What Makes Something “Young Adult”?

I read reviews and chatter about books online. It comes with the territory of being an author and librarian. And a personal pet peeve of mine is when books are dismissed as being “too young adult.” (I mean, of course it would irritate me, seeing as how I write young adult literature. I’d like to make a particular side note of an even bigger pet peeve: when adults criticize a YA book for being “too YA.” That’s like me getting angry that my chocolate ice cream tastes like chocolate.)

From context, I gather that when people talk about something being Young Adult, they’re using shorthand for it being too simple, or too short, or too fast paced, or even possibly for being written in first person point of view. They also might not like that there aren’t adult themes, or graphic sex, or . . . I don’t know. I can’t figure everything out.

I don’t think I’m irritated by the fact that some people prefer books that are slow paced or very lyrical or whatever. To each their own. No, I think what really gets my goat is when people use someone else’s favorite style as a way to put down or dismiss something in that art form. Although as I think about it, perhaps this is hypocritical of me. I don’t like Grape Nuts. This is a well-established fact. But my critiques of Grape Nuts center themselves around the qualities of the “cereal” that I dislike. Namely, how it has the consistency and taste that bring a certain je ne sais quoi to mind. Let’s call it . . . cat litter.

(Then again, as I think on it, perhaps there really are people out there who like to eat cat litter, and so I shouldn’t be so dismissive of it.)

Would I ever said something tasted too much like Grape Nuts? I suppose I might, if I had a bowl of cat litter for breakfast? But if I were to do that, wouldn’t it kind of be my own darn fault for choosing to eat something I know I generally don’t like?

If you don’t like YA books, don’t read YA books. But if you read an adult book and feel like it’s too fast or too whatever, just say that, instead of saying it’s “too YA.”

This makes perfect sense in my head, but I worry it isn’t translating itself well into blog form. Oh well. Some days you’ve got grapes and nuts, and some days you’ve got Grape Nuts.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *