Beware the “best of” lists

Well, take the “best of” lists with a grain of salt. Especially Slate’s best books of the year list. Now, I’m not sure why I still peruse Slate’s articles. There have been a handful of interesting articles in the last two years. One was today about high school teachers using The Help to teach about the Civil Rights Era and Movement. Yikes. (Why last two years? I know because two years ago Christopher Hitchens who frequently wrote for Slate, died. His death and the quality of the magazine going downhill a coincidence? I think not.)

Anyway, I was reading their best books of the year list the other day and barely made it halfway through before it started making me mad. This has nothing to do with the books themselves, coincidentally, but the way the recommendations are written. First up, Katharine Goldstein’s recommendation of The Yonahlosse Riding Camp for Girls, a book which I haven’t read: “Don’t let the fact that this novel is set at a boarding school and features a 15-year-old protagonist fool you into thinking it’s for young adults—this alluring and engrossing tale is suspenseful, vivid, and erotic.” (Italics from me.) Watch out! Don’t be fooled and tricked into reading a young adult book because if you read one of those, everyone will think you’re immature and annoying and stupid! Like teenagers.


This reminds me of when I saw Karen Healey, A.S.King, and Malinda Lo at the Lexington Library. The moderator posed some question, I can’t remember it exactly, about how the press has recently picked up on the fact that adults read YA and how everyone thinks it’s weird. Karen Healey, excited and angry, grabbed the mic and said something to the effect of, “That’s because teenage girls like YA and teenage girls are worthless in the eyes of our culture. If teen girls like it, it must be stupid.”* It’s so true. Talk about a group that everyone loves to hate on because culturally teenage girls are shallow, slutty, vapid, bitchy, vacant, lazy, over sexualized, and stupid. There is little place in our culture for teenaged girls to be accepted and acknowledged for how amazing, caring, intelligent, smart, and funny they are in a world where that is not expected of them at all.

So, I’m already mad about that comment when I browse on down to Rachel Larimore’s recommendation for Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which I can definitely wholeheartedly recommend: “This chilling story looks like something you might pick for your youngster, befitting a work from the author of Coraline and the Sandman comics series.” Wait, are you saying you’ll give your ‘youngster’ Coraline AND Sandman? Coraline is scary enough but at least it’s written for kids, Sandman however is not. Perhaps the writer is trying to say it’s not for kids like Coraline is, but is creepy like Sandman? Either way, I’m a little concerned they might not know either of the works. (Full disclosure: I’ve only skimmed through the Sandman comics but that’s enough I think to be able to say that they are not for children.)

Anyway, that’s my mini-rant for the day for you. Any books you’re seeing on the best of lists that shouldn’t be there or should be there and someone just wrote something stupid about it? Let me know and hope you all had a good Thanksgiving!

*Side note: I have not read any of Karen Healey’s books, but this comment made me want to. And maybe be her friend.



2 thoughts on “Beware the “best of” lists

  1. Anna, I think I love you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. Particularly the part about how society looks down upon teenage girls. You’re absolutely right. I’ve been defending YA lit for a while, but haven’t always understood why people feel they need to hide the fact they read YA lit. And now I do. And we, as librarians, need to tell people, “Hey. It’s ok. This is good stuff. Yes, teenage girls like these same books, but you know what? Many teens not only have good taste but they have opinions and brains and believe it or not, often know what they’re talking about. So read that book with pride, my friend!”
    Thanks again, Anna. You rock.

    1. Holly, I love you, too!!! Thanks though, really! I love that you support my rants. But seriously, it was Karen Healey who said this so succinctly and correctly. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why the “culture” thought it was so weird that people liked YA until she said it. It was such a true statement that it made me tear up when she said it. That’s why I do this – because I don’t want those teens, girls or boys, to think that everyone thinks they are stupid. I think they are great. Thanks for your support!

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