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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…

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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.

Conclusion

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,

Maude

This entry was posted in: Discussion posts

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A 22 years-old psychology student living in Canada, reading books and eating chocolate. I like sci-fi, fantasy, and personal finance books, and try to review everything in time. Open to review requests.

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