Young adult (YA). What else do I have to say about this genre? More than you think. YA has become a popular point of discussion on the internet because it continually courts controversy.
Many people flock to the genre primarily because it makes a concerted effort to highlight and celebrate marginalized groups. In fact, the most prominent YA reviewers online make it a point to denounce and boycott YA fantasy that does not include at least one LGBTQ character or person of colour.
Many YA readers describe themselves as social justice warriors fighting for greater inclusivity in the genre. The genre attracts vicious debates among woke readers, critics and those who oppose their views. The anti-woke crowd takes offense whenever the YA Twitter mob bullies authors that don’t conform to their way of thinking.
Although, YA authors are just as problematic. They exist not to tell engaging stories but to use their manuscripts to improve the lives of minorities by increasing their representation in publishing.
Interestingly, some of those YA authors have fallen prey to criticism from the same reviewers and critics they usually pander to. Take Amelie Zhao, a Chinese American author who withdrew Blood Heir, her forthcoming fantasy novel, months before it was expected to come out, because the woke mob accused her of racism due to her supposedly tasteless representation of slavery in the novel.
I say ‘supposedly tasteless’ because most of the noisemakers attacking her online did so without reading her book. They based their criticisms of Zhao’s work on the few snippets her haters posted on social media.
Social media tends to exaggerate criticism, tricking you into thinking that a few dozen disgruntled voices are an army of naysayers in the millions. You see this with J.K. Rowling.
Most people that accuse her of bigotry don’t know what she said or did. They merely parrot the sentiments of the people they admire. And yet, Harry Potter sales figures prove that most Harry Potter fans still follow Rowling, despite the common suggestion online that she has alienated most of them.
Authors like Zhao usually make things worse by succumbing to the pressure. Zhao actually agreed with the Twitter mob’s accusations of cultural insensitivity, which is the equivalent of rewarding a child for throwing a temper tantrum.
Zhao sat down and penned the best manuscript her imagination could conjure. The fact that she abandoned it so easily in response to the woke mob on Twitter killed my respect for her.
Woke/social justice discussions are pointless and tiresome, which partially explains my hesitation to read YA. I read for fun, not to listen to lectures about society’s ills. I dislike authors who prioritize social commentary in their storytelling.
But YA is obsessed with social commentary. Or, at the very least, you have a vocal minority that frequently dominates online conversations by using social media to amplify their outrage. Even more infuriating are the readers that adopt that outrage blindly as opposed to reading some of these books and making independent decisions.
Fortunately, younger audiences are pushing back against this mindset. The millennial crowd that drives these silly debates in YA is no longer cool. Once upon a time, they were the rebels, embracing woke culture in a society that celebrated conservative values.
Now, the woke mindset is the status quo. Woke critics and writers have become mainstream, and the next generation is doing what they always do; rebelling, pushing back against the social justice insanity they routinely encounter today.
Hopefully, they will change the current trend in the next few years, creating a comfortable environment that allows authors to tell the stories they want to tell without falling prey to the pressure woke critics are so eager to apply.