And now the NEW YORKER is throwing its rumpled hat into the "can YA be literary" debate. And not doing a very remarkable job of it.
In the comments section, the inimitable John Green points to the same argument I always use when someone tries to define YA as any book with a teen protagonist: Well, then, CATCHER IN THE RYE is YA. Funny, that's not where it's shelved. That would also make Brian Malloy's YEAR OF ICE a YA novel (again, not where it's shelved). Jonathan Safran Foer's EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE becomes a middle grade novel with its 9-year-old protagonist. THE LIFE OF PI was released as an adult novel, shelved in the literature section, until someone realized its crossover potential and a YA edition was later released. Would it have received the accolades it did if it had started as YA? (Sadly, probably not, owing to an excess of snobbery.)
How can people accept that adult literature can fall into literary and commercial categories (and Michael Chabon would argue that even that delineation is an atrocity) but refuse to accept that YA can offer the same depth and breadth of character? Is it simply because it's easier to dismiss that which one doesn't understand? (Well, duh, yes.) The problem, as I see it, is that little effort is made to even start to understand. That the entire YA oeuvre has, in many cases, been condemned on a small sampling. That would be like reading one poorly written science fiction novel and condemning the entire genre as a result.
I've given up being outraged when I see people whose alleged education would suggest they know better than to make blanket statements of condemnation based on their peripheral experience with YA novels. It's not worth my time or energy. It's sad, though, when the media feels the need to present only one view point on the subject. And it's always the one with the weakest arguments.