While the motivations of the movement for more diverse voices in young adult fiction is commendable—YA fiction, like many other areas of publishing, has its fair share of access problems with regard to class and race—the manifestation of this impulse on social media has been nothing short of cannibalistic. The Twitter community surrounding the genre, one in which authors, editors, agents, and adult readers and reviewers outnumber youthful readers, has become a cesspool of toxicity.
“Young-adult books are being targeted in intense social media callouts, draggings, and pile-ons—sometimes before anybody’s even read them,” Vulture’s Kat Rosenfield wrote in the definitive must-read piece on this strange and angry internet community. The call-outs, draggings, and pile-ons almost always involve claims that books are insensitive with regard to their treatment of some marginalized group, and the specific charges, as Rosenfield showed convincingly, often don’t seem to warrant the blowups they spark—when they make any sense at all.
It often seems like the web consists of nothing but dispiriting stories like this. You could set your watch by the tumbrils as they trundle past each day, carrying a new batch of thought-criminals to the guillotine. On the bright side, though, it’s been years since I’ve seen one of those insipid articles claiming that reading literature makes one a better person and contributes to moral progress. (Speaking of fiction, it would be nice if critics like Singal could stop pretending that the motivations are “commendable” and somehow unrelated to their utterly predictable manifestations, but I suppose that’s just my undying optimism shining through.)