Okay, since this topic seems to come up a lot on Twitter, what better way to talk about it than in a discussion post?
Recently, there’s been some confusion and frustration going on in the book community on Twitter in regards to content in YA books that is polarized between YA and NA. Where do we draw the line?
I’m going to start this off by saying that I’m not sure where to stand. I’ve seen sides of this argument, in which many I find completely valid points. However, I also do believe we should draw a line somewhere, and there’s a lot of gray area for controversy.
First off, Young Adult is not a genre, but a proposed age range for readers. Don’t get me wrong, this is proposed, which means all readers of all ages can read books in this category. However, young adults also do adult things. They can have sex, they can do drugs, they can curse. Not that I’m promoting these behaviors, but teenagers do predisposed “adult” things. In many YA books, sex is already hinted at before the scene/chapter cuts off, though we know what’s going to happen. So does that mean that explicit sex scenes can be presented in YA?
Take NEVERNIGHT by Jay Kristoff. Some people shelve this book as Young Adult, whilst others shelve this book as New Adult. Many people attribute this to the amount of sexual content, violence, and language, which I completely acknowledge—it’s there. Many people also say that those older than seventeen should be exposed to this content. But what’s the difference between a sixteen-year-old and a seventeen-year-old? I read NEVERNIGHT over the course of a week or so, my own seventeenth birthday passing through. Am I scarred for life? Not necessarily from this book. Perhaps it’s not age that should be judging the appropriateness of a book, but more of mental capacity.
Let’s take another view, which focuses more on the money, rather than the actual content of a book. In 2014, TIME magazine reported that there was a 22.4% increase of young adult book sales from 2013 to 2014, meaning more people are reading Young Adult (source). More people reading Young Adult means more publishers looking to publish Young Adult books, whether the novel is YA or not. And that means more money for publishers. (My capitalist-hating self makes an appearance.)
Let’s take another book. A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas is a pretty popular book. Lots of people shelve this book under NA even though many young adults read this series. Due to the sexual content, I would officially put this book under New Adult, even though personally, I would put this under Young Adult because I find this appropriate for myself. Should you let your thirteen-year-old read this? Probably not. However that’s completely your choice.
So in conclusion, although I’m still confused about my own opinion, read whatever you want! Make sure that you and/or your friends/family have the mental capacity to read books with certain content warnings.
Can YA be defined in such a small capacity? Can it be encapsulated by a few words or phrases? Can publishers have a greater influence the controversy depending on how they place books in certain categories?