Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What is YA?

What is YA?
A Musing on the Genre 
by Hopeless Wanderer

With both New Romantic and Truly Becoming out of town, and thus out of internet connection for the week, I've taken over the blog, until Sunday.  And because I've caught up on all the reviews for books that I've read recently I wanted to talk about something else:

The YA Genre.
This is a blog geared mostly towards YA.

Recently (about seven months) ago I bought a KindleTouch, and since then I've spent countless dollars buying books on Amazon instead of moving my butt into the library.  I honestly can't remember the last time I went into the library to check out a YA book and not a book for a paper.  Anyways, I digress.

The point is:  I found it interesting that when I would go into the library a lot of the books that I had found on Amazon listed under "YA" or "Teen" were actually in the Adult section.  Why is that?  I thought.  What makes a book jump from YA to Adult?

The YALSA and ALA (and wikipedia) define YA as the following: "a young adult as someone between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Authors and readers of young adult (YA) novels often define the genre as literature as traditionally written for ages ranging from twelve years up to the age of eighteen, while some publishers may market young adult literature to as low as age ten or as high as age twenty-five. The terms young-adult novel, juvenile novel, young-adult book, etc. refer to the works in the YA category."

Okay, except that I'm over the age of eighteen and I really only search the 'Teen' category on Amazon.  I'm not alone here, and I understand that.  But sometimes I wonder, do we need a new category?  Maybe something to split up the younger YA and the older YA? So that when I read some YA I don't do this:

I love books about kids in college, books like Providence, and Flat Out Love, but recently in an article written by Jessica Park she expressed that the age of the main character in Flat Out Love was "categorically too old" at eighteen (source) for the novel to be published in the current YA market. Okay.  I understand.  YA are geared to kids in Jr. High and High School.  
But what about those books about college students that still fit into the young adult class of theme, language, and plot structure?  It seems to me, though I haven't done a lot of research, that they have a harder time getting published because they don't fit into any genre.

So here's what I think:

Why not create a genre for them? Split things up, so that you have Juvenile books ranging from ages 8-15 and YA ranging from 15-25.  Of course I know that I'll be reading YA, probably for the rest of my life, long after I'm 25 I can assure you, but I don't feel like it's okay to be loosing out on great stories because characters are "categorically to old" for a genre.  I don't like this idea of "rating" YA books either because I'm not sure that you really can. Books aren't movies, and things can be stated different ways to mean different things.  Writing is so subjective.  Would I let my future 13 year old read all of these titles?

No, probably not, but I wouldn't want to hinder then once they got older either.  Over the past few years the YA genre has really started to grow-up and transcend age.  Which means that a lot of things that wouldn't have been okay in what technically is YA is okay now.  This isn't a bad thing, it's just a statement at where the world is going.  Right now there isn't a balance, and I feel like there needs to be one.  We're loosing out on good books, while letting bad things happen to younger kids in books because said characters are not "categorically too old".

Flat Out Love is one of my favorite books, and I shudder to think what Ms. Park would have done if she didn't self-publish.  It's such a great book how it is, and I believe that there are more great books out there trying to find a way to be published, when the audience is already here! (seriously though, I'm like, right here)  The genre-naming people just haven't caught up yet.

This musing does not reflect the general views of all reviewers on The Pie Bookery, it was written solely by me, Hopeless Wanderer after a trip to the library.

Note added by New Romantic:

I work at the local public Library and know the in and the outs of why our libraries categorize the books the way they do. I recently read Finnikin of the Rock and in our county libraries it is considered Young Adult. After talking with the branch manager about the content of the book, she realized that Finnikin of the Rock should actually be cataloged under "Adult".
Here is what my county library considers to be the difference between YA and Adult (it may be very different for other libraries around the world, I'm just adding my two cents worth)

1. Young Adult follows characters that are between the ages of 13 to 18.

2. Adult books generally follow characters that are 19+

3. If the book is YA and has questionable content. (such as too much kissing, touching, or anything 'blush-worthy' as we like to say; however if it is happening in a 'school related setting' it is still cataloged as YA.)

4. Now for an example of 'blush-worthy' content in a 13-18 year old  age range but the book is cataloged as Adult is Graceling. The characters are under 19 but there is a specific blush scene outside a 'school related setting' that makes it Adult.

As for why Finnikin of the Rock should be cataloged as Adult (according to our library standards) is because the characters are 19+ and there is quite a bit of 'blush-worthy' scenes that do not take place in a 'school related setting'.

I definitely agree with Hopeless Wanderer that YA is such a hard genre to pinpoint. When patrons come to me and ask me about the Young Adult genre, I tell them there is a really fine line and they should tread the waters cautiously.

When I am finding books to read and review for this blog, I usually use Goodreads, the Young Adult section of Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.
I will read YA books til I'm old. (I too am in my twenties). They have such a wide range of stories to be told and they keep us on our toes.

Again, this doesn't reflect the general views of all reviewers on The Pie Bookery, it is just me, New Romantic adding in my two cents.

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