An article in today’s New York Times book review got me thinking. Alright, it got me hopping mad. Dave Itzkoff was reviewing China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun as well as Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves’ collaboration Interworld, and both reviews were mostly good.
Basically, Itzkoff’s praise focused on the daring, genre-defying boldness of the books. Itzkoff’ applauds the subversion of expectations and can’t help but aim swipe at what he sees as the Potter franchise’s predictable formula. He even goes so far as to ask, “I sometimes wonder what self-respecting author of speculative fiction can find fulfillment in writing novels for young readers.”
Them’s fighting words! To say that speculative fiction writers are somehow above YA writing, is like the band geek throwing spit wads at the mathlete. Just sad.
The truth is that writers of YA are working in all genres – literary, sci-fi, fantasy, crime, romance – and the only difference is that we are trying to create a product that will excite the youth of today. We are building readers by building good, fun stories. We want them to like our books, sure, because we want them to LOVE reading (something that Itzkoff leaves out of his critique – whether the kids will actually like the stories).
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not commenting on either of the books being reviewed. Both are on my bookshelf. And I’m thrilled that the Times is giving ink to genre titles these days, but Mr. Itzkoff’s offhand slam against the entire YA genre made me nearly spit coffee.
Young Adult writing is a net good. End of debate.