Discussion: Is YA an Age Group or a Genre?

Discussion time.

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:


So naturally, I have an opinion on it and I want to share it.

confusingI 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!

justifyI 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…

reallyI 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 YAYA.

Some examples

Image result for the chimes anna smaillI 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.

Image result for six of crowsAnother 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?


anythoughtsI 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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34 thoughts on “Discussion: Is YA an Age Group or a Genre?

  1. This is an interesting discussion topic! I think YA is an age group. You’ve got your genres as you mentioned, thriller, fantasy, sci-fi romance, etc. Then you’ve got your age groups Children, YA, NA, Adult, etc, and within these age groups you have all the genres – but I don’t look at the age group as saying you have to be within the age range to read it but more as a guideline to what age group the content may or may not be suitable for. For example, I may let my son read a YA thriller but I definitely wouldn’t let him read an adult thriller.

    When I read YA, I recognise that it’s written for a younger age group (especially when I read crime) but there is definitely still suspense and thrills and so on, it’s just delivered in a way that is appropriate for said age range and by default, appropriate for those above the age range – for example, the detail of a murder in a YA thriller may not be as graphic/descriptive as it may be in an adult novel and written in a way that wouldn’t terrify a younger reader.

    Sorry for the essay reply 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh don’t apologize, I LOVE the essay reply! That’s really interesting! I totally agree not looking at age groups as an age range that has to read the group. I think I see YA as a genre because of that thing you mentioned of the writing being delivered to a younger audience. I think I view it as a genre because I can definitely see a pattern and sort of correlation within all of its subgenres that I don’t necessarily see between, say, adult thrillers and adult fantasy. Thank you so much for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t read nearly enough YA novels from different genres but I can see how with that correlation you would view it as a genre – I read majority YA thrillers but I do have some YA fantasy reads planned so maybe I’ll see what you mean as I explore YA more 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love YA discussions, just found yours through twitter 🙂 Great post. I think YA is an age group like middle grade or children’s and has the genres, YA contemporary books, YA romance, YA sci-fi, etc. And like middle grade books which don’t usually deal with subjects in such a complex and indepth manner and do leave a lot of the difficult subjects out, YA is distinctively different. Characters almost always go through a personal growth, as if ‘growing up’ by the end of the novel in a way that’s different to adult age group novels. I also think YA has that distinct feel of speed to it. Books that are YA are usually faster paced and tend to dwell on details far less than adult novels.
    Often people think of YA is being novels with teens in them and it annoys me as so many books have teen aged characters but aren’t always YA and vice versa. One book I have is YA but its main chracter is only 9 years old.
    Caraval is a novel that feels YA in its pacing but the connection and growth of the main character aren’t so in depth and so I still think it’s an adult novel (even if Goodreads and half the blogger world say otherwise, lol). Anyway, sorry to babble, great post again 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, thank you so much for babbling, I love it! You mentioned so many valid points and so many things that tie all of YA books together, which are all reasons why it feels like a genre to me! Thank you so much for commenting and I am so glad you liked the post 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Such an interesting topic! You’re totally right about a book just feeling YA. When I was switching between YA and adult, there was just a different feeling and pacing that you got from it. It’s really hard to break out of YA once you get used to the pacing. I also love what you said about SOC. I did forget what ages they were supposed to be, because they could have been much older but it is still very YA.Wonderful discussion post, and you’ve definitely got me thinking! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh thank you so much! I agree about YA being difficult to break out of, and I find that I’ll go on long streaks of not reading YA at all, and then just reading YA. It’s got such a distinct feeling to it, and I am glad you agree. Thank you for commenting, so glad you liked the post! 😊


  4. Amazing topic ❤ no one is defined by an age. YA to me means it’s main character is a young adult; not always the actual case but definitely a trend. Since neither we nor that character should be defined by an age, where does the stigma find strength

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a lovely discussion post!
    Like many people, I find it incredibly hard to actually say it’s one or the other, because honestly: of course it’s an age group, but there’s definitely more to it, too. As you mentioned, every YA book has a bit of the same feeling to it and that’s something we usually associate with genres.
    Where it gets really confusing, is when it comes to all the different genres that are then added to YA itself (e.g. fantasy, contemporary). So, I don’t think I can choose if it’s just one or the other, but your discussion definitely makes me want to think more about it 🌸

    Liked by 1 person

  6. this is such an awesome post! i still personally think that YA is an age group but you have some really good points on why it’s a genre.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I would say it is a genre but not an age group as I read them and I’m well above my teenagehood LOL But being YA means no graphic sex, no exactly gorish violence etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t think it’s an age group. But I don’t think it’s a genre, either.
    I’d say it’s something else. A blend between a style and a theme.
    The theming idea you’ve already described: people (usually teens) trying to figure out their place in the world, or how to make adult decisions, or how to deal with adult consequences, etc. etc. And you’re spot on.
    You touched on some of the style stuff as well. They faster paced. They’re less graphic, etc. All very correct. The style is even reflected in the physical layout of the books, as well though. I can tell a YA is YA, often without reading a word of it. The books are thick–obviously much too thick to be Middle Grade (or chapter books, obviously). But then when you open them up? White space. Lots of white space.
    This isn’t a bad thing. It’s a very intentional design decision. They give YA books larger font with larger spacing so that the pacing feels faster. YA books are LITERALLY page-turners, partially because of the typesetting. Fewer words per page = a lot more page turning. This may not be the case with all YA books, but it is that way for many of them.

    Anyways, this is definitely an interesting thing. YA is hard to define, and yet everyone can sense when they’re reading YA. One thing’s for sure though: it’s NOT an age group. Those people are just wrong. lol 😛

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Probably the only reason I’ve thought about the typesetting is because I’ve done some typesetting work myself, and had to look at the way different books and genres are usually formatted. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I definitely think YA is a genre, not an age group. Older people shouldn’t be laughed at for reading YA books! One of my favourite teachers reads YA, I’ve seen her on two occasions with books I’d class as YA which I’ve read. I think it’s the same as MG, NA, and Adult; they’re “age groups” but mainly that refers to the characters which the story involves, and maybe the maturity level needed to read the book. But there are so many subgenres!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. YES! Thank you for writing this post! I’ve had these thoughts in my head for years! Even on my blog I’m always like “Check out this book! It’s YA, uh, yeah, YA fantasy something, yup!” It can definitely be confusing at times. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I personally don’t really know if YA is a genre or an age group. But I do think that anyone should be able to read it if they want to. Last year I was talking to my English teacher about YA and she wanted me to write all the book titles down, because she really liked the stories I told about them. At this point I’m supposed to read more adult literature (I have to read it for school), but I kind of have a hard time getting into it. Especially Dutch literature is pretty hard to read for me, I usually don’t really enjoy the way it’s written 😦
    In my opinion it shouldn’t matter if you’re reading YA when you’re 14 or 35, just read whatever you like. And I guess I’ll be reading YA for the rest of my life 😃

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course, that is a given. I read both Middle Grade and YA and I am 22! I adore YA and I think I’ll be reading it when I’m 70 😂 I just think that saying that it’s just an age group, and not a genre it denies the fact that YA has a lot of distinctions of a genre. If you want any recommendations for good YA-to-adult crossover books, let me know!😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah sorry, this comment went to spam! 😦 If you like Fantasy, I’d suggest checking out Mistborn, it’s a good book for YA lovers. If you like Sci Fi, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a great book to bridge into Adult. Also, The Chimes by Anna Smaill is a wonderful dystopian where people save memories in music and it’s a sort of half YA-half adult book. The Scandal by Fredrik Backman is a great general fiction one and it has a lot of YA protagonists, even though it’s an adult book. Liane Moriarty’s books are great if you like mystery/thriller and they have that compulsive readability that YA has. If you’re into Horror, the Tallisman by Stephen King is a great fantasy/horror epic adventure book. Hope that helps a bit! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m on the line between it being an age group and a genre. When I write reviews I tend to put “YA Contemporary” or “YA Fantasy” when I’m talking about the genre. I put it there to let readers know the book is usually targeted to a certain audience and that the characters are on the younger side….

    Love your post.


  13. I think I must be the cynic here when I would say YA is a marketing category lol.

    Actually, I think it’s a contested word that means different things to different people. It is a words that is associated with books that have a bunch of characteristics, and if they have enough of these characteristics, people will read / market them as YA. For example: 50-90k words long, featuring teens as the protagonists, quite a fast-paced read (often written in present tense and first person / close third), avoids content that would attract an R-rating etc.

    I saw an interesting debate about whether Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns is YA here, because it is graphically R-rated with an immoral protagonist, and yet ticks all the other YA boxes: https://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/4djd1a/just_finished_prince_of_thorns_any/ The author himself chipped in and then wrote this on his blog (http://mark—lawrence.blogspot.com.au/2017/07/everyone-knows-what-ya-is-right.html) so I think it’s been bothering him! Would be interesting for a YA blog to do a poll like this on whether people think certain books are YA or what characteristics define YA to them.

    I’m really interested in the story you give about The Chimes. I hadn’t heard of the book, but now I think I need to look it up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for this comment! I agree with you, it is a marketing ploy, and I think it’s working out for them! And yes, you’re right, there’s definitely a certain characteristic pool there – that’s why it feels like a genre to me! And thank you for linking that stuff about Prince of Thorns, it was really interesting to read through.The Chimes is such a unique book, definitely look it up! 😊


  14. I love YA discussions, and WOW what an amazing post. I loved the part when you said that “I find that most of YA focuses on people trying to understand themselves and the world and trying to find their place in it” because It’s really true, at least for me. This past months All That i’ve reading has been YA because I’ve been living a rough moment and all that I’ve been trying is to find my place in this world by reading books. YA is really distinctively different, except for the middle grade books (I don’t like them pretty much)
    This post helped me a lot, because I don’t usually talk to others about what I’m reading or go into discussions like this. I just want to congratulate you for this great post. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

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