What is, actually, YA ?

Recently, I was talking to someone about the latest books I read, and I mentioned Descendant of the crane (which I finally found the time to review here !) by Joan He, which is categorized on Goodreads as “Fantasy”, “Fiction”, and “Young Adult”. When I mentioned that last category, the person I was talking to had a surprising reaction : they couldn’t believe that I was reading YA. “YA is for kids”, they told me, “it’s full of bad literature like Twilight and all those sappy romance novels !”.

I disagree. So I turned to the internet, to see what, exactly, is the YA category supposed to be, and what kind of books it includes. Turns out, I had to look at a lot of different blog posts and articles to try and figure this out, so I made a compilation of the answers I found here !

What are the principal categories ?

There’s YA, teen fiction, and new adult. YA is usually separated from teen fiction and new adult by the age ranges and the themes it covers – teen fiction targets mostly from ages 10-14, and New Adult aims to be read by people in the 18-30 age range.

What’s the target population for YA books, then ?

Well, that’s where it gets complicated. See, there’s a lot of disagreement over which age range YA books are intended for – and whether or not that’s the public that’s actually reading YA books. Most publishers and bloggers put the target age range at 13-18 years-old, but a 2012 study on the readers of YA novels stated that more than half of those readers were over 18, with 28% of the total of readers being between 30 and 44 years-old. Not really the intended target, then.

Some people argue that the age range isn’t about who the books are for, but rather who the books are about – that YA books feature mostly Young Adults, from 15 to 25, and talk about the specific issues they live through at this time in their lives. I’m honestly not sure who’s right in this one, so please don’t hesitate to give me your opinion !

What makes YA so different from the other categories ?

YA covers a lot of themes you don’t usually get to see in Teen fiction – including, but not limited to : first love, sex, adult friendships / relationships, the search for your identity…


But the specificity of YA, for me, is the liberty it brings to the table – you can have absolutely anything you want in YA, have an audacity you can’t find as easily in “real” adult books or in teen fiction. You can have bisexual space pirates, historical fiction with magical realism, high fantasy… more and more diverse books are being published in the YA category, and I, for one, LOVE IT.


YA is a category, not a genre, and that’s what makes it so difficult to describe precisely – but the fact that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what its limits are is what makes it so full of creativity and interesting new ideas !

When I started reading about YA, I wanted to be extra sure of what I would say in this post. After doing all my research online, I went to my local library to talk to the librarian about Young Adult books, who they’re intended for, and who reads them. And so, in the words of my local librarian :

There’s no need to feel ashamed for reading YA, especially because of how good it’s been getting over the last decade or so. There’s no age limit on who’s allowed to read good books – whether it’s in the YA section or the adult fiction section, a good novel is a good novel, and you’ll enjoy it all the same.

What’s your opinion on YA books ? Do you read mostly adult books, new adult, young adult, or a mix of all ?

Until next time,



Descendant of the crane, by Joan He

I haven’t been able to do an actual book review since forever, so : Descendant of the crane is Joan He’s debut novel, released in April 2019 – and, for once, I actually did buy a book on the day it came out !



Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, dreaming of an unremarkable life. But when her beloved father is found dead, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of a surprisingly unstable kingdom. What’s more, Hesina believes that her father was murdered—and that the killer is someone close to her.

Hesina’s court is packed full of dissemblers and deceivers eager to use the king’s death for political gain, each as plausibly guilty as the next. Her advisers would like her to blame the neighboring kingdom of Kendi’a, whose ruler has been mustering for war. Determined to find her father’s actual killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death, since magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of Yan at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

What I liked

  • The characters are complex, and feel alive – they have their own character arcs, and I really liked the way they intervened in each other’s story. There’s also some excellent world-building, and the book isn’t too fast-paced (I know there’s a lot of pressure on authors to write books that are fast-paced all the time, but giving your reader some time to breathe between all your action scenes isn’t a bad thing at all !)
  • I like that it’s very different than what I’m used to see in that kind of story – usually, it’s a girl with no power, a secret princess who needs to get to the throne, or marry the prince, or a secret magician persecuted… but Hesina is the queen-to-be and she doesn’t need to go looking for a position of power – she already has it, and needs to focus on other things (like who killed her father, or how broken her country really is).
  • There is magic, but magic alone isn’t the be all end all of the story, and even if that might be a drawback for some, it isn’t one for me : I’m honestly a little bit tired of books where the only motivation of the characters is magic, and where the only explanation for someone’s betrayal – or grey morality – is…corruption by magic.
  • Courtroom drama ! I loved the courtroom drama. I want more of the courtroom drama. The courtroom drama is delightful and the ex-convict-now-lawyer was a really nice addition tho the mix. There are a lot of twists and turns that you don’t expect, but you never have a moment in the book when you have to stop and say « wait, what’s going on. I don’t understand. » You see what the characters do, and even if their vision of what’s going on isn’t always the truth, it doesn’t confuse the reader.

What I didn’t like

I’m going to put the ending in this section – not because it’s bad (on the contrary, it’s unexpected and really good), but because the book ends on a sort of cliffhanger, with Hesina’s arc not being fully finished. I was expecting a standalone book, and that’s (officially) what it is, but I’ve grown used to endings that fell satisfying in a way this one wasn’t. The author has addressed this multiple times, explaining how, in the publishing industry, you don’t really get to choose if you’ll be able to publish 3 books in a series or only one, and that she made Descendant of the crane to be a standalone book, eventually followed by companion books with different characters, in the same universe.

Another point is the character of Akira, which I feel like we didn’t see much of in the book. At some point, I was reading a scene, and then all of a sudden he speaks up – and I realized that I had completely forgotten that he was present in that scene. There was a romance element between him and Hesina, but it wasn’t very present.


I really wish I had preordered this book, because the merch that came with the preorders and the book boxes looks amazing ! Sadly, I didn’t have the money at the time – but I’ll definitely remember to try to preorder more when I see a book that I’d really like to buy !

A very nice bonus, though, is that there’s also a delightful “meet the characters” page on the author’s website ! You can see Hesina’s picture, for example, here !

I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a refreshing summer read !