Young adult novels are very new to the world of fiction. Teen books have been around for quite some time now, with the first book aimed at teenagers released in the 1950’s. However, the term ‘young adult’ is a very new concept that has been introduced since more and more teenagers are reading and becoming invested in the stories told by other teenagers.
I’ve had a lot of discussions recently with people about what young adult is and whether we can validly call it a genre. With the mass amount of development in the young adult community regarding story type, what is discussed and the themes of the books, it struck me that we were also still putting young adult novels in to the genre of young adult. This seems incredibly incorrect to me.
The idea of young adult books are books aimed at teenagers, say thirteen to eighteen years old. Most publishers that are publishing a young adult novel are looking to target it between those age ranges. This without a doubt pushes aside the novels by authors such as Sarah J Maas that are advertised to young adults just from the author alone – the publishers are cottoning on quite fast to our favourite authors, and even though the books are not suitable for that age range, they will advertise it as young adult for sales (which is another blog post completely). It is more than understandable to have a target age range for a novel. Even if many people above those ages read young adult.
However, what i find quite strange is noticing that on genre listings of novels, mainly online, there are quite a lot of books being listed as ‘young adult’ first and foremost. This says nothing about the book itself. Teenagers and young adults are more than capable at the age of seventeen to find a book they want to read by actual genre. For example using science fiction, or contemporary instead of young adult makes more sense.
A lot of the shelves when you walk in to a book shop are split by genre of book. Crime, classic, whatever else you can think of. Walking in to the young adult section of a book shop can be a very confusing place. Often you will pick up a book and have no indication as to what genre the book is until you actually buy it and read it. Covers are often a give-away, but at the same time, it takes a lot of guessing work with the books.
I feel like this leaves the community with a lot of ‘this is not what i was expecting’ reviews, because we literally don’t know what a book is going in to it most of the time. Target them at young adult people, of course. Using it as a valid genre is completely incorrect.
In a world where the young adult community is tight-knit, where authors and publishers rely on the readers for information and communication whilst writing and publishing, this constant unexpecting is a little dangerous. People who review these books, bloggers or avid readers with Twitter account aren’t able to give their full, honest opinions on books they have read because put bluntly, they’re advertised badly.
Young adult is no longer a genre. As the community grows and the age range gets so much bigger, it’s not going to withstand the pressure and confinement of a ‘young adult’ title. There are many books that have been released in the last year or two that surpass any form of age rating. Books that are interesting and important to absolutely anyone in the world that is interested. Novels are becoming diverse, they talk about important and political topics and they are of interest to many more people than those who wander in to the young adult section of a book shop.
It’s difficult when the community is growing and no-one else can see what effect it will have on readers. Many people have become comfortable in the small section of a book shop, however some of the books that are labelled as ‘young adult’ are being missed by so many.
Young adult books should be labelled as young adult, but not only an age range. They should have valid genres on the back covers. Split in to genres in book shops. Taken away from the children’s areas where they will not be viewed by anyone over the age of eighteen.
If we don’t make a point about this, no-one will. The young adult book community has made a huge impact already in the growth of the ‘genre’ and we continue to make connections with each other, publishers and authors. We are already making changes, we can definitely make some more.
I’m interested to know your thoughts on the matter. Leave a comment or Tweet us at @TLCCBlog