I hate the online YA community. I have for a while, there’s a chance I have since I joined.
At times, it’s been for really shallow reasons like I have basically no following and I never get any response, or any response I want, from publishers, which is probably because of the latter.
Most of the time, it’s because I just feel like I don’t belong here. Why? I mean, I read YA books religiously, I love talking about them, I love promoting them, my room is basically my own, personal library.
I realized recently that it was because there weren’t very many people like me. I don’t mean there weren’t white people. There are usually a lot of white people. Everywhere.
It’s just there were, and are, no teens. Like, anywhere. Which I find pretty weird for the community being, you know, a YA community.
No, everyone was an adult. Everyone is an adult.
Obviously, I’d expected adults. Authors, you know. Also, I’d been to book events, I’d met adult YA readers but overall there were always teens.
So, online, where are they? Maybe, they just don’t care that much, maybe they were never me and never felt the longing to get even more involved. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. Eventually, I thought it might be a “me” thing.
Now, I know that the online YA community just isn’t teen friendly.
Teens are lost in the shadows of adults. Adults who’ve had more time, maybe more finances to build a YA platform for themselves, who’ve been able to buy more books and more stuff to take pretty pictures of that books with. Adults who “know more” because they’re older and therefore, I suppose, more desirable to interact with.
Nevermind the teenagers, the target audience. We’re lost on this community.
Forget, that most teens who actually do take the time to get more involved are actually pretty committed to this stuff. I mean, we’re putting the time in while juggling high school, a social life, family, extra activities, trying to find a job because these days teens are expected to at least look for a job.
But, those of us here, have taken time, out of all of that, to do this. I don’t know about you all, but I’m still impressed when I find a fellow teen who’s actively keeping up a blog, booktube, bookstagram, or anything of the sort.
All of that is null to this community. We’re teens, so, who cares? We have less money to put into building a “good” platform, we have less time, we have more anxiety and stress from school, we have more pressure from family and society to do what we have to do, we’re young, we’re still learning, so we’re less desirable to be around. Our services, our work is deemed less than that of adults who engage in this community.
Of course, I know there are a number of adults who “aren’t all that bad” I’ve interacted with them. Usually, they’re authors who actually remember that they write for teens and not just those adults who dominate the online community.
But overall, I think we’re lost. I see it, constantly. Teens who yell into the void. Teens who are hurt by adult members of the community. And adults who sit by and do nothing, ignoring us because, hey, we don’t have what they have, we don’t have what they’re looking for.
No, no one cares about teens until something is brought to their attention, thrown in their face. Genuinely, I feel like it isn’t until we remind people that in a lot of cases teens are minors that people get involved.
This community forgets us. They forget YA is for us and they shove us out of these spaces. People become upset when we ask for inclusion, they become upset when we raise our voices. They cry when we say “this isn’t right”, and screech until our ears bleed and we need to hide.
And we can’t even hide in a place supposedly meant for us.
Books are for everyone, there’s no denying that, but YA books are for teens. YES, other people can read them, but they’re for us. We want to go on adventures with people our own age, we want to see that we can achieve brilliant things, that our future can be brighter than what we see when we sit in a classroom being shut down by our teachers and even our peers.
We read ourselves doing amazing things (with more inclusion, more teens can see themselves doing those amazing thing). We read ourselves rising above that weird standard society has put on us, being treated as young children but we must act as adults. We see ourselves getting respect, getting power that a lot of times it feels like we’re robbed of.
So, yeah, YA books are for us. And so, by default, should be the community.
Because we read these books, we love them, we hold them close to our hearts, take their lessons into our lives with us.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a community where the same could happen? Where we didn’t find adults who loved YA, ignoring the audience and giving their opinions on something that isn’t for them. Where we didn’t find the authors who wrote these moving stories seemingly intent on pleasing their adult readers, not their teen ones. A place where publishing valued us as much they do an adult with the same amount of followers as a teen.
The bottom line is: change.
Change in YA is coming, there’s no way around it, it’s just something that’s going to happen. It always does.
Half of the people I knew when I started doing all of this have slowly faded into the background or disappeared altogether.
People who clutch their pearls at the idea of being inclusive are disappearing for fear of having to share their space with someone of a difference race, sexuality, gender, etc., are slowly leaving because they, ironically, no longer feel safe in a community that’s evolving to ask for accountability and accurate representation en masse.
I think the change is coming but like with everything else, we have a long way to go before it’s here. There’s a lot of time, I believe, between now and when the online YA community is as close as it can possibly be to safe and comfortable for a teen who wants to join. A lot of time between where people are going to have to do well to remember that this community is first and foremost for teens, that our voices and feelings have value despite our age, despite our lack of funds, small forums, our “pathetic” high school education.
Hopefully, we’ll get there.
And I hope I get to see the day a teen can wonder into the community with our fear or discomfort, get to actively participate in the community without gross stigmas attached.
For now, we’ve got a lot of work to be done.