YA Twitter is a Bottomless Well for Click Bait Articles. Here’s Why…
Last week, and yes, it has only been a week, I woke to a slew of emails about a book called Blood Heir. I had no idea what was going on because I’ve become a happy hermit, but there was a link in one of the emails and I am only human, goddammit.
And, hoo boy, it was a lot.
I don’t want to talk about being tangentially blamed for an event I wasn’t even present for by a fourth rate pseudo-journalist. Instead, I want to talk about bigger systemic issues:
Why is it that people love salacious articles about YA? Why is YA Twitter a bottomless well for click bait articles?
The answer is easy: because it requires nothing of readers but for them to embrace their most basic impulses and wallow in rampant misogyny and racism.
Young Adult publishing is one of the few places within the bookish world where women, and most especially women of color, can thrive. Just last year, women of color dominated the New York Times Bestseller list. The Poet X, a verse novel about a Dominican girl, won both the Printz and the National Book award, the two top honors in YA literature. It was also on the New York Times bestseller list for several weeks. It follows in the footsteps of The Hate U Give, a book that has been the actual definition of a juggernaut. Want to see what a positive future in literature looks like for people of color, especially Black women? Look to YA.
That lends itself to more scrutiny than other areas of publishing, and because YA is geared toward teens, random people who never read YA books feel that they have some claim to the space. Click bait writers can invoke a weird, perverted sense of “think of the children!”, provoking more emotional tinder than just about anything actually related to caring for children. And any kind of criticism, especially loud, vocal criticism by women of color, becomes a lightning rod for conservative outrage. Want to get people like James Woods (who apparently WAS NOT ACTING when he was in the movie Ghosts of Mississippi) all fired up? Point to criticisms made by women of color.
It doesn’t even matter what click bait merchants are criticizing. Throw a woman, or even better, a Black woman, at the forefront of the issue, paint her as being strident and fractious, and the mob will take it from there.
Which is why these click bait articles on YA are so utterly ridiculous: they purport to want to shed a light on the awfulness of online Twitter mobs, but their end goal is to create the exact same conditions they claim to decry. The difference is they want to monetize that outrage for their own personal gain. For click bait peddlers the online mob is only evil until it works in the service of capitalism.
More telling of the existence of these articles and why they will persist is the function they serve. YA Twitter Drama articles hinge on two foundational ideas: one, that the criticism isn’t valid, and two, that the criticism comes from Mean Girl-style antics instead of actual literary analysis. This is why we never see such articles about adult contemporary literature (think about it, no one wrote an article bloviating about how cruel Roxane Gay was when she skewered My Absolute Darling). Because the assumption there is that the critique, no matter how harsh, is intellectually-based. But in YA, because it is overwhelmingly something made by women and girls for women and girls, literary analysis is assumed to be inherently lesser or nonexistent and YA readers are thought to be incapable of understanding nuance or rendering thoughtful critique. This response is only magnified when the lens of race is added.
As long as these articles can validate the racism and misogyny of readers at large they will continue to be written and they will continue to gain traction.
So what is the answer? There is no answer. And there’s the rub. Outrage peddlers will always find a way to weaponize dialogue, no matter what it looks like. It’s up to us to be smarter than that. We have to stay the path of what we know to be true, even if it feels like we’re alone on the road.
No one said revolution would be easy.