Monday, July 25, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: YA Fiction Vs. OA Fiction

It finally happened when I overheard a forty-four year old man ranting at a twenty-nine year old woman that Twilight was shallow. I can handle adults reading below their level, but not them bitching about it. This jackass probably hadn’t read a Man Booker nominee in his entire life and was griping about stories explicitly marketed to Young Adults.

After that, I decided to write MA Novels. Mature Adult Novels. No, I'd write OA. Old Adult Novels. Not merely great and accessible fiction like Michael Chabon or Max Brooks put out. We’re talking crotchety, crusty, has-read-at-least-two-Dostoyevskys Fiction. Senior Citizen Fiction. If I could, I’d pass a law that you’d have to be eighty-nine years of age to purchase a copy of this thing. There’d be an eye chart, and if you read “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” at the bottom but couldn’t ballpark where it was from, then you win a copy of Hunger Games.

You’d have teenagers, Young Adults, desperately torrenting and sneaking each other copies of Senior Citizen Fiction. Grandma would pirate the e-book, not out of malice, but because she’s not sure she’ll live long enough to hit the age minimum to legally buy it. And you’ve got to have that legal age minimum, not because of the sex or violence, but because this book has an actual level of complexity intended to challenge any adult mind not buried in things explicitly written for their children.

And what I desperately wanted was to look aside from that forty-four year old man, and see his kid. She'd be at his knee, reading OA fiction on a tablet she jailbroke herself, because she's smarter than her dad. He'll still use her as the excuse for why he just had to read four of those damned books, too.


  1. we are getting ridiculous about genre definition... i love the idea of senior citizen fiction. just make it naughty, please. peace...

  2. I would desperately love to believe that I am not yet of the age to understand the great masterpieces because I, like everyone else you called out earlier, look at Crime and Punishment and go "Uh... no?" Perhaps when I am limited to the activites of knitting and reading (which is my retirement plan) I'll finally understand and can get on the list of your book.

  3. I am a little tired of the whole "YA is for morons" and "Adult literature is for deviants" rule. It's really hard to find an intelligent book that doesn't have some of the rape, violence and incest that I find repellant in adult books.

    I'm going out of my way to write intelligent YA and if people think I haven't pandered enough to my primary audience they can stick it in their copy of Eragon.

  4. I haven't run into people treating Adult literature as though it's for deviants. I am certainly annoyed that the crossover in use of terms like "Adult" and "Mature" can confuse the audiences for porn and high art.

    YA is not for morons. It's for Young Adults, and many fully grown adults read it. I don't have a problem with that; I liked the second Harry Potter book and adore Jeff Smith's Bone. Harper Lee and Mark Twain gave us works that could be marketed for YA. As I say, my deep problem is with adults who don't read much, read below their level, and bitch about it.

  5. I agree. It's like complaining that Transformers has no artistic value.'s not supposed to. Twilight wasn't written to be a literary masterpiece. Some young adult fiction is amazing. Some of it is simply entertaining. The same as adult fiction. The same with movies and music. You can't bitch that Bon Jovi isn't Beethoven. Turn off the radio, dammit! Put the book down and go back to the literary section of the book store.

  6. Thanks for making me feel old, john, as I've read more than two Dostoevsky's.

    I do share your frustration with adults who want to complain about the YA novel they read not measuring up to the Cliffs Notes summary of The Scarlet Letter which they read in high school.

  7. Good point, Wisard/Danni. One has to be educated to present an educated argument. Otherwise it's just malcontented whinging from a person who lets the media/world tell them what to read.

    And yes, I'm also tired of saying "Adult Literature — But it's not porn!"

  8. Senior citizen fiction - love it!

    A fellow writer/blogger made a comment about a review someone gave him about his book, complaining that, "it jumped from reality to nonreality." But the book is speculative, fantastic fiction. That's what it was supposed to do, and I think alot of YA novels fall into this trap, with many readers going so far as to call them "immature." Personally, I think YA novels would be some of the hardest to write.

  9. Monica, I'm a little guilty. Any time people say "graphic novel" I want to respond with jokes about porn. But that really is just the pretention of certain comics.

    Chuck, I've read two. We can be old together. Fogy five!

    Danni, I just can't abide adults bashing this stuff anymore. It's an epidemic. At least Transformers does rather explicitly exploit actual adults' childhoods into suckering us in. Didn't work on me, though. Grimlock remains safely in my nostalgia zone.

    Erin, I'm not sure what that trap is. Is it to make readers feel like you have one scheme of reality, then lurch into another? Because that can often indicate broken fiction. What was the context of the reader's complaint? Simply couldn't handle a mix of the fantastic and the real?

  10. Senior fiction. OK, that's the idea of the week. Catheters, naughty old folks creeping from room to room in the old folks home, whodunnits featuring poisoned jello and IVs, brawls involving canes, walkers and false teeth...

  11. So true, John! I enjoy how you use the absurd to make your points.


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