I discovered a new podcast! I’ve been loving the Hey YA podcast from Book Riot. I just listened to the last available episode and the podcast’s been reminding me just how much I love YA, since I tend to forget that.
My rekindled love inspired this post. I’ve been thinking about YA and I remember seeing people saying this a lot:
YA IS AN AGE GROUP, NOT A GENRE.
So naturally, I have an opinion on it and I want to share it.
I find that YA is so hard to define. What is the defining characteristic? What is the thread that binds it? The truth is that YA has a lot of genres within it. There’s contemporary, romance, fantasy, sci fi, THRILLERS – you name it, it’s there. YA offers such a huge variety of books and topics, so it’s hard to pin it down. It defies definition because there’s just too much to define. And so much to love!
I think the whole “YA is an age group” thing sparks from the fact that older audiences get called out for reading YA. Which is ridiculous. You should read what you want and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. YA has some wonderful and spectacular things to offer, so there’s no need to miss out on those things just because the protagonists of the books are younger than you are.
So in order to justify their choices (which Internet constantly pushes us to do, and I hate it) people have the need to say but that’s just the age group, you don’t sort fiction by the age of the protagonist. Which is true. HOWEVER…
I wouldn’t say so. I think there’s a distinct quality to the genre that can’t be denied. When you pick up a certain book, you can definitely tell this is YA and that’s got nothing to do with the age of the people in the book. There’s something about the pace and the writing that’s entirely characteristic to YA. You can definitely tell that a book is YA just by the feeling it gives you. Moreover, I find that most of YA focuses on people trying to understand themselves and the world and trying to find their place in it. I think that is the thread that connects everything. That’s something I feel makes YA – YA.
I am sure not a lot of you heard about this book. It was nominated for the Man Booker in 2015, it’s called The Chimes and it’s by Anna Smaill. It’s an entirely fascinating book where memories are replaced and stored within music. But the point is that this book was supposed to be YA, but then it was changed and marketed and edited as an adult book. And you can tell when you’re reading it. Somewhere near the end, the pacing changes abruptly. It becomes way more fast paced, more engaging and honestly, so much more enjoyable. You can tell that that was where the book was supposed to be YA. It’s fascinating.
Another example is Six of Crows. Unlike the first one, all of you probably know of and love Six of Crows. Most people say that the characters there don’t feel like they’re teenagers. And that’s completely true. They could have been 25 and the book would be the same. They read like 25 year olds. But the book itself reads like YA. It has that distinctive quality that I can’t describe but I can totally recognize.
So what’s the verdict?
YA IS A GENRE. BUT THAT’S NOT A BAD THING. QUITE THE OPPOSITE.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic! Do you think YA is a genre? Or is it just an age group? I would love to hear how you feel about the subject!
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