Today’s topic is one that has been floating around for a while. I am going to talk about Adult Encroachment in the YA Community. Now, I want to preface this post with a disclaimer. I am an adult. I am biased in that way. This is a general rebuttal. This is not aimed at any teen blogger in specific, or even teenage bloggers in general. This is about dismantling the ideas behind the attitude. I may be walking down Unpopular Opinion Avenue here, but I implore you to join me.
**NB: This post is not about the actual safety of teens from sexual predators disguised as authors. (This is a topic that has been very prevalent in the book community in the last 24 hours) That is a right every person – especially teens – should have. Full stop. I am talking about some other items that have come up in discussion.**
The basics behind this Great Debates is that adults are making a mess of the YA community. We are guests in a teenage space, and we are tracking mud on the carpet. The biggest principle that keeps being brought up is that YA books are for teenagers, and so we should be looking to said teenagers for everything to do with YA books. Some ways that adult encroachment has apparently affected the YA community:
- Book awards are judged by adults.
- Festivals, conferences and events are curated by adults.
- Podcasts, panels, articles are written by adults.
- Teens feel talked over, and like their opinions don’t get traction unless they are boosted or supported by an adult blogger.
- All of the “top” bloggers are adults.
- Teenagers feel unsafe voicing their opinions, as adults hold the reins.
There is definitely more that can be done to make the YA community and all of its trappings more centered on teenagers. Having teens on award committees, giving them the floor at panels and events to ask their questions, and giving them the credit they are due when they voice their opinions. Teenagers are not dumb, and if you ask them their opinion on books, they know what they are saying. I love that dedicated spaces for teenagers to chat about YA books exist. (There is a hashtag on Twitter, which I can’t remember off the top of my head.)
My niece is a newly inducted member in the teenager club, and I really love hearing her thoughts on books, because she very often doesn’t see the same things I, at 30, do. And this is an important thing to foster, across all topics. This is also why I take some issue with the people who push for the boycotting of certain YA books. You are an adult, and you are reading the book as an adult. I can almost guarantee that your teenage counterparts are not going to see the same things you are.
However, some of the expected and proposed accommodations are beyond what could be considered reasonable. Teenagers are busy. High School, while not as important as some of the teachers would lead you to believe, is still really important and formative. Some teenagers work as well. I am going to go out on a limb and say that most, if not all, teenagers are too busy with their school, home, and social lives to dedicate time to reading 30 books in a short period for an award selection. They probably don’t have the several months it takes to plan a convention. And while they have the real life experience, they lack in the training sometimes needed. The sheer amount of work and special skills that it takes to do these things is not to be scoffed at.
This brings me to blogs and stats and the like. I have a hard time maintaining a schedule, and I only work 20 hours a week. I don’t go to school. I don’t have homework. I don’t have an active social life that demands I do things every night. I have a lot of respect for teenage bloggers who maintain a good blogging schedule with their other commitments. There is also a monetary component to it. I pay a lot of money for things like my domain name, hosting, and graphics. And disposable income is not something that a lot of teens have access to for any number of reasons. It is one of the privileges of being an adult. Free blogs simply do not get the same level of traffic and search engine optimization that paid ones do. Is it unfair? Sure. But it isn’t unfair to just teenagers.
Also, can we take a minute and acknowledge that book sales are why publishers exist? So yes, your favorite events are probably going to be centered around sales. It sucks that you generally don’t have disposable income as a teenager, but this is one thing that is just not going to change. Sales are how authors make money to write more books, and to expect events to not try and sell books is preposterous. However, I do feel that the basic financial accessibility (see: admission prices, travel costs, etc.) of these events needs to be addressed across the board, not just for teens.
I also really feel like this attitude of adults being “guests” in the YA community is part of why so many adults are ashamed to admit to reading YA books. I’ll be damned if I let anyone belittle me for reading and reviewing YA books as an adult.
It is really important to remember that YA books are written specifically for young adults. That doesn’t mean that adults don’t get to read them or have an opinion. We are not guests. And it is really important to remember that adults do have certain privileges like free time, advanced training, and financial status. While adults need to be aware of the best interests of the teenagers these books are targeted at, teenagers need to recognize that they aren’t always the best people for the job just because they are the target audience. We need to learn to work together instead of against each other.
The bottom line is that if you want to add your voice to the community via articles, podcasts, etc. you need to put in the work. There are no exceptions, and no shortcuts. Boost your work, apply to the online publications (remember that there are labor laws that apply, and that is not something we can really change) and good luck!
How do you feel about adult encroachment in the YA community? Are you an adult or a teenager?
Please remember that this is a safe space, and any comments not respecting other commenters and their opinions will be deleted without warning. Repeat offenders will be banned from commenting.
Stay bookish, lovelies! ♥