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January 16, 2012


Melissa (Book Nut)

"I suspect that people who can't respect young adult lit also don't respect young adults. I suspect that people who belittle children's literature don't think much of children. I suspect those kinds of adults only respect other adults and wish teenagers would hurry up and become adults already."

Amen. (I suspect that about people who look down on adults who write/read children's/YA literature, too.)


I honestly couldn't even finish this article. SO many things wrong with it. Your points being ones I completely agree with.

It is ludicrous to say that because his books are contemporary and deal with contemporary issues that kids relate to they aren't wrothwhile? It makes no sense.

I was glad to see so many comments against this article.


Thank you, Shannon, for this rant. I'd hardly call it a rant. It was well thought out and well written.

Brooke C.

AMEN! I love your response!

Laurie Edwards

That definitely needed to be said!


What an appropriate response to such a horrible article. The words 'pretentious' and 'dirt bag' were screaming in my head the whole time I was reading his article. I couldn't agree more with what you've written here.

Karen Adair

Amen. Just because the adult years last the longest doesn't mean they're the most important. The teen years are where most people make some of the most life-changing decisions and learn the most about interacting with others. It's what SHAPES their adult years. The more books that reflect these years and celebrate them, the better. It's too short a time period to wish away. I think this guy's just jealous of teenagers. :)

Cindy Baldwin

What makes me continually laugh about arguments like the ones made in that article is this: Most of the classics, when they were first published, were the "popular literature" of their day. "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights" were the "Twilight" of their day. I'm willing to bet that in a hundred years, "Harry Potter" will sit pretty firmly on the table of children's classics. I have my own pretty strong reading preferences, and there are plenty of YA books/series/authors I don't care for for my own specific reason, but I just find it so ridiculous when someone argues that classics are inherently better than up-and-coming fiction. When the classics were written, they, too, were written to entertain!




clap clap

clap clap clap

clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap

(That was my slow clap.) Well said, Shannon!

Rin Isilee

Sometimes I wish there was a "like" button on blogs.


I definitely agree. By disrespecting teen and young adult literature, you disrespect what they are interested in and what thrills them the most.


Don't hate me. While I do agree with you Shannon, I also agree with the article. There neeeds to me a happy medium of both in schools and there are ways to teach the classics that are fun and exciting. I hope to see both going on in education.


I really agree with this post: schools need more reading variety! I'm in 7th grade and am unusual for my age, because I read and enjoy lots of classics like "Jane Eyre" and "Much Ado About Nothing." However I know this is weird for a twelve year old. I have been able to read these books because my awesome parents have read out loud to me since I was little. They also taught me to read my religion's scriptures, when I was little, which really expanded my vocabulary. But the main reason I believe I can love classical books is that I understand 99.99% of the language used by classical authors (again, thanks to Mom and Dad!) Personally, wild horses couldn't drag me away from classical books, but that is because I can truly enjoy them. I know lots of kids at my school who can't define or pronounce most of the words in books written a long time ago. I think that for the main part, having us read YA books would be AWESOME! Though I love classical books, I also LOVE YA books-especially Shannon Hale's! Thank you for speaking out about this, because I think mixing classical and YA books would get kids who hate English to try out classics AND encourage them to read by giving them more recently written stuff. And kids like me, who love reading both types of books, can have fun reading everything!


"We need a kid beaten down by project life, struggling with all her might to rise from the fatal suction of the streets, to open the “Lysistrata” and let out a single laugh. Call me a romantic, an earnest fool, but that laugh could save her."

Because what a girl beaten down by project life REALLY needs is to be told that a woman's greatest weapon is sex, and that withholding sex from men solves all your problems.

I guess I don't know exactly where he was going with that particular argument. I'm a bit baffled.


Years ago, as an English major undergrad in YA and children's lit classes we talked about censorship and also crafting of said literature. Basically, people come out of the woodwork to censor it because HEAVEN FORBID our impressionable children get their hands on something horrible....yet there are so many critics of YA and children's lit that it takes a lot more for them to make it to publishing. It's not just a publishing house--parents, librarians, AND kids that are all going to pass judgment on these books. And when they do turn out to be a great book? They are infinitely better than most books aimed at the adult population. Granted, Homer et al didn't write to get on the NY Times bestsellers list. But today's literature, YA/children's, is something we need and desperately. More and more people are choosing not to read--if we can get them to love reading, who is to say they won't read Homer eventually? There is a place for all types of literature, one is not better than another.
Rant over ;)


I love your response! I think when kids (often especially boys) only read really dense classics in school, they can be turned off of reading completely.


I love this post! Fantastic.

Ruby Diamond

Like the Cybils award promotes, we've got to have both literary merit and kid appeal, to find the best kids' books.


Shannon, this is just gorgeous. Well said.

Abby Minard

This was wonderful. I whole heartedly agree with you. You put it so wonderfully. This is exactly why I read and write YA.


*insert standing ovation here*



Ab.so.lute.ly. :)
Sadly I know adults who completely agree with the article. It's so hard not to smack some sense into them sometime...say, maybe with a hefty volume of the oh-it-was-too-written-to-entertain Shakespeare.


Bless you, Shannon Hale.

Burgandy Ice

Here, Here!!!!!

I'm so glad you spoke out. I totally agree with YOU and even the snippets you shared of whoever else makes me mad.

Gratefully, the Lit teacher at the mid-school thinks a lot like you - I love her!!!


I'm a high schooler myself, luckily almost done, and I must say I agree. I love reading, always have, and I read nearly everything I can get my hands on. I just have to mention, though, that this nonsense that some so called classics teach us all we need to know is riduculous. I learned more from Harry Potter and the Books of Bayern then the gushed over classic Cathcher in the Rye ever taught me (that book is so pointless. Hate me if you must). Though I love some classics (Shakespeare, Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird,Pride and Prejudice) that are read in school, it's how you connect them to today, and how you see today's books reflecting there ideas, and how you take these critical human ideas and apply them to your own life. Sure, we should all read classics, but we should also read modern literature to see these in a different way. After all, the hero's journey was is the story of Beowulf, but Harry Potter is still a worldwide phenomenon, and it helps kids work through language in old classics. I've gone on a bit of rant here too, but I've thought about this a lot. :)


Thanks Shannon (and others who commented) for defending and supporting us teens. And all good literature.

Heather Cromar

The webpage for incoming Oxford University students has a reading list, but suggests that students read a wide variety of literature and then includes this cute tidbit, "even reading Twilight would be helpful." The snobby self-appointed experts seem to think that most reading should be in one of two categories: things written before 1950 or things written by contemporary authors that promote Big Ideas That The Right People Like. Sigh. Thanks for the rant. I love reading classics. I love reading popular fiction. I love reading literature, genre fiction, picture books, adult fiction, and YA. :D


Hear, hear!



I couldn't agree with you more. Thank you, Shannon!!!!!!


I've always felt that most classics are considered such because they are either old (and therefore read simply because of inertia) or highlight the dark, depressing, and therefore "real" philosophy of life. Lots of great books that teach valuable lessons (and not through negative examples) are being written now, but they get routinely passed over simply because they're too new. I disagree with that.

Great post, Shannon!


As an actual Young Adult, I think that we need a balanced meal--while I'm not saying they should shove Hamlet down our throats, I do enjoy Romeo and Juliet, though the morals I've gained from it are not what... One would think they are.
Books are so important to me just because, simply put, without them I'd be failing English, and most of my attitude in life wouldn't be what it is. (I'd be Goth if it wasn't for Sarah Dessen) As the same for my sense of adventure--without Goose Girl, I don't think that I'd be willing to entirely face adventure or change with a stern face and a 'you will SOOO not beat me' attitude. But the classics (Outsiders, Shakespeare, Austin, etc.) don't apply to me so much because they were written in a totally different time. But, they taught me how to associate with other kids my age that come from overseas or different cultures. I think we should balance them, but I think that having newer YA books in the classroom is just as important as having older ones.
You're gonna be one awesome mum when your kids are older. ;) (haha, my mum would have a cow if I got any new, strange ideas...)

Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury

When I was in junior high (now known as middle school), I remember kids sharing copies of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels and telling each other to just "read from here to here," and I knew they were sharing the "dirty parts" with each other.

I have to say that the article writer, by exposing his students to the "filthy" writing in some of the works he had them read, he was certainly NOT elevating them:

"Considering that Martial is so filthy he makes 50 Cent look like Elizabeth Bishop, I probably should have been fired.

"I can’t even reprint a single line here, and there I was reading about fellatio and anal sex to 15-year-olds, barely containing laughter myself. And the next day, kids who I didn’t think had ever stepped into a bookstore came into school toting the book, reading Martial to each other like it was The Source. They had been reciting passages from it on the L train from Canarsie or the 6 train from the South Bronx."

What a hypocrit!

I have to wonder if the POST editors even read his entire article. Sheesh!

Susan J

Also, the examples the author of the article cited are hardly "elevating." Fellatio and oral sex? Really? Dirty jokes are dirty jokes no matter how old they are.

I'm a big fan of Classical lit-- I cut my teeth on the Odyssey in 5th grade-- but come on. The author's point may have been that teens can learn to appreciate Greek and Roman lit regardless of their background, but can't teens also learn to have standards in their reading, regardless of their background? Myers' work reaches out to readers and teaches them something noble and important about human beings. Martial, lets be honest, does not.


Two words:


I remember in 8th grade reading A Tale of Two Cities. I could not get through it - it was horrible! I hated it. I read it again in college and I now proclaim it as one of my favorite books. Classics are wonderful and should be read - but not pushed on too young audiences. I wish that more young adult literature was incorporated into classrooms.


While I agree with your points, I didn't see how they really applied to his article. I didn't see him as being critical of Young Adult literature, but rather just Walter Dean Myer's boooks, and that was because he was writing about what the kids were experiencing. I think it is great that the kids were reading at all, but I can see his point that they were not branching out into new worlds and getting themselves "out of the gutter." I don't think reading Martial was very helpful, but at least he got them reading more.


Also, he wasn't critical of Walter Dean Myers because he was entertaining. He was excited that they kids WERE entertained by the classics.

Callie the Strongbad Fan

Thank you for your message Shannon. Though I think there is a point where classic literature needs to be taught in the classroom, the problem that I find with how English is taught in schools, is that teachers and professors forget that all human beings are different. We all have different tastes because of our different experiences, origins, and such. A lot of academia is addressing the message that "You students have to have the taste to love this classic literature, and if your taste isn't to like the classics, than you are wrong. If your taste is to like that YA book that relates to your life, you are wrong". It's sad. That article wasn't all wrong, as it is good to see kids being entertained by the classics, as many classics are entertaining. But when we teach it in a way that makes it so that reading isn't fun, but a boring chore, that defeats the author's purposes. Even those ancient and medieval writers wrote to entertain audiences, not to bore students.


If this blog was one of those personality tests that end in the question "do you agree or disagree? 1 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree, I would answer 5. Possibly 7. 10 if the proctor would allow it.
Whoever says Shakepseare did not write to entertain either 1) does not enjoy Shakespeare 2) does not understand Shakespeare.
His plays are wrought with dirty jokes and written for the era's "everyday man." And his plays aren't books. They're plays, meaning they were written to make people want to pay a ticket and sit in a theater for two hours for ENTERTAINMENT. He was a 17th century movie writer.
Also, several of the "instant classics" in literature today--Harry Potter, Hunger Games--are written for young adults. It's BECAUSE we enjoy books that we are able to absorb all it has to offer. Books we dislike, are apathetic to, or simply do not enjoy have a tendency to cause a certain level of close-mindedness and we lose some of the message it tries to convey because we don't care. And if you then need someone else to tell you "what the author was trying to say" (I believe you had another blog post about that) then the point is lost completely.


Completely agree on everything. I have always loved YA novels just because those years' decisions are so influential on the rest of your life.

I actually have a pretty lame theory that schools purposely assign the ABSOLUTE WORST books you could possibly choose to ensure that any book you choose on your own will be much more enjoyable, and will, therefore, get you reading.

Darci Cole

I love that a few actual young adults made the comment here that they would actually like a better mix of both modern and classical literature.

For me, I honestly didn't learn much in high school I read a few good books, but not many "classics" and now I wish I had.

another thing I think is important, is that it really depends on the teacher. If the teacher can make a classic fun to read, and help the students understand it, they have succeeded.

Another comment I loved was that reading should be entertaining at first glance, and then reveal layers of emotion/symbolism/lessons upon greater review. I'm a surface reader, and I'm just now starting to delve into the deeper meanings behind some of the books I've loved for years. If I'd been taught how to do this in school, it would be a lot easier on my own - and more fun.

Janette Rallison

I've run into so many people with this it's-only-good-if-the-author-has-been-dead-for-over-a-hundred-years attitude. They show their ignorance by not realizing that those authors wrote to entertain the masses. Just like JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer have done today.


I'm sorry, but Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary practically raised me! Their characters, the world they built, they way they made me care about their word and MY world more taught me the gift of reading -- AND writing. They spurred my love of readint to the point where it became a habit and, eventually, a passion taht remains to this day; if I ever read Bronte or Blake or other "classics" it will be because of the lessons Blume, Cleary and so many children's/YA authors taught me so many years ago. That's the power of a Meyers or a Rowlings or even a Stine; the love of reading at an early age so kids become lifelong learners.


I read the article a couple of days ago and what stood out to me was that the author said that he'd given his students some old book by Martial or someone that was "worse than 50-Cent" and they loved it. Yet how can something worse than 50-cent "elevate" anyone better than a book that was written today and actually has current values and ideas presented and questioned in it? Were his students "rolling on that filthy floor" laughing because it elevated them or because it entertained them? Did they actually take meaning from that? Bah. I rant.
Shannon your response to this article makes me very happy and proud to be a hopeful YA writer!


Read Walter Dean Myers and JK Rowling and Meg Cabot on your own. Read Shakespeare and Austen and Vonnegut and Faulkner in school. I had an amazing AP English teacher my senior year of high school. Until I was 18, I would have completely agreed with this post. But... I think the point of high school english is to introduce students to difficult books and topics, ones they would struggle immensely with on their own. That doesn't mean Myers and Rowling are less valuable than the "classics" - they're just more accessible. And let's face the facts - there's far less critical analysis on those books. A key part to higher level english is understanding and using critical analysis.


Long time reader, first time commentor. :)

I totally understand your sentiment, but I have another viewpoint. This is my third year teaching at a Title 1 school, meaning that most of our students are poor enough to get free or reduced price lunch. I work with the most vulnerable and impoverished population of students. We can barely get the kids to read anything--and many of them cannot read well enough to get through a book by Walter Dean Meyers. I think on one level, we (as teachers) just want them to read, period, and be able to read what they love and enjoy it. Certainly as an adult reader I gravitate towards things I will enjoy and not things that will challenge me.

On the other hand, I have good friends who teach at "good" schools where children are wealthy and, perhaps, overpriviliged. They are reading things and have thoughts and discussions about what they read that would be unfathomable to most of my students. This is not fair. This is not equitable. Students living in wealthy areas attending better schools are being challenged and held to higher standards. They are reading The Odyssey and Hamlet. When they get to college, they aren't asked to read literature for the first time. They are used to discussing it and supporting their viewpoints.

I think we should hold all students to some standard, and I think it should be fair for everyone! There is still some value in reading "classic" literature just as there are plenty of things you can learn about reading and thinking from modern, popular fiction.


Shannon, I am straddling both sides of this argument. As someone who read the classics religiously as a child at my mother's knee, I thought they were great. As an adult, I indulged in all the YA fiction that wasn't "fit to read" and adored it.

I agree with this man's premise that fiction should elevate. I read The Scarlet Letter in high school got in a huge argument with a friend about whether Arthur Dimmesdale was a tragic hero or a dirtbag. I discovered To Kill a Mockingbird and Huck Finn in this same period and reread them often. So, I see the point of the classics.

HOWEVER (I had to make it a big "however"), this man's scope is too narrow. There are great lessons literature can offer and good, meaty, lyrical, heartrending prose that is not limited to the classics. The advantage to YA fiction in the classroom is that these authors have to make the story rich and believable, but still deliver to an audience with a quicksilver attention span. They can't afford to preach or pontificate, and thank goodness for that.

I have a friend who didn't read at all until she found Harry Potter, and now she reads dozens more books than I do every year.

I say light that spark in a kid, and watch the fire burn.


In a hundred years, today's YA lit will be old and so, according to the article, worthwhile. If they'll be tomes of literature a couple centuries from now, why can't they have worth today?


I totally agree. Kudos to you for saying what you think!


Absolutely and amen. Thank you!
-from a Teen Librarian

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