs written by older readers is because we love it. We are passionate about reading and writing stories for young people. YA stories grip us, tug at our heart strings, and allow us to continue learning about ourselves. They move us and inspire us and sweep us into their worlds.
The stories I read in the YA section of the bookstore are powerful and magical. I’m happy and proud to be seen supporting those authors. My sister and my husband just don’t know what they’re missing.
What do you like best about the genres you read? Do you ever feel embarrassed about reading them?