Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, created and hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion, where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts. You can check out more about this meme here!
Today’s topic is about the Young Adult genre and what categorizes a book as being “YA”.
WHAT MAKES A BOOK YA
Defining what makes a book Young Adult is not an easy task. There are no set boundaries for classifying a book as YA vs. Adult and many times the line between those two genres is blurred. I find that is especially true concerning fantasy books, rather than contemporary or romance which are pretty easy to differentiate between YA and Adult. While there is no hard and fast rule for Young Adult books, for the most part they tend to have the same guidelines:
✨ Intended Audience – This is the most important factor for determining whether or not the book is YA. Who is the author’s intended audience? Most YA books are written for teenage readers aged between 13-19.
✨ Character Age – Here is a big difference between YA and Adult books: the age of the protagonist. In YA books, the main character(s) are always aged somewhere between 13-20. While Adult novels can also feature characters in the age group, they typically also characters older than 20.
✨ Themes – Most YA books have themes that resemble coming of age, such as self-discovery, friendship, sexual exploration, first loves, and family relationships.
ARE BOOKS UNFAIRLY CLASSIFIED AS YA
There is no doubt in my mind that books are unfairly classified as Young Adult, especially fantasy books. However, there seems to be a pattern among the books that are unfairly classified in YA instead of their intended Adult:
✨ Female Fantasy Authors – Female authors who write SFF are almost always unfairly categorized into Young Adult. I’ve noticed that this happens less often if they have an androgynous name or if they use their initials.
✨ Authors Who Have Previously Written YA – A prime example of this is Jay Kristoff and Victoria Schwab, who both write YA and Adult books. Because they write in both genres their Adult fantasy books frequently get categorized into YA. It doesn’t matter that they announce ad nauseam not to place certain books under YA, those books will still be wrongly classified.
✨ Books with Female Protagonist – Many SFF books that have a female protagonist (or have a female character on the cover) will also get unfairly classified as YA. I’m still unsure what the gender of the protagonist has to do with the book’s themes and intended audience.
BLURRING THE LINES BETWEEN YA AND ADULT
The line between Young Adult and Adult has been blurring over the years, especially in the fantasy genre. There are some Adult books that I would feel very comfortable with giving to a teenager to read. On the other hand, there are some Young Adult books that I would seriously reconsider before recommending to a younger reader. I’ve seen people being to refer to Young Adult books as “Upper YA” and “Lower YA,” which is a good way to differentiate between the more mature books, but considering they all get shelved the same at stores it’s hard for parents and teenage readers to know the difference.
There are a lot of books and authors that are now considered “cross-overs.” There’s really no definition, but t seems to encompass books that can easily be read by either an Young Adult or Adult audience. I’ve also seen this description be applied to authors who began writing in YA but have written more mature books over the years as their readers have aged.
BOOKS THAT ARE CLASSIFIED IN THE WRONG GENRE
There are a lot of books that are classified in the wrong genre. The biggest example I can think of is Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series, which was intended to be written as New Adult, but was published by Bloomsbury under their Young Adult imprint. I can safely say, even after only reading the first one, that those books are definitely not Young Adult. They never should have been published or marketed as so.
Another couple more examples are V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series and Jay Kristoff’s The Nevernight Chronicles. I always see these books being labels as Young Adult, and I’ve lost tract of the amount of times I’ve seen Nevernight shelved in the YA section at stores. I can only imagine the shock of some younger readers upon reading those first few chapters thinking the book was appropriately YA.
Let’s Talk Bookish! What do you consider a YA book? Chat with me in the comments below!