|Age guidance on book cover|
When we started We Sat Down, Little M and I had very little idea of what YA fiction was. We would both raise a questioning eyebrow at each other when we came to the end of the 8-12 shelf. Or when we asked for a particular title and the librarian would say, ‘oh, that one’s in YA’. Or more confusingly, ‘yes, there’s a copy in the children’s section and YA’. And just a couple of days ago, I was told off for using Little M’s children’s card to get YA books from the library. They let me but mumbled that you can’t take adult books out on a children’s card (probably to do with avoiding potential fines…).
Of course, Little M’s interest is in finding books that she wants to read. For her, “adult books are boring” but some books are “too childish”. For me, I’m interested in books that we’ll both read because I do think many good books will carry across the generations.
We’ve both started sayings things to each other like “yes, you’ll like this one” or “no, I don’t think you’ll like it” and that’s marvellous. But I’ve also found that I’m saying things like “maybe you should wait a couple more years”. It usually has sex in it. Or quantum physics. And then there are some books where I simply say “I wouldn’t bother. It’s terribly written and there are so many other good books out there.” And violence for the sake of it, well I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone (and it remains one of my bugbears about Divergent).
But now, we kind of get the idea that YA often starts at 12+. But then there are group author blogs aimed at particular age groups. Like Girls Heart Books is aimed at readers 8-14. And newly-formed UKYA which sees itself as a step on from here starting at about 13+. And YA in general seems to be mainly for girls? But we’ve found a couple of book blogs that focus on ‘boy readers’ like The Bookzone and Literature for Lads. There's The Edge too where authors tackle controversial content issues.
And then publishers often have an altogether different age categorisation system. And there are some who simply seem to treat it as a new genre with a growing cult of fan-readers. And the ‘ands’ go on and on – particularly among publishers and the would-be-literati. What we’re really interested in (probably me more than Little M) is how much these distinctions help us to find the books that we really want to read.
There have been lively debates about this in response partly to some writer who was a bit snobby about it all but just this week the Booktrust’s series of children's book seminars at the London Book Fair sparked off a number of Twitter and blog debates.
When we set up this blog, we stuck a poll on it (as you do, playing around with widgets and stuff). We asked whether or not age categories were useful for books. To bring that poll to a close, and in recognition of our recent booky explorations, we’ll be running a series of blog posts on the different sorts of boundaries that are part of the YA fiction environment.
We’ve been in conversation with some exciting and award-winning authors, including Sita Brahmachari (Artichoke Hearts and Jasmine Skies). We’re delighted that we’ll be in conversation with them over the coming weeks……please come and join us.