SciFi and Fantasy Book Club discussion

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Group Reads Discussions 2009 > The Graveyard Book -- Strictly YA or more?

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message 1: by M.D. (new)

M.D. (mdbenoit) | 116 comments The Book is classified in the YA category. Many adults have been enjoying YA books (Twilight, City of Bones, Harry Potter). Is the Book in the right category? Or should it be simply fantasy or SF?


message 2: by Usako (new)

Usako (bbmeltdown) | 89 comments The Graveyard Book fits into the Young Adult category. It introduces YAs to the Sci-Fi/Fantasy realm. Stardust was the same but TGB does it so much better!


message 3: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) I don't think older teens would be that into it. I think it falls into a category for tweens and young teens--middle school ages.


message 4: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) BunWat wrote: "I liked it though, and I'm anything but a tween. So I think its definitely one of the YA books that can be enjoyed by people of other ages. "

Oh, absolutely. I was just thinking more of target audience.


message 5: by Greyweather (new)

Greyweather | 234 comments Gaiman wrote it in such a way as to make it accessible to younger readers, which makes it YA. He also wrote a book that treats the reader with the assumption that they are intelligent, which is what makes it good YA, and good fantasy in general.


message 6: by M.D. (new)

M.D. (mdbenoit) | 116 comments Interesting, though, that so many adults are reading it. Is it because of Gaiman's other work? Has reading YA material by adults increased over the years or is it only an illusion and it has always happened?

Or maybe is it that before, the category YA didn't exist?


colleen the convivial curmudgeon (blackrose13) | 1563 comments I agree with the general consensus in that I would definitely classify it as YA - young YA at that. (I would go so far as to say that, in places which have the distinction, it's more likely to end up in 'Independent Reader' than 'YA'.)

But I'm also sort of confused by the question. Why should a book which has cross-over adult appeal not be classified as YA just because adults can enjoy it, too? If you classified it as simple fantasy, then a lot of kids - for whom the book is geared - probably wouldn't read it because they and their parents are looking in the Kids/IR/YA sections and not in the adult sections.

I don't know, it reminds me of the sci-fi vs literature or mainstream classifications, like when something is popular or "classic" and it doesn't get classified as sci-fi or fantasy for those reasons, even though it clearly should be based on genre.

Anyway - I think part of the reason why people are reading it is the author. Gaiman has a fairly large following of people who will read anything he puts out just because it's his, and I'm generally one of those people, though I haven't read several of his other kids books (and probably won't read Blueberry Girl, but may or may not read Crazy Hair.)

I also can't speak historically as to whether there was always a large cross-over or not. My suspicion is that the popularity of Harry Potter had a lot to do with bringing adults back into kid and YA territory, and that there might be more adults willing to give a younger book a go.

For myself, my own history was much like BunWat. There was a time when I felt like I had to prove I was grown-up, and so, with my limited reading time, I would read adult books. But, at the time, a lot of them seemed cliche and riddled with gratuitously graphic sex scenes, and I gravitated away from them.

In time I discovered the Abhorsen trilogy and Harry Potter, and these brought me back into the fold. Now I read a fair mixture of adult and YA and even some IR books/series. If I want something quick and fun and light, the YA and IR books fit the bill. If I want something a bit heavier and deeper, I can usually find a decent adult one. But I definitely like having the mix. Of course, as with all genres and/or categories, it's hit or miss. There are some YA books geared for teenagers which remind me too much of the teenagers I could never stand, and there are others which are written so young that it sort of offends me.

And even though I'm still sometimes a bit chagrined to admit, in general, that I read YA and IR stuff, for fear people won't take me seriously, I've decided that I'm also not going to deprive myself of a good story, or movie, or cartoon, or whatever just because of some weird, random notion of maturity and what a 30-year-old is supposed to be like, or read, or watch, or wear, or whatever.

Besides, it could always be worse. It could be chick-lit. ;)


message 8: by Libby (new)

Libby | 271 comments I believe TGB fits YA but it is not for younger children. IMO too many parents allow their children to read YA material before they are emotionally ready for it just because their reading level has reached that point. For example, in TGB the murders are essential to the plot but not appropriate for a very young audience.

I enjoy a fair of amount of YA. I think we get caught up in what "adults" should be reading. YA books are wonderful stories with powerful themes that can be just as thought-provoking as any literature - especially in adulthood. Neil Gaiman is particularly skilled at writing YA stories that touch the adult heart. His “fairy tales” are multi-dimensional and reach a wide audience.

I consider it a gift to be able to hold on to a piece of childhood. As adults, we become so jaded and sardonic. It uplifts my mind and heart to read something that embodies the adventure and hope of youth. It would be a better world if more people took the time to read some YA and remember what time has stolen from them.



colleen the convivial curmudgeon (blackrose13) | 1563 comments This got me thinking - I'm curious as to everyone's notions of what constitutes YA, and how young are younger children?

The reason I ask is because, some of the listed reviews on amazon list is as ages 10 and up, or grades 5-8, but the product description lists it as ages 9-12, which would be IR, since YA is generally listed as 12-18.

I, personally, think there should be distinctions within the YA category, because 12-18 is a rather large scope with a lot of disparity contained within it.

If, by younger children, we mean, say, 5-8, then I would agree. But, that said, this is, as far as I'm aware, actually considered a children's book. It won the Newbury Aware, which is for children's literature. And the writing style being what it is, I would consider it a children's book or, if it is YA, then I would definitely consider it a "young YA", or "middle grade".

Here's an interview of Nail Gaiman on the Colbert Report, in which Stephen Colbert criticizes him for a children's book starting with the murders, to which Gaiman says that children's books are often dark or have elements of darkness in them. My first thoughts go to the many Disney movies, in which people are killed or are trying to kill someone. The Lion King comes to mind, in particular.

Link to the video of the interview. It's very funny.

I also think that children and adults get different things out of stories. What an adult might think is inappropriate for a child, the child might not even think twice about.

***

ETA: Even though in the interview Gaiman does refer to it as a children's book, in his blog he says he doesn't really consider it a children's book:

"Over the last few months people have written in and asked what kind of a book The Graveyard Book is, whether it's for kids or adults, all that sort of thing. And I haven't answered because it wasn't actually finished, and I figured I'd find out when it was done. And it's done now.

I think The Graveyard Book is a book for pretty much all ages, although I'm not sure how far down that actually starts. I think I would have loved it when I was eight, but I don't think that all eight-year olds were like me.

It has a protagonist who is about eighteen months old in the first chapter, four in the second chapter, six in the third, and so on, until, by chapter eight, he is all of sixteen years old. There's no sex in it and no swearing. There is some really scary stuff in there, and a few of the people (all adults) who have read it have written to tell me they cried in the last chapter.

But it's not a children's book. It's a book that I think children will enjoy, but there's also stuff that's there for adults too. It's a book about life and death and making families. It has ghouls in it, and the Hounds of God, and the Sleer, and the Indigo Man, and a lot of very dead people.

It's not that easy to describe. I'm reminded of Kim Newman's review of Anansi Boys, which began "Anansi Boys is one of Neil Gaiman's books for grown-ups, which means that it's a lot less ruthless than the material he produces for children", and it's a very true observation. From that perspective, it's definitely one of my children's books."

So if we never come to a consensus about where it fits, then at least we're in good company with the man himself. *grins*

(And, as a side note, I desperately want a copy of the children's version from the UK with illustrations by Chris Riddell.)


message 10: by Brooke (new)

Brooke blackrose, your comments are very similar to an article and its comments on ew.com about children's movies that are coming out that are a little darker than one might expect:

http://popwatch.ew.com/2009/08/02/and...

The author says, "I suspect — and hope — that kids will be excited and relieved to see movies that acknowledge the dark complexities of childhood. I mean, don’t kids deserve a little more meat to chew on than talking guinea pigs and chihuahuas?"


colleen the convivial curmudgeon (blackrose13) | 1563 comments Thanks for the article. The comments list a lot of movies which I loved as a kid which have dark elements to it, and I don't think I'm much worse for wear.

'Alice in Wonderland' is an excellent example, I think, of a story which was much different to me as a child than it is now. (I'm both anxious for and partially terrified of Burton's upcoming version.)


message 12: by Libby (new)

Libby | 271 comments @ blackrose - I agree that YA is extremely broad and may benefit from further distinction within the subgenre. Further, what is "appropriate" certainly depends on the individual child.

Regarding TGB, I don't have a problem with the darker elements since that is certainly part of childhood and growing up. I guess my worry for younger readers is that the description of the murders is somewhat gruesome by YA standards – or is it? That being said, do I find it gruesome in and of itself? Or because I have knowledge that these things really do happen so my mind fills in and “sees” the gritty details. As we get older we see much more violence and human depravity which colors our perspective. Guess it's a "chicken or the egg" argument - would I have found the opening passage so disturbing if I was still a child with less knowledge of real world horrors? I don't know.



message 13: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) I thought the murders at the opening made it inappropriate for the 5-8 year old crowd. It wasn't like fantasy violence. It took place in the real world and the guy was chasing after a BABY.

Disney movies do have death in them, but not quite at the level of this book. At least, they haven't since Bambi's mother was killed by hunters and quite a few people I know are still traumatized by that one. And yes, the father in the Lion King was murdered, but it looked like it was an accident while he was trying to protect his child. It wasn't like a murderer was chasing him in the middle of the night. As I recall, The Lion King got a PG rating instead of a G. I suspect if most of the classic Disney movies were made today, they'd get PG ratings too.


message 14: by Greyweather (new)

Greyweather | 234 comments Sandi wrote: "I thought the murders at the opening made it inappropriate for the 5-8 year old crowd. It wasn't like fantasy violence. It took place in the real world and the guy was chasing after a BABY."

Remember this is an allusion to the opening of The Jungle Book, where the tiger Shere Khan is hunting after baby Mowgli.


message 15: by Libby (new)

Libby | 271 comments @ Greyweather - good point. When you consider the inspiration of The Jungle Book for the story it puts a lot into perspective


message 16: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) That is a good point. I would also say the Kipling was aiming The Jungle Books at an audience over age 8 as well.


message 17: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) I was talking ages. Oops.


message 18: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) I just re-read her post. She started out citing something that said grades 5-8, then talked about ages 5-8. At least, that's how I interpreted it.


message 19: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) I would have really loved it between 4th and 6th grade.


message 20: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) I really liked the "Stranger than Fiction" books and books by that author who claimed the pyramids and the Easter Island statues were proof that aliens had been to Earth in prehistoric times. The "Stranger than Fiction" books were really good; they had all kinds of weird, "true" stories about spontaneous combustion, ghosts, ESP and a bunch of other topics.


colleen the convivial curmudgeon (blackrose13) | 1563 comments I had said that I didn't think it would be appropriate, necessarily, for ages 5-8 but I can see 9-12 and on just fine... also that it's listed alternately as ages 10 and up and grades 5-8. Clear as mud? *grins*


message 22: by Ben (new)

Ben Babcock (tachyondecay) | 138 comments The Lion King is essentially Hamlet with a happier ending....

I adore The Lion King because of its dark elements and Shakespearean allusions. It's the hallmark of a previous Disney (we'll call it "Disney classic", one that produced complex children's movies. My problem with the current Disney programming regime (called "new Disney") is not that it's devoid of moral instruction, but it seems to package that moral instruction in tidy clichéd situations that are about as subtle as putting up a sign that says, "Today we'll learn about responsibility." I feel like there's a dearth of both creativity and complexity in new Disney vis-à-vis Disney classic.

That's why I love Gaiman's "young adult" fiction; he doesn't patronize children/adolescents. I suspect this is also why his young adult fiction appeals to a large demographic of older adults as well. Greyweather hit the nail on the head when he said that the book "treats the reader with the assumption that they are intelligent." As a reader, I always enjoy a book more when it engages in me a dialogue instead of treating me like a passive recipient of the story. And I love seeing YA fiction do this, because there's nothing better than entertaining a reader, especially a young reader, while simultaneously stimulating the intellect. The Graveyard Book is pure Disney classic, without the actual Disney. Or, you know, the classic. But you get what I mean!


message 23: by Peregrine (new)

Peregrine When I was a child, I read Grimm's Fairy Tales, in which, among other things, a wicked queen is made to dance in red-hot iron shoes until she falls down dead, a villainess is put inside a nail-studded barrel and rolled down a hill, a wicked stepmother lures her small stepson into leaning over a heavily-lidded chest by telling him there are apples inside, and then drops the lid on him, cutting his head off, and a goose girl gets advice from the talking, severed head of her murdered horse. TGB pales in goriness by comparison.


message 24: by Libby (new)

Libby | 271 comments Peregrine wrote: "When I was a child, I read Grimm's Fairy Tales, in which, among other things, a wicked queen is made to dance in red-hot iron shoes until she falls down dead, a villainess is put inside a nail-stud..."

Very valid point - the old school nursery rhymes and fables are very graphic and violent by today's standards. For example, if you told your child stealing might led to death ala Peter Rabbit you might have protective services knocking on your door





message 25: by Pauline (new)

Pauline (Astrophysics) | 4 comments I think it's probably a tweens book, but it's that kind of book that everyone can enjoy. I think older audiences will get a different messages from it, but it's fine for kids as just another adventure-esque book. I think in terms of gore and the like, it's probably censored enough to be on Disney level.


message 26: by susie (new)

susie  hawes (ghostposts) | 21 comments labeling books is only good as a general guideline. I've know many tweens that read adult content books and vice versa, especially in the spec fic genres.


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

My guess is that it depends on the maturity and particular fears of the particular child. While I think 5 and 6 might be a bit young for this book, I can easily see a couple 7 or eight year olds I know being able to understand and appreciate this book given the way its presented.


message 28: by Juliezs (new)

Juliezs | 5 comments I believe that one of the main reasons we have specific stories for children is to help them figure out the big question: what would I do if my parents die? A very common worry of kids ages 8 and up, so I think this book would be very appropriate. There is nothing in TGB that isn't in a Grimm's Fairy Tale traditional story.
And TGB is also very appropriate for older readers too because the characters are so great and engaging, the story is well told, and the message/meaning of the book is timeless.


message 29: by Dawn (new)

Dawn (Dawn9655) | 69 comments Coming in a little late on this: My understanding of the YA sub-genre is that it has more to do with the age of the protagonist than it does with the age of the audience. Of course, that means there will be more younger readers than adults, but that's okay. Anything to get them reading.


message 30: by ajah (new)

ajah | 19 comments I felt the story was very young, and it definitely read like a children's book.


message 31: by Nathan (new)

Nathan Daniels | 24 comments Dawn wrote: "Coming in a little late on this: My understanding of the YA sub-genre is that it has more to do with the age of the protagonist than it does with the age of the audience. Of course, that means th..."

I dont really think YA sub genre is really concerned too much with the age of any of the characters. Its more in the way that the book itself is written. When an author does it right, there is nothing you can really point to that says "this is a kids book" but you know that a kid can read through the book without difficulty or misunderstanding. However, the storyline is still just enough to maintaint he interest of an adult.

I would say that the Graveyard Book is strictly YA, but that in no way means that adults won't enjoy it as well. I look at the age related genres as a guideline of when the average person can start to enjoy a book. Not the limit on how long you can read it.

I myself began reading at around 5 with Louis Lamour novels, but still enjoy reading books like Aesops Fables and Curious Georgeam at the age of 27.


message 32: by Nicole (last edited Jan 14, 2012 02:18PM) (new)

Nicole (chaitea2) | 88 comments This book was my introduction to Gaiman. I read it at the same time as my 14 year old son and we both loved it. It's beautifully written and the story is engaging and original. I went on to read American Gods, AnansiBoys and Stardust. My son started AG but found it too disturbing. I think it makes sense to categorize GB as YA so that kidsknow tht the author had their age group in mind when writing it. But it really is a book for all ages.


message 33: by Stuart (new)

Stuart (Asfus) | 181 comments I would class the Graveyard Book as YA.


message 34: by MK (new)

MK (wisny) | 483 comments I just finished this one yesterday. IA, def YA. But I think a broad spectrum of ages can enjoy it, not just young YA.

There was a bit in the middle where it felt absolutely geared to way too young an audience for an adult, and I had trouble not drifting while reading. But the last chapters (and btw, the 'chapters' are huge! really more like linked short-stories, almost) were quite tense at times, not really suitable for a young YA audience, and intense enough that I was paying close attention :-D. I'm glad I read the book. Looking forward to my next Gaiman very much! (This was my first of his books.)


message 35: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Clough (BrendaClough) | 936 comments It is YA, because the publishers classified it that way for marketing purposes. And believe me, they think hard and long so as to maximize dollars; on things like this there is no fail.


message 36: by Neal (new)

Neal (infinispace) | 145 comments Graveyard Book is written in a very YA voice, but it's a very dark tale so it has broad appeal. In fact it may be too dark for really young kids.

Personally, as an adult, I loved it.


message 37: by Nicole (new)

Nicole (chaitea2) | 88 comments Neal wrote: "Graveyard Book is written in a very YA voice, but it's a very dark tale so it has broad appeal. In fact it may be too dark for really young kids.

Personally, as an adult, I loved it."

Same here.


message 38: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Clough (BrendaClough) | 936 comments There are many, many YAs that are perfectly well suited to adults. The Bartimaeus trilogy, by Jonathan Stroud, is a grand example. You could hardly find a better fantasy set anywhere, in whatever category.


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