Wednesday, June 8, 2011

This post was supposed to be about Keith Haring, but it turned into a rant about YA fiction.

I read My Heartbeat Garret Freymann-Weyr when I was in high school.  At the time books from the YA shelf were my guilty pleasure.  I used to feel the need to hide them.  "I'm actually just... er-- reading... uhm, Great Expectations... again."  In those days, I did read a lot of leisure reading of the classics and even liked them: Jane Eyre, East of Eden, The Sun Also Rises, Catcher in the Rye, In Dubious Battle, and others.  I also read a fair amount of contemporary prose Catch Me if You Can, Angela's Ashes, White Oleander, etc.  There wasn't anything wrong with these books, but some of the time I just wanted to read about a person not completely overwhelmed with existential angst.  Also, the books in the YA section are usually a lot shorter in length so it was nice to get a break in between James Joyce's hefty Portrait of a Lady (which I never finished, oopsy).

My Heartbeat
My Heartbeat.
Cover copyright by the Estate of Keith Haring.

Just to point out, while I was in my YA shelf phase I was NOT reading the Gossip Girl series.  I did read one out of curiosity, and was completely put off.  It wasn't the references to promiscuous sex and materialism as a lifestyle choice that I had problems with, although I know when it came out many parents had a problem with these books because of such "themes."  The writing is just plain BAD.  The plot, dialogue, and character development were so shallow I actually felt insulted that someone (yes, I'm talking to you, Cecily von Zeigesar) even wrote this and had the audacity to publish it so that the possibility of a teenage-me might be curious enough to read it.

A lot of my shame that stemmed from YA books is that since a lot of the bestselling books like Gossip Girl are so terribly written, the whole lot of them are assumed to be terrible as well.  And then there's that other problem that some kids get trapped reading only YA and never voyage out into the other shelves, and that to me is just plain scary, when I think about the average reading level in the United States being that of an 8th grader.

As for me, I'm finally at the point of No-Shame where I feel old enough to go back and read some YA fiction in peace, and recently I read Chobsky's Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I LOVED it!  The writing was very appropriate and awesome for someone in high school.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Perks of Being A Wallflower.  Loved it!

I was googling book reviews of My Heartbeat since I did say in the beginning that I haven't read it in awhile, and came across this blog,'s review of My Heartbeat.  In the blog post, the author talk about how she's not fond of Keith Haring's artwork.  Which is funny, because I remember thinking the exact same thing when I first read the book.  Only I thought that I didn't like the cover, since I didn't know who Keith Haring was to feel any which way about his art.

I didn't even know who Keith Haring was.  Back then, I wasn't even so interested in art much, as I thought I'd go off to college and major in English or become a nurse or something else that didn't involve me making pictures of things...

Ignorance = Fear, 1989

So years later, now that we all know how I ended up in art school, and I come across a bit of Keith Haring and can actually appreciate the sophistication of his art and what he was trying to do with it, I realize, "Wait a minute.  There was a book I liked years ago, and I hated the cover... Whoops."  

This post was supposed to be about Keith Haring, but it turned into a rant about YA fiction.  My bad.  But I did end up reading a nice blog post about Haring on

**Writing about Keith Haring also just reminded me of the good man Paul Thek.  

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