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YA classification - Why ask?

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message 1: by Michele (new)

Michele | 1154 comments I'm curious about why every book we've been reading or talking about ends up with a "Is it YA?" topic.

1. Who cares, if it's a good story? Many of my favorite books may have been written with young adults as main characters, but so what? I still enjoy reading them.

2. Many of these books were written before any such marketing classification existed, and before authors considered their writing with such an audience as a target.

3. Many books written around a classic hero's quest are coming of age stories with a young adult protagonist. Star Wars, Feist's Magician series, Jordan's Wheel of Time, C.S. Lewis's Narnia, McCaffery's Pern, Lackey's Collegium, Eddings' Belgariad, Rothfuss, Sanderson, Tad Williams - large amounts of sword books begin this way and some laser too, but I don't read as much scifi so I don't have examples.

4. Since scifi and fantasy aren't usually set in the everyday world, they don't tend to focus on any set "teen" issues (my parents don't understand me, does he/she really like me, shit I'm pregnant, peer pressure) so we're not being asked to read Beverly Hills 90210, Asteroid/Castle.

***Yes, Among Others is very much like this but with fairies. But well written. So I understand many people not really enjoying it.

5. Does it prejudice your reading to know a book has been considered as YA? Doesnit make you nitpicky about details? Isn't it better to just read it and then after reading you can discuss whether or not a YA attitude in the story worked or didn't?

I'm not upset about the question, it just seems strange to me, this new focus on age classification of a story.


message 2: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 832 comments I've also been wondering why the question keeps coming up. If it's "Should I lend it to my 12 year old?" it might be better to ask that. If it's "Is this going to be angsty?" ask that. And so on.

In thinking about it, I think that Niven can certainly be read by a teen, but it has an adult feel, in that the characters are all adults engaged in adult jobs and adult concerns. Offhand, I can't recall any non-adult characters.

There were books classed as "juveniles" back in the day, notably a bunch of Heinlein novels (there were others, but those lasted).

Or maybe someone's hinting that we really need some Tamora Pierce. (Or all the others, but I'd rather read Pierce than a lot of current YA authors.)


message 3: by AndrewP (last edited Jun 11, 2013 11:29AM) (new)

AndrewP (andrewca) | 2479 comments This weekend I was in my local bookstore and noticed the 'YA' section was now next to the 'Romance' section. Funny thing is how similar they look. Take the books from the Romance section, change the hot guy on the cover for a dark moody vampire and they all look the same. It seems to be that 75% the 'YA' section is aimed at girls, while the boy YA stuff is mostly in the regular SF section.. i.e. Ensign Flannery, Heinlein's juveniles etc. Is this a new marketing ploy?


message 4: by Louise (new)

Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments There was a young adult section in the library when I was a teenager, and I skipped right past it. Went straight from children's books to the adult section. Everything in that section used to be relationships and issues, or Sleepover Club, and yes, it did seem largely aimed at girls. And weirdly, the older children's section contained books that were intended for the Young Adult age range but weren't about relationships. All the young adult age fantasy I read was shelved with older children's books.

This was in the late 90s.


message 5: by Gary (last edited Jun 11, 2013 04:01PM) (new)

Gary I think YA has a lot of negative stereotypes about the quality of the writing, the plot and the characters associated with it, and a lot of folks take such labels too seriously and use the label as a pejorative, or want to simply ignore titles that they can associate with it out of hand. It's not unlike "country music" as a label. Some folks automatically make assumptions about what that means.

With that in mind, I made a purposeful trek to the local bookstores a few weeks back and made a point of browsing through the YA sections. I spent a couple of hours doing it and... I found very little that went against the stereotype. Lots of teeny angst and simplistic plotlines. Stereotypes are often bad, but they don't exist in a vacuum. They come from somewhere. In this case, I think there's some merit to the bias against YA because there is an awful lot of bad stuff out there that fall under the category. Of course, there's good stuff too, and one would be missing out on a lot of great books if one automatically refused things just because of that label, but YA as a category is not a good sign in general.


message 6: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 832 comments Granted that may be the case, I would think that if it's a sword and laser pick, that should trump any YA-ness....


message 7: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 701 comments Gary wrote: "They come from somewhere. In this case, I think there's some merit to the bias against YA because there is an awful lot of bad stuff out there that fall under the category."

Really, this argument goes for any genre or age classification. It's the exact same argument some people use against SF&F as a whole. Or against Romance. Or what some SF&F fans use to disparage whatever subgenre they feel is not up to snuff: Epic Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Space Opera, ...

There is a lot of "bad" stuff in any classification of published books. (Especially if you include things that are simply not to your taste under "bad".)


message 8: by Robert of Dale (new)

Robert of Dale (r_dale) | 185 comments This is probably just me, but when I see, "Is this YA?" I hear a very young Fred Savage asking, "Is this a kissing book?"

For the heathens among us, that's from the movie adaptation of The Princess Bride. Go watch it. Then read the book. Also, get off my lawn!


message 9: by Nathan (new)

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments I associate YA with angsty teen love triangles, overly self centered protagonists, generally annoying characters, and often mediocre world building.

I know I could be wrong, but I would have to put research into seeing if I am wrong. Why would I do that when I have perfectly good books on my list asking me to buy them that I know are good?


message 10: by Michele (new)

Michele | 1154 comments But Nathan, we're talking about S&L discussion books, not looking at a bookstore shelf. Books like Ringworld or Dragonriders of Pern or Ender's Game. All have had the question asked.


message 11: by Gary (last edited Jun 12, 2013 07:40PM) (new)

Gary KevinB wrote: "Gary wrote: "They come from somewhere. In this case, I think there's some merit to the bias against YA because there is an awful lot of bad stuff out there that fall under the category."

Really, this argument goes for any genre or age classification. It's the exact same argument some people use against SF&F as a whole. Or against Romance. Or what some SF&F fans use to disparage whatever subgenre they feel is not up to snuff: Epic Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Space Opera, ...

There is a lot of "bad" stuff in any classification of published books. (Especially if you include things that are simply not to your taste under "bad".)"


Well, one could make such an argument for any genre or age classification, but in this case it has the merit of validity if one actually goes out and does a review of the genre. There are bad books in any category, of course, but the volume of them in YA is certainly greater. The exceptions are notable not just for their quality but for being exceptions.

YA titles tend to be churned out with a lot less careful editing and a more consistently applied marketing/production scheme. The quality of the work is less of a concern. It's on a par with Romance as a genre. Lots of sub-genres and an emphasis on the "mass" aspect of mass marketing.

Edit: But, again, it's an error to discount something just because of its category, or to label it with a category based on some cursory associations.


message 12: by Kevin (new)

Kevin | 701 comments Gary wrote: "YA titles tend to be churned out with a lot less careful editing and a more consistently applied marketing/production scheme. The quality of the work is less of a concern. It's on a par with Romance as a genre. Lots of sub-genres and an emphasis on the "mass" aspect of mass marketing."

And you don't see how that exact same argument applies to fantasy?

I'm not even saying that I completely disagree with your assessment, but I think you're deluding yourself if you believe the spec fic genres are somehow better than that, especially whichever subgenre is currently the hype (which unsurprisingly overlaps with the YA version of that subgenre). That's just the nature of publishing.


message 13: by Jon (new)

Jon (jon17) | 27 comments It is much more in vogue to bash New Adult.


message 14: by Gary (new)

Gary KevinB wrote: "And you don't see how that exact same argument applies to fantasy?

I'm not even saying that I completely disagree with your assessment, but I think you're deluding yourself if you believe the spec fic genres are somehow better than that, especially whichever subgenre is currently the hype (which unsurprisingly overlaps with the YA version of that subgenre). That's just the nature of publishing."


I don't think I said that other genres are inherently better.... I suppose that would depend on the quality of the writers in it.

However, it follows that as publishers rush to a particular genre and put more titles into it, that would make for less quality within that genre, doesn't it?

Sure, the same thing could be said to occur (or to have occurred) in any market, but the question here is why do people have a problem with YA as a genre recently. The quality of science fiction or fantasy very likely was due the same assessment at some point. The 50's pulp paperback market, for example, leaps to mind. Lots of very "light" or downright simplistic serials back in the day.... I suppose the penny dreadful or the dime novel were historical versions of the same quality vs. quantity issue. Right now, it's the broad "YA" category that appears to be getting diluted by the number of titles.


message 15: by D.J. Wilde (new)

D.J. Wilde | 9 comments The classification doesn't deter me from a story at all. I take a good story as just that; a good story.


message 16: by kvon (new)

kvon | 562 comments Hey, no one's quoted Sturgeon's Law yet! "Yes, 90% of science fiction is crud. But 90% of anything is crud." Applies to many situations.

I think the non-YAers are funny, I routinely check the YA section after the SFF section (library and bookstore) for favorite authors. Scott Westerfeld, Tamora Pierce (yes!), Patricia Wrede, Sharon Shinn, Neil Gaiman, Patricia McKillip, Diana Wynne Jones :(RIP), Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Justine Larbalastier, Terry Pratchett...I've found them all in adult and YA sections. I'm not letting the marketers tell me I'm thirty years too old to read good fiction, with engaging characters and excellent world building. I'll even go into the children's section to find some Bruce Coville.

If you listen to authors talking, they actually have to write tighter for YA, because kids won't stand for rambling passages, and they generally want the plot to move forward. (Plus, until Harry Potter all books had to be <200 pages.)

Not to say that everyone has to read YA, or romance, or paranormal romance (maybe 95% of that genre is crud). But try to read one or two of the good stuff (and don't do the 'it's good so it's not YA' trope) before writing off an entire marketing department.


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