What’s the growing debate about ‘Young Adult’ books?

Currently there seems to be an ongoing debate, among both authors and readers, about the very nature of ‘Young Adult’ books. What’s the argument? Put simply, is the ‘Young Adult’ tag an age guide for readers, or is it something more: a book genre in its own right? Now this is giving some authors a dilemma when it comes to the placing of their books. In marketing terms, do they belong on the ‘Middle Grade’ shelves or on the ‘Young Adult’ shelves, or somewhere else entirely? And does it matter?
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Historically, certainly when I wrote my first children’s books there was no ‘Young Adult’ bookshelf. Bookstores used age ranges to distinguish between books. Akin to: Ages 0-3 years, Ages 4-7 years, Ages 8-13 years, and ‘Teens’. After that everything else was assumed to be for ‘adults’.
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Bookstores were simply trying to steer their readers to age appropriate material. I figure, they still are, if the ‘Young Adult’ section has replaced the ‘Teen’ section. What the bookstores are not describing is a genre of books. However, there is a growing assumption that ‘Young Adult’ books must contain certain key ingredients: sex, vampires and/or the paranormal, and love triangles! And without these essentials authors are not writing for ‘Young Adults’ at all!
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Give me a break, please! Naturally publishers and bookstores want books that sell. And if sexy vampire books, or the paranormal, or romance is currently in vogue for a certain readership, then of course, they are going to favour that type of book. And naturally, some authors are going to lean towards writing that material if it gives them some possibility of actually selling their work. However, this does not define ‘Young Adult’ fiction.
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Reading tastes vary enormously, and are always changing… even for ‘Young Adult’ readers. It only takes an author to come up with the genre-busting goods. (There’s usually at least one genius in every new generation.)
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My advice to readers…? As long as you know where to find the books you want to read there is no problem.
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And my advice to worried authors…? Stop thinking narrowly, and get on and write the books you really want to write. Too scared that your work will not find a market? Honestly, nothing has changed in that department over the years. Fact: most books written never reach the printed page. Fact: most books published – printed or digital – don’t sell well. (Bestsellers are the tip of the iceberg.) Fact: the vast majority of all published works eventually disappear from the bookshelves. (Or, in today’s world, are doomed to lie, lost and forgotten for all eternity, in the e-book virtual graveyard…) These are the book-facts of life folks! So stop your worried debates and simply write…
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For me, writing books is a thrill, a joy, and a massive adventure. That’s why I’m on this journey. If I am in essence a fantasy writer, the story always comes first. Not the age range, not a set of ingredients, certainly not market forces. May it always remain so… Indeed, if the day ever comes when it does not, then that’s the very day I’ll stop.

Tooth and Claw (H fantasy) by Stephen Moore
Suggested readership: young-adult

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3 thoughts on “What’s the growing debate about ‘Young Adult’ books?

  1. I saw Uprooted by Naomi Novack was listed as young adult in the Goodreads choice awards and was baffled by that. Often not certain the rhyme or reason for the listings!

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