“Thoughtful Ramblings” is a feature where we discuss bookish subjects. These posts are just our own thoughts about certain topics that may get us hot under the collar and we need a good rant or just things we want to share with fellow bloggers and readers.
What Age is YA?
After having read Kresley Cole’s Poison Princess, I found myself totally confused regarding the whole young adult (YA) genre, and really struggled when it came to reviewing it.
I started talking to a few of the girls about it (aka fellow reviewers), and found out some interesting information, which made things even harder if I am honest. You see, the issue I was having was at what point (age) do you become a young adult? What age are YA books aimed at? Is the content of a YA book suitable for all young adults, and how do you safeguard against buying your own young adult at home a completely inappropriate book, despite it being in the YA genre.
If you look on Wiki for a definition of Young Adult, this is what you get:
Young-adult fiction or young adult literature (often abbreviated as YA), also juvenile fiction, is fiction written, published, or marketed to adolescents and young adults. The Young Adult Library Services (YALSA) of the American Library Association (ALA) defines 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.
I have just googled what age a YA is aimed at, and it came up with a Guardian article stating that “New Adult” fiction is aimed at 14 – 35 year old, and I am sure that I read somewhere on Goodreads that YA is aimed at 14-21 year olds (although I cant for the life of me find it now). Surely , when you take the extremes of these age brackets, 10 – 35, it is a somewhat ridiculous group to try and cram a book into.
My understanding of a Young Adult would be a person who has reached the early stages of adulthood, but in looking for a defined age of adulthood you come across lots of ages! There is the age of consent, the age where you are criminally responsible, the age where you are still covered under the child protection guidance. These are all different! So, I think a reasonable age would be 15, which is pretty much somewhere in the middle of all of the legal ages.
I have reviewed a few YA books over the past 6 months, but some seem that bit more adult than others. By adult, I dont mean the sexual nature of the book, as that seems to be fairly safe ground in the genre… lusting after your girl or fella, but not actually doing anything more physical than a smooch, and perhaps some wandering hands. Typical teen angst sort of thing. It’s more the scary side of it that seems to vary greatly. In Poison Princess there is flaying of skin, eyeballs out on cheeks, beheadings, and other things of a grim nature. Definitely not what I would deem suitable for a 14 year old, let alone a 10 year old. I managed to ask Ms Cole, the author of Poison Princess, who she thought would be reading her book, who she had aimed it towards, and she said that although she hadn’t had a particular age in mind (in terms of the YA genre) she wouldn’t recommend it for very young teens.
So my question is, how do you manage to buy your average 13 year old something that is into the realm of fantasy without scaring the doowhats out of them, whilst you are mooching around your local bookstore?
I understand that there is no such a thing really as an average teenager these days. Some are more sensitive than others, but how do you safeguard against allowing your child to read something you feel would be unsuitable without vetting everything first? Most people buy new books by looking at the blurb, the front cover and making a spur of the moment decision. It’s not based on an hour’s research on the net, and in my opinion, nor should it be, otherwise you would miss out on discovering new authors. But surely there must be a way to make it a little clearer which end of the age scale the book would be best suited to.
I think Young Adult is a somewhat misleading genre title, and there should be a clearer definition. I know it would possibly mean yet another genre for us to take into account but surely you can’t lump 12 – 18 year olds into the same group. Perhaps a YA15+ or similar would help us differentiate whilst trying to chose for children. Or do you have a different suggestion?