Tuesday, April 4, 2017

week 13 : young adult, new adult, graphic novels

Speaking as a reader who has only relatively recently delved into the YA and graphic novel 'genres', I have identified with both sides of this debate about the place of YA, NA, and graphic novels in the domain of Literature. As a college student and in the years afterward, I thought that I should be reading Important Books. I tried reading a number of American classics with the assumption that if I had half a brain, then I would enjoy them immensely. But I didn't really enjoy them; I suffered through them, hoping that they'd get better or that I'd get better at "getting" them. At that time, I remember feeling like I had to push myself to grow into 'adult' literature and out of less 'legitimate' literature (as if our reading preferences should follow a prescribed, linear trajectory). 

I had never sought out readers' advisory, formally or informally, and I didn't talk about reading much with friends or family. I didn't know what others actually enjoyed or why. In more recent years, I've found myself surrounded --thank heavens-- by friends and peers who tend to unapologetically read exactly what they please. When a friend raves about the latest YA or graphic novel that they've read, I am reminded once again that these genres can be just as powerful, provocative, and relevant as any other genre. 

I'm grateful to friends for normalizing and promoting YA and graphic novels for me. Librarians have many opportunities to do this same work with patrons. I was struck by the image that Erin posted in this week's blog post; I wonder how much sooner I would have picked up a YA novel if I had seen such a sign on the shelves at age 20. I imagine that librarians can integrate YA, NA, and graphic novels into book displays along with other popular fiction in such a way that the patron may not immediately notice distinctions between genres. 

The integration of these genres can also happen as a part of active readers' advisory strategies. A librarian may choose to recommend a YA or graphic novel to a patron based on their interests, even if they haven't specifically requested a novel of that type. A recommendation of this sort may require a bit of finesse; it's possible that a patron could feel belittled or misunderstood if the librarian doesn't provide some context for suggesting a type of book that is commonly disparaged.


  1. Hello,

    You made a great point about believing that as we grow older and advance in our academics that we are supposed to embrace and study the classics. The themes and readings from our childhood should be left behind. We are beyond that childish literature. Correct? I strongly believe NO.
    Don't get me wrong. I do believe that we should try different and even challenging literature. I have said many times that Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol is my favorite story. I find new insights and enjoyment into this story every time I read it. However, that does not mean that I have to like everything that Dickens's writes. I suffered through his book Great Expectations. I found it a depressing and boring read.

    I consider Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert to be one of the worst stories I have ever read. This is just my opinion, but I think that the character of Emma Bovary is despicable. However, someone else may find the story and this character to be a wonderful and insightful comment on society. Do I judge them for liking this book? No.

    I wonder when I was first told that classic literature is better than YA and graphic novels. Was it in junior high when reading Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare? I actually enjoy some of Shakespeare stories. However, I also enjoying reading stories about Batman in graphic novels. So, in the end I believe that as librarians we should not discourage any type of reading. We should encourage all types of stories and also encourage patrons to branch out in their reading formats.

    Who knows? I may actually enjoy Madame Bovary if I listened to the audio book version or read the graphic novel adaptation.

    Thanks for posting.


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Leah, thank you for sharing your post. I felt the same way when I was in college and after that I should be reading more "important" books, but I didn't have any enjoyment in those. It has came much later for me to truly pick up and read what I want to read.

    You also bring up a good point that as librarians, we might have to use some finesse with patrons for those who undervalue graphic novels or young adult literature. Not realizing how important both of these types are to read, they might have their own preconceived judgments about graphic novels and young adult literature not being quality literature. We don't want to offend these patrons, but we also want all patrons to feel safe in their reading choices.

  4. Very thoughtful, insightful prompt response. I couldn't agree more! Full points!