My parents had a simple philosophy when we were growing up: “reading is reading.” They never confined us to a specific section of the bookstore, and they never took a book out of our hands because it wasn’t “age-appropriate.” (Unlike several librarians I can name) Which is why I bypassed what would now be considered the Young Readers section by the age of 8, moving on the Fantasy & Science Fiction section. (Young Adult wasn’t a thing back then)
I’ve held to that philosophy throughout my life. Simply put, I read what piques my interest. I don’t care what section the book comes from. Why should I? I write speculative fiction. My worlds don’t exist in reality. My ideas come from anything and everything. As such, I explore EVERY possibility. That means reading every possibility.
People give me the strangest looks in the store.
I grew up watching Anime. As such, I love Manga. Some I read because I loved the Anime and want to compare the original comic. (If you’ve only ever made fun of Sailor Moon, you don’t know the beauty you’re missing out on) Some are hauntingly bewitching in their art and make me cry no matter how often I read them (Full Moon o Sagashite). Others I’ve become so obsessed with, I’ve started learning Japanese because I can’t stand the fact I have to wait AN ENTIRE YEAR between volumes (Skip-Beat – my sister’s to blame for getting me started on that one).
Japan has light novels, which combine gorgeous drawings with writing. Anime usually follow these creations. They’re shelved in the same section, and I have a host of those I follow. Typically, they’re released faster than Manga, so my wait time is shorter. Sword Art Online was my first obsession here, and I’ve followed the series through multiple story arcs.
But I’m not a teenager, so people stare.
I write in the YA genre. Logic says read what you write. Okay, fuck logic – there’s amazing YA out there. The majority of what I read these days is YA. I stalk certain authors (Cassandra Clare, Rin Chupeco, Sarah J. Maas, S.J. Kincaid, Merissa Meyer) through Amazon so I know when their books are hitting the shelves. While that section isn’t my first stop in the store, I do always end up there eventually. I take risks on new authors in the YA section – something I’m usually loathe to do in other sections. I can’t explain why other than to say the blurbs are more appealing and the cover art is better. (I don’t listen to book reviewers – sorry) The majority of authors I buy hardback books from are YA authors.
However, not a young adult, so people give me strange looks.
And don’t get me started on the alarmed looks when I hit up the Young Readers section. Let me explain something to the uneducated: a book is considered a “Young Reader” because of the age of the characters in the book. That’s it. Which is why His Dark Materials is shelved there, despite the fact the religious debate and concept of duality in human nature are WAY over the heads of most children Lyra’s age. I re-read my copy and marvel every time at nuances I’ve missed (and laugh hysterically that I had to hunt the book down in that section – it is in the YA section now).
Have you ever been over there? There are ENORMOUS books over there! There are amazing books in that section! Read the blurbs sometimes. The worlds an characters – they’re phenomenal! Artemis Fowl is one of the best antiheroes I’ve encountered in a long time! If you skip the section because it’s next to Dr. Seuss (and, seriously, why are you NOT reading Dr. Seuss?), you’re missing out. Brave the looks and walk your butt over there.
Stop reading shaming!
READING IS READING! Where you pick up a well-written book shouldn’t matter. Comics (totally love Spider-Gwen/Ghost Spider and Harley Quinn) your thing? Fine! (If you feel a need to call them Graphic Novels to make yourself feel elevated, whatever works for you) Children’s books? Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is one of the best things I’ve ever read.
I don’t understand this need to put people in a box. Bookstores are OPEN. Libraries are OPEN. Stop shuttling people into sections like cattle. Let people explore and find new ideas, new authors. I put everything I read up on my Goodreads feed – I’m not ashamed! I’M A READER! I pull out anything and everything for my niece and nephew, exposing them to the best books that have crossed my paths. I want them to be readers, and I don’t want them to be afraid to explore.
If you’ve never left your “section” for fear of the LOOKS, try it. You’re missing out by confining yourself. Pick up a new book, a new author. You won’t regret it, I promise you.