Age Designations & Why They Shouldn’t Matter

Posted November 13, 2018 by Amber in Bookish Things / 4 Comments

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When I hit yearly 20s, I used to get a lot of stigma around my choice of reading material.  Why?  Because it was – and still is – YA.  The idea seems to be that if you aren’t in high school, you shouldn’t be reading about high schoolers.  You should be reading about war and crime and steamy romances and Adult Things.  This was always a source of huge frustration to me, because I don’t enjoy an excess of war or crime, and I really don’t like steamy romances.  So I was an underground reader for years.  After all, if people don’t know what you’re reading, they can’t judge you for it – right?

Thanks to book-to-film adaptations of things like The Fault in Our StarsThe Book Thief, and Wonder there’s a little bit less stigma to reading YA these days.  Not a lot, but a little.  I can come out from under the covers, as it were.

Why, though?  Why do we think less of each other for reading novels where the main character isn’t the same age as us?  I wouldn’t ask children to only read books with child protagonists, and I wouldn’t ask an elderly person to only read books with an aging protagonist.  That doesn’t seem fair.  So why the weird stigma about the YA/NA/Adult transition?

When I categorize my books for myself, or in my Review Archive, I don’t put them under an age designation.  I actually have a separate category in my backend tool for “Target Age Group” and I judge based on their writing style and content, rather than their marketed audience.  Someday, if I can figure out how to build in additional search parameters on my Archive page (it’s a plugin without support… but it’s sooo pretty) the “Target Age Group” will be a searchable field.

The thing I love about this is that I get to judge these books under a whole different set of parameters.  Believe me, there’s a lot more New Adult books in my system than you’ll find elsewhere, because the New Adult genre has been steamrolled with trashy romance, and that is what now seems to define it.  Ugh, no.  Come on.

I disagree.  And I disagree with the way we group books by age of the protagonist.  I think that the “Age Designation” should be by current life experience, and we shouldn’t judge one another for wanting to read about hope or discovery.

Here’s how I prefer to sort my books:

Childrens – books about discovering the world (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or the Magic Treehouse series).

Middle Grade – books about discovering relationships (WonderPercy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, and A Series of Unfortunate Events).

Young Adult – books about discovering yourself (Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Gunslinger Girl, Eragon, etc.).

New Adult – books about discovering your place in the greater world (Tess of the RoadThe MagiciansFangirl)

Adult – books about defending/destroying all the things you’ve discovered (Gone Girl, The MartianThe Other Boleyn Girl).

 

The beauty of this system – to me – is that so many books fit in multiple places.  For example, if you take the Harry Potter Series, it can fall into ALL of these categories.  Which… kinda explains why it was a universal phenomenon.  It reached all ages.  But, technically, this series will be categorized as “Childrens” in most bookstores.

I have the same issue with YA books dealing with protagonists in their mid-late 20s.  They’re in higher education, so it’s still school, so it’s YA, right?  However, if they went straight into the working world, that’s not YA, that’s adult. WHY. …But then lets look at The Magicians again because they’re in college for half the book, but that’s Adult.  Actually The Magicians is such a good example of why the New Adult genre needs to be broadened.

Aagahhhh.

I feel very passionately about this, guys.  I hate the marketed age designations and how they put us in a box.

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How would you prefer books be marketed by age?

Do you read books that are not in your age group?

What are your opinions on the (lack of?) New Adult genre?
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4 responses to “Age Designations & Why They Shouldn’t Matter

  1. Interesting post, Amber! I’m curious to know more about how you judge by Target Age Group. What are some pointers to keep in mind when reviewing YA, and Adult?

    I haven’t really read a book with protagonists the same age as I am! It didn’t occur to me until a few months ago which is funny because many YA book characters I read could easily be 20 something year olds.

    Cam @ Camillea Reads recently posted: BOOK REVIEW || THE HANDMAID’S TALE BY MARGARET ATWOOD
    • Amber

      I think you have a really good point here – the maturity level on the “teens” in YA novels is WAAAY up. The do read like 20-something most of the time. When I go back and re-read my old journals from when I was their age, the internal monologue is much more single-minded and foolish, which I don’t really see in YA. XD Or perhaps I was just the worst, who knows, lol.