Value, Love, and Book Snobbery
It must have been a slow few months in the literary world, because an old favourite debate topic seems to have risen its ugly head. Book value. Book merit. Art versus popularity.
Some bloggers, critics and general people are annoyed that adults read YA fiction. I’ve read a few of these blog posts and the responses to them. I tend to try and ignore these debates, but sometimes it’s like driving past a car crash. You can’t help but stare.
As well as staring, I’ve felt the prickles of annoyance building. No one likes to have their work devalued. No one likes to hear negative opinions about something they love. When I was a teenager I would have monthly obsessions with various bands or books. I’d then Google everything and anything I could find about those bands, read up on their history, and read all their reviews. Whenever I read a scathing review on something I loved, it spoiled it. Whenever I got into a fight with someone whose opinion I valued, and they told me why they hated something I loved, it spoiled my enjoyment for that song or book.
It took a while, but I began to learn that we all have different opinions on what holds value, and just because someone else hates it, it doesn’t detract from the value you hold for what you love.
When YA is devalued, it’s because someone dislikes it. A lot of readers who hate YA compare it to literature, often classics within literature. Now, a classic book is a rare and beautiful thing. But, you have to hold in perspective that a classic book is often judged as a classic by people with opinions. It just so happens that the opinions of these people in particular are deemed as ‘important’ and therefore louder than other opinions. That’s cool. Maybe these people really are more qualified to tell us what’s good and what’s not good. Maybe they are what the world needs.
Maybe the world needs all these lists of the ‘best books ever’ and ‘books to read before you die’. Maybe we need awards to tell us which books to buy.
But if you love something, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. You love it and you hold it dear and you keep it for yourself because love is more valuable than opinion.
We’re all entitled to our opinions, and we can shout them as loud as we want. It might not make us very popular with others, but we can shout them and claim they are the ‘right’ opinion. I’m giving you my opinion now, it’s biased and clearly shining through the words I’m writing: I don’t like book snobs.
I don’t like people who are concerned with what other people read. If you hate a book, good for you, but don’t judge other people for reading it. Or do, whatever, but know how immature it is to do that. It’s immature to believe the world should be exactly how you want it. It’s immature to believe that people should like what you like, and that they should value what you value, and that your opinion is the ‘one true opinion’.
And this is coming from a reformed book snob. I judged Harry Potter readers and now I feel bad about it. Now I know what a sneery little tool I really was. I apologise, adult-Harry-Potter-fans, because now that I’ve read the series, I see why you loved it, and now I love it too.
I love loads of things other people hate, and I don’t care anymore. I enjoyed Twlight and 50 Shades. Yep.
But I also enjoy Hemingway and JD Salinger. I enjoy them in different ways. I’m proud to say that The Hunger Games had as much effect on my desire to write as The Handmaid’s Tale did.
There are books that have absolutely no value to the literary world, that were universally panned, or dismissed as cheesy nonsense, that I read as a teenage girl and loved, and will always love. These books are ingrained in my memory. I’ve never had the kind of mind that retains quotes, but I remember how they made me feel. They shaped me as a human being. They didn’t need literary value to shape me. I took from them whatever I needed. Just read. Hold the words dear, and don’t let anyone tell you what to love.