A Rose by Any Other Name…

What makes Young Adult young adult? It seems to me that frequently, authors consider their work to be Young Adult if it is about young adults. The content is not considered. I think that agents try to steer authors toward “adult” if their stories seem unmarketably dark, but by and large, plenty of what I’ve seen in the YA section at the bookstore seems a little mature for many YA readers.

To get a better understanding of the characteristics of “Young Adult Literature,” I looked on the American Library Association website http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/profdev/whitepapers/yalit.cfmand found it to be highly informative. Discussed were the definition, the history, the growth of author interest in the genre, and the expanding readership. I recommend it.

The most interesting fact for me, however, was that when the term first came to broad use in the 1960s, “young adult” readers ranged in age from twelve to eighteen years old (a.k.a. adolescence). By the late 1990’s, the readership had expanded to include children from ten to twenty-five years old. I say “children,” because this coincides with an interesting fact from my college Child Psychology class (circa 1998) that adolescence is now considered to last until age twenty-nine. (The “end” being when one has established a financial and home life independent of one’s parents.)

There is talk in publishing circles that the term YA is too broad, and should be broken into “younger YA” (ages ten to fourteen) and “older YA” (age fifteen and up. This makes a lot of sense, for obvious reasons, not the least of which is the different developmental interests of those two groups.  But if they’re going to go that far, perhaps they should create a third sub-genre for the college crowd.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “A Rose by Any Other Name…

  1. Great food for thought.

    As the mother of a 13 year old daughter, I am indeed disturbed by some of the content in the YA books she reads. Case in point: I loved Graceling and so did she. We both, however, hated the sex that was in there. Me because it felt unformfortable knowing she was going to read it and her because the scenes went waaaay too far.

    Would it be nice to break it down a little? Yes. Would it keep younger readers from reading older material. Doubtful.

    When I was young we had picture books and novels. There was no such thing as chapter books, easy readers, middle grade and young adult. We went from reading Dick and Jane to Judy Blume to whatever was on our parents’ bookshelves.

    That wasn’t appropriate either.

    Not to mention that these guidelines are fluid. In the book industry and in movies. Yes Man was considered PG13. Shortly after its start, the “relationship” between two of the actors was way out of bounds for kids this age.

    I don’t know what will help keep reading levels and emotional age consistent outside of parent intervention.

    As always, thought-provoking.

  2. That is pretty general when you think about it. The reading levels and interests for that age range are so broad. You almost need a pre-YA, don’t you? And of course the college group, too.

    I didn’t realize that adolescence went on so long. The definition makes sense though. Some will be forever stuck in adolescence and some barely even get one!

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