… is what the headline for the new article from The Guardian should say.
Like anyone with a social media account, I am very much aware who Zoella is but I have never been a “fan” or watcher of her videos. When her debut Girl Online was announced, I was impressed that she was one of the first vloggers to write a book that was actually a work of fiction and not an autobiography of her life; these feelings quickly changed when I heard that it was ghostwritten, but I’m not writing this to express my thoughts on that.
Over the past few years there have been streams of articles attacking Young Adult fiction. From Variety’s article about the film adaptation of Me Before You (in which the writer disregards the ages of the protagonists and goes on to say “this is another squeaky-clean YA tearjerker built around a princess too good for words, another saintly love story submerged in youthful doom”) to Slate’s article in which the writer says that adults who read teenage fiction should be “embarrassed”, I am getting really really really tired of this “anti-young adult”narrative.
If we put aside the fact the main article is just a very bitter rant about Zoella herself rather than her books – which are mentioned in a total of less than 5 sentences – this is yet another attack on young people and what they choose to read.
I am twenty-three years old and I read a decent range of genres and age ranges but I primarily read YA and I am also working on books within this age group that I hope one day will join the shelves. I choose to mainly read Young Adult, quite simply, because I enjoy it. There’s such a fantastic pool of variety – including important themes -within this category that just isn’t explored outside of it. I adored reading during my school years and was advanced for my age but that didn’t stop me reading whatever I wanted. I was bullied quite a lot for actually wanting to read outside of a classroom and if I’d experienced that and seen articles online saying that one of my favourite authors was the reason so many teenagers were essentially dumb for reading “below their level” it’s highly likely I would have bowed to peer pressure and stopped reading altogether. This narrative is incredibly harmful.
I worked as a Christmas Temp at Waterstones and in my short time there I saw just how well loved she is when parents would bring her books to the counter and tell me how their daughter has finally started reading because of these books, how their daughter stays up reading them. One time when a girl who came to the counter to buy the 3rd book, she asked if I’d read them and I said I hadn’t, she demanded that I buy them when I finished work. She was so animated when she talked about those books. To blame a single writer for the reason teen literacy is declining is an insult not just to her, to fellow authors and aspiring writers of the category, but to her readers. Who has the right to label something “less” or even “simple” just because it’s popular? These people are the first to include Harry Potter as an alternative in their arguments which is actually 9-12 fiction. Though, no one seemed to attack adults for reading them when they were being released.
Quite simply, rather than looking for a single person to blame (unsurprisingly a vlogger which all seem to be the subject of media-based attacks recently), or rather the reason why this is happening. Try to find ways to encourage young people to read rather than attacking the one person who may have made them pick up a book in the first place.
No matter what your thoughts are on Zoella, she is the voice of a new generation. Much like Harry Potter and Twilight in the past, she is getting people reading.
And frankly, that is more important than anything else.