Last week, Jonathan Franzen’s latest interview hit the internet like a shit tornado. He dropped shade on basically anyone who didn’t write high end literary fiction, specifically YA fiction, as well as the lower class who apparently can’t afford the “luxury” of moral complexity. This is pretty typical elitist bullshit that we hear a lot, but I felt like I needed to step up and remind everyone that YA fiction is not a bad thing to write.
Young Adult fiction is SO IMPORTANT.
Children aren’t going to grow up reading authors like Franzen. They’re going to grow up reading authors like John Green and Maureen Johnson, Rainbow Rowell, JK Rowling, Judy Blume, and Madeleine L’Engle. YA writers are the ones grownups look to when someone asks what made them who they are. I wouldn’t be the same person without Madeleine L’Engle and J.K. Rowling. They formed my worldview in ways that TV and movies never could, and they’ll stay tucked away deep inside of me forever.
If you write YA, don’t let anyone get you down about it. You’re absolutely crucial for our society. You’re like a teacher but without federal regulations. Someday, a 30-something is going to say that your books made them who they are. They’re going to tell the world that your diverse characters made them sympathetic to others in a world of xenophobia. They’re going to give your books to their kids or even REQUIRE kids to read your stories in their class because those stories made them a better person.
So go write your YA fiction. Write important books that show kids what they should expect in life. Give them an escape from the stress and boredom of institutionalized education but also give them the lessons that school won’t teach them. Teach them acceptance and kindness, that things won’t always work but that they’ll be able to handle it. Teach them how to have healthy relationships and teach them how to recognize unhealthy relationships. Thicken their skin and open their hearts. Those things are so important not just for their lives right now but for all our lives as those readers go on to shape the world we live in. Encourage and inspire them, because you are the only one who can get in under their skin in ways they may never even realize.
Your work is important and you are important and don’t let the elitists of the world tell you any differently.