Just Own It. Life’s Too Short For Judgment

I’m going to keep this Monday morning missive short on words but heavy on thinking material.

Last week, Slate ran an article basically suggesting that adults who read YA books should be embarrassed. I won’t add the link because really that’s all you need to know. The whole thing was crap. Total crap. And, as you can imagine, it made a lot of people in the YA community very, very angry.

This isn’t a YA blog. Most of us here at Mysteristas don’t write in that category at all. But this is an important topic for mystery writers. Because occasionally, just like adult romance writers, we get called out by our own writerly kind for being … soft. Not literary. Fluff. Published solely for the for pure entertainment value.

Which is ridiculous.

But there it’s there in black and white in articles just like the one that bashed YA last week. There are plenty, but honestly, it’s worse when it comes from one of us. The most recent and horrible example being comments Isabel Allende made about mystery writing on the eve of the release of her book, Ripper. Which is a mystery, by the way. That she wrote because her agent thought it would be a good idea. Her words to NPR:

“The book is tongue in cheek. It’s very ironic … and I’m not a fan of mysteries, so to prepare for this experience of writing a mystery I started reading the most successful ones in the market in 2012. … And I realized I cannot write that kind of book. It’s too gruesome, too violent, too dark; there’s no redemption there. And the characters are just awful. Bad people. Very entertaining, but really bad people. So I thought, I will take the genre, write a mystery that is faithful to the formula and to what the readers expect, but it is a joke. My sleuth will not be this handsome detective or journalist or policeman or whatever. It will be a young, 16-year-old nerd. My female protagonist will not be this promiscuous, beautiful, dark-haired, thin lady. It will be a plump, blond, healer, and so forth.”

Even though she apologized, it’s not like she can take those words back. And I know plenty of people who won’t read Ripper or any of her other books now out of spite.

My point here is that no matter what we choose to read or write, I think we should own it. Don’t you? Life’s too short to judge ourselves by what we find entertaining and it’s certainly too silly to judge others for what they like either.




11 thoughts on “Just Own It. Life’s Too Short For Judgment”

  1. Well said, Sarah. I’ve read lots of YA – from Harry Potter to The Fault in Our Stars. Heck, I’ve even read Rick Riordan’s Olympian series, which is technically middle grade. I read mystery/thriller. I’ve read the occasional romance, and I still read Jane Austen. I’m proud to read it all. People read for many reasons and no one should be judged or shamed for them.


  2. Wow. Yes, definitely. Fabulous post! And seriously, how did I miss Allende thing? Certainly I’ve put my foot in my mouth more than once, but not for an entire interview. . .reading is good the body and soul, regardless of the material. It’s taken years to convince schools that children reading graphic novels are still reading, and they should support that. These sorts of shaming/judging events are harmful on so many levels.


  3. Wow, indeed! I have encountered enough eye-rolling, just because I love to read genre fiction, that I’ve deliberately turned a blind eye toward such criticism. They just reflect incomplete information. When I first read the Allende comments, I attributed them to naivete about the mystery field. She’s not a mystery writer. It’s annoying that she would try to write something she doesn’t enjoy reading! Why would anyone do that? But since I have liked her work, I acquired Ripper (in the original Spanish), and I am slogging my way through. It doesn’t read like a mystery, but is more Allende-esque.


  4. It seems like writers should be supportive of what we all do, and I’m constantly surprised when that’s not the case. Is it a superiority complex? I don’t know. But you’re right, it says more about the speaker than the subject.


  5. Oh, boo, hiss to the idea of adults not reading YA. I just came from the Moravian Writers’ Conference where Laurie Halse Anderson was a keynote speaker. She writes YA and the books are topical, smart and brave. I now want to read them all.

    Atwood said much the same thing about sci fi/fantasy when she wrote in that genre.


  6. Fabulous post, Sarah! I didn’t know that about Allende and I’m wondering what the reasoning was for writing a novel in a genre that she doesn’t read or care for. Also interesting that the best-selling genres are mystery, sci-fi/fantasy, and YA.

    Re: Atwood, although she did clarify that she was writing speculative fiction (as opposed to hard sci fi), she did not call it her work (or the genre) a joke.


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