There is a debate raging in the world of literature — at least as much of a debate as can rage in such a world — that is intriguing both in its superfluous nature and its bewildering ability to get under one’s skin. Can literature written for teenagers — now pedaled under the moniker YA lit — be unquestioningly enjoyed by adults with nary a pang of shame or smirk of knowing irony?

 

In a Slate article apocalyptically titled “AGAINST YA,” Ruth Graham – who is apparently a “writer in New Hampshire” and thus pretty much obligated to speak on the subject – reveals that she *gasp* did NOT cry at the end of “The Fault In Our Stars,” the YA sensation that combines beautiful teenagers and cancer for maximum heartstrings, pulled and beaucoup book sales, and box office dollars. She then spends the remainder of her column inches bemoaning the fact that no one is reading serious literature like she is and generally exhorting everyone to grow up already.

 

The backlash from the sort of people who form strong opinions on Slate articles about YA Lit was instantaneous and tremendous. Writing for Flavorwire, Elizabeth Donnelly termed the piece “possibly the most Slate-y piece that ever Slate-d, maintaining a contrarian and snooty tone throughout” — though your correspondent would argue that Slate corners the market more in the absurdly trivial than the snooty — The Economist still rules the roost in that realm, much to your correspondent’s ongoing delight. Donnelly accuses Graham of painting the YA industry with too broad a brush, dismissing YA literature out of hand simply because its target audience — mainly teen girls, since boys are lucky to string together complex thoughts at that age — is not known for exhibiting sufficiently literary tastes. Elsewhere, outraged people penned infuriating tweets, and the world moved on much as it always has.

 

Graham makes some excellent points about how preposterous most YA lit is, even the self-styled “serious” YA lit that does not involve vampires and werewolves — “The Fault In Our Stars” is, after all, a book that features a devastatingly handsome teen boy who says things like ‘I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things’ to his girlfriend, whom he then tenderly deflowers on a European vacation he arranged.” By and large, literature geared towards a teenage audience drains the world of its complexity in favor of passions writ large across a black and white canvas. There is something to be said for growing up and putting away childish things.

 

There is also something to be said for reading for the sheer pleasure of doing so, reading because you are swept away on the wings of an author’s imagination, reading because you simply cannot stop. We read for a myriad of purposes, but the simple act of reading, and reading, and reading, allows us to process and order the world around us. Reading touches deep waters in our souls and, who is to say the direct, unsubtle words that moves one’s heart are any less worthy than the sophisticated, sufficiently adult stanzas that moves the heart of another?

 

Your correspondent’s long-awaited and desperately needed verdict? Read! For heaven’s sakes, read whatever you damn well please. Except for “Fifty Shades Of Gray.”

 

For those of you still on the fence of this scintillating debate, we give you Kathleen Hale’s hysterical essay in Nerve, in which she addresses Ruth Graham’s proclamations by writing her into — what else? — a YA novel. “ ‘YA is formulaic, worthless dreck,’ Hale said, transforming into a vampire. She bared her fangs. ‘I’m a hundred and seventy years old,’ she said, blowing some smoke into my face… I fainted from my cancer. When I awoke, the moon was bright and I was turning into a werewolf.”

 

Are you an adult intrigued by reading literature for young adults? Do you agree with Ruth Graham’s assessment that “adults should be embarrassed to read YA books”? Start talking in the comments below or find me on Twitter @aa_murph