Wednesday, October 10, 2012

YA- Not Children's, Not Adult

I don't want to add to the argument because I feel there have already been some very intelligent comments that convey what I want to say in a much more eloquent way. What I do want to do is look at this comment from author Isaac Marion.

"I just think it's a ridiculous, pointless category. "Children's" is a useful category because it tells people it's written at a young reading level and doesn't contain any objectionable content. "Adult" is a useful category because it tells you it's not "Children's". YA is a useless category because teenagers and twentysomethings can and SHOULD read whatever the hell they want."

Let's not argue even more about the other quotes- of course I'm offended because I'm a teen reading YA. If you focus only on this quote, it raises a pretty greet discussion topic. What is YA and how is it different from Children's, Adult, or even this new genre, NA? Why does the genre YA even exist?

I'm starting with the obvious. I disagree 100% with the idea that YA is a useless category. As a teen (so, someone this applies to) I read different genres and levels. I read some MG, mostly YA, and some adult if it piques my interest and it's the type of thing I'm comfortable reading. Because let's face it, maybe I'm slightly prudish, but there are some stuff that I'm uncomfortable reading about. It's not only the overly descriptive sex acts in some books, but also reading about aging (I'm 15 and wrinkles and stuff is not something I even want to consider at this point, marriage (doesn't interest me) or having children (nope) are all stuff that I wouldn't ever pick up this year, next year, or even the year after. I can't relate to that stuff.

I'm not being stupid here. I know that those are only a few example of topics and characters in adult reads. In all honesty, I want to read about people my age, or a little bit older/younger with the same mentality and POV as me.I want to real about real life the way I believe it's real. So yeah, I want to read about my age group. YA facilitates that. I can read about people I relate with. I don't relate with people starting careers at this point: I want to read about high school, or maybe even university. I want books that are mature, or silly, with substance, or fluff, I don't care. I want both. I don't want to have to search through an entire library for a book that appeals to me since I'm living in an in-between stage. I don't want to feel a little out of place searching through books with my six year old sister in the kids section, or beside my mom in the adult ocean. I love having a section just for me- a section I can feel comfortable in. A section that doesn't necessarily belong to my age group, but one I'm welcome in.

People don't one day change from children to adults. There is a transition and that in the book world is YA. People should read whatever the hell they want to read (I agree), but if a librarian or bookseller feels a book can be something a YA audience will enjoy because it's about topics they'd care about, no matter who it's written for -- adults or children -- it has a right to be shelved in YA.

YA is that transition stage between Children's and Adult, and the beauty of that is that so many books have crossover appeal. I do not believe a book is either only a Children's read or an Adult read: they can be both. A book can be read by multiple audiences. The very powerful books do just that.

So YA, as defined by me: book that could appeal to teens. Frequently features common themes in teenage life (e.g. dealing with relationship, school, social pressure, coming of age). May or may not be about youth.

Those are just a few terms that I thought of though there are probably more. To be a YA novel, in essence, all a book has to do is be enjoyed by teens. 

This definition is one I really like. YA isn't dumbed down stories vocabulary-wise with no substance and full of fluff. YA is also not only mature, classical reads. YA can be anything, just like teens. Some teens are more mature, some... less. Just because a book is shelved YA doesn't mean it can't appeal to other age groups. Just because a book is shelved YA doesn't mean it will appeal to all teens. Just because a book isn't shelved YA doesn't mean it won't appeal to YA readers.

I think that all readers are good enough at finding books that appeal to them, so in general maybe shelving books in multiple sections is a good idea. Labels are useful means of organizing stuff, but they're not absolute. Sometimes they're given way too much power when the only thing about a book that should matter is the actual content.

I feel like if we just shelved books where we thought people would enjoy them everyone would be happy. Some books not specifically YA should be shelved in the YA section (like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter) and some books that are YA should be shelved in other sections (Code Name Verity comes to mind).

What do you think?


  1. First of all, we love these lines from your post:

    "I love having a section just for me- a section I can feel comfortable in."

    "People don't one day change from children to adults. There is a transition and that in the book world is YA."

    Second, to answer your question... We agree with your definition of YA, and we don't. We definitely don't agree with HIS (the opening quote) though! Because no one is trying to say that teens should ONLY read YA (which seems to be what he thinks labels are for -- limiting -- WRONG!).

    The YA label is more like what you said: helping people understand the tone and themes of the story inside.

    But (and this is where we disagree with you) that doesn't mean that EVERY book that teens like is YA. Ex: lots of teens like PRIDE & PREJUDICE by Jane Austen, but that's really not a teen book. (It could arguably be New Adult, though...) It's not about forming an independent identity (basic overarching YA theme); it's about marriage and society and establishing the path of one's future (adult themes). Instead we think you would classify it as a "cross-under" book -- an adult title that greatly appeals to teens. Kind of like the (brilliant! beautiful!) NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern.

    So yeah. YA is an imprecise label, and it's probably still shifting as more readers and writers enter the discussion, but you've definitely got your finger on its pulse. ;)

    1. You're right, I didn't think about that. I was trying to figure out a good definition for YA but that's incredibly hard to do. YA is shifting- ultimately it doesn't matter what it is, as long as we enjoy reading it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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