To bursts of nervous laughter, YA author Anthony McGowan kicked it off by citing Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of YA was crap, pandered to by an audience that treated the whole thing as a “this kind of amorphous quasi religion”, more of a cult than category. He lamented speaking to “monocultural audiences” of white, older women at YA conferences. Some misogynistic, cause-and-effect musing began: most YA bloggers were women, all his editors were women, “so there is a huge amount of energy directing these kinds of texts, texts that may well appeal to women in their 20s and 30s rather than to teenagers. We’ve got this female-dominated world producing texts that reflect themselves, for other young adult women,” he said, perhaps unaware of the significance of making links between gender and perceived quality.
YA may not be a genre (it is a category, as is so often sighed), but the debate devolved into a value judgment regardless, as debates around genre so often do. “I don’t think adults should read YA stuff,” McGowan argued, as authors such as Elizabeth Wein and Philip Womack disagreed. “I think they should move on and read Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky or Dickens and stop reading Twilight and The Hunger Games,” McGowan said. “It is part of being a grown-up, you leave those things behind.”
You should also read McGowan’s more nuanced take on this subject here: