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 Stars, The 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 (Wonder, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, and A Series of Unfortunate Events).
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.
I feel very passionately about this, guys. I hate the marketed age designations and how they put us in a box.