You might've seen a recent piece published by Slate outlining exactly why readers should be a little more ashamed about their young adult book consumption. If not, here's the gist: novels written for a teenage audience that are intended to represent realistic relationships (think The Fault in Our Stars, not Divergent) do so in a limited and immature way. According to the author, books like Eleanor & Park tend to have neat, happy endings, thereby making them unchallenging and uncomplicated -- they're for pleasure, whereas adult literature is for ... something else, left unspecified.
Naturally, this stance induced a flurry of "I'll read what I want!" rants (here, here, here and here). These pieces mostly compare YA to other genre fiction, which fans should take pride in rather than sneakily reading e-versions on their coverless Kindles. These counter-arguments, if you can call them that, are so blatantly true that it's difficult to imagine why they're being written. Of course readers should read what they want. Of course not all YA books are created equal. And of course there are smart and important and altruistic and fabulous books being written in every genre. This feet-stamping defensiveness -- declaring "I'm an adult! I can do whatever I want!" without providing a more nuanced critique of what was originally a nuanced (if problematic) argument -- almost proves the author's point. (It also undermines the fact that genre books are not only fun and nothing to be ashamed of, but also in many ways beneficial, both to individuals and society, which I'll touch on below.) Our exposure to books and other media that provide little more than quick hits of pleasure can, at times, make us act like children.