« Cover reveal: the Princess Academy series | Main | This princess wears black »

September 30, 2014

Comments

Kaye

As an adult, I think of age ranges as something the bookstores require so they know where to shelve a book. As a former kid, I know that I shopped LOTS of different shelves of the bookstore, but I appreciated the segregation because I didn't want to sift through bodice-rippers or True Crime novels to get to what I was interested in. (Which is more of an argument for separating by genre rather than "age.") As a parent, I have already been frustrated and disappointed by the common attitude that picture books are books you want to move your kids through in about 2-3 years and then never see them again. I think the picture book attitude is bleeding over into the other shelves. I see kids eager to "read up," sometimes just for the sake of reading up. Many of my 10-year-old's friends have already read The Fault in Our Stars, which I don't think is wrong or bad, but I hope it hasn't squeezed out one of your books, or Jennifer Holms', or Gary Schmidt's.

The YA writing/publishing community is a separate issue. Having tried my hand at "literary" writing in a very writer-friendly town, then moved to "kidlit" (parenting sometimes does that to a person), the difference in the communities is night and day. Broadly and generally speaking, the "adult lit" community is anxious about limited opportunities for publication, and competitive and judgmental attitudes are fairly common. The kid lit community seems to be of the belief that if you write a really good book the odds of it seeing a bookshelf are actually pretty good, and therefore there is more of a sense of cameraderie and less of competition. These are, as I mentioned, broad generalizations, and of course competition exists in kidlit and community support exists in adult lit, but I do like where I am right now. :)

It is strange for authors to be put in the position of defending their readers, but maybe kids have always been considered a mass and marginalized.

ilima

I've been thinking about this so much lately. I've never felt ashamed to read picture books or MG books as an adult, and I read adult books as a 10 year old and felt fine about that too. I've tried to be encouraging as far as my own kids go. If my 14 yo son wants to keep reading Captain Underpants and Wimpy Kid, I say go for it. When my 15 yo daughter asks to read books with more mature themes, I encourage her with the trust that she'll put it down if it's too much for her, and that I'm available to discuss it at all times. I feel absolutely livid when people tell me what they think me (or my children) should or should not read. I love the fact that my boys can read and enjoy Princess Academy without fear of being made fun of.

My debut YA novel comes out two weeks from today. I've seen reviewers say it feels like it's written for 10-13 year olds, others say it's only for older, mature teens, and others who think it's pure evil and should be read by no one ever. I really wish I could just shout to the world: it's just a story, people. If you don't like it, that's totally fine. That means I didn't write it for you. But that doesn't make you the expert on who should or shouldn't read it. Ugh.

Susan

I have 10 and 13 year old daughters. They both love your books. I don't let the 10 year old shop the YA shelves - no Divergent/Hunger Games, no Sarah Dessen, no Twilight. For me, it is more about the content than the reading level. I am always fine when they read books younger than their age level, but reading "older" books generally means more mature content than I want them to be exposed to.

Kasey Tross

I was thinking about this the other day at the library. We went to a different branch than usual and I noticed that at this particular building they had shelves of juvenile nonfiction books placed perpendicular to the stacks of juvenile fiction. I realized this because I had been looking for some fiction for my son and I ended up in the biography section by mistake. But it was a happy mistake- I found several books I thought he might enjoy. This got me wondering: was the placement of those books intentional? How many other unsuspecting library patrons might have done the same thing? What if fiction and nonfiction were all mixed together, with no distinction? How many young, impressionable readers might discover something they never knew they liked?

So, regarding your question, I have an idea: I think every library and bookstore should have a “Wildcard” section. It would be filled with fiction and nonfiction, Children’s, YA, and Adult. The only restriction would be that books had a G or PG rating to protect the little readers (well, they don’t rate books, but you know what I mean) and us more sensitive adults. I think it would be wonderful for adults to discover children’s books and for children to discover YA books that they might never have found otherwise.

Jaleh Fidler

I think the real tragedy comes from the possibility of taking away the very story that might have sparked a flame of inspiration, or kindled a love of reading in our children, teenagers or adults. As an adult, I haven’t always been so passionate about reading and it was through reading a children’s series that I discovered that I love to escape in literature. As a parent, I want my children to discover that same passion for reading. I want for them to learn the magic of literature and the thrill of escaping into the pages of a good story. I want my children to develop feelings about the stories they read, to be inspired and challenged. How else might they learn to turn on their imaginations to create wonder and excitement on their own? Television? Video Games? In this instant gratification world, is there any other tool as precious to the development and ignition of imagination than getting lost in the depths of a good story? How sad to think that someone might miss the opportunity to read a book that might have motivated or inspired them to form a forever love of reading simply because someone else would presume they shouldn’t (or couldn’t) read it. I can understand the appropriateness of content needing to be age appropriate, but if we are only talking about a label (Young Adult, Middle Grade, Young Reader) I think the entire literary buffet should be your smorgasbord!

Heidi

I don't like labeling things, either. Besides adult books I think of chapter books in 2 groups, YA or kids. For me YA is any book that has themes in it that I think might be too much for my elementary schoolers and the rest go into the kids category. It makes it simpler for my brain. I am vigilant about what my children entertain themselves with in any category, though, so maybe I am odd. I want to be the rating system for them, not someone else.

Eliza

At age eleven, I gave up reading. I'd already picked over everything in the MG section and the YA books weren't "for" me. At thirteen, I avoided contemporary books because they were all set in high school. But now I've decided that books don't need to be "for" me. I read what I want.
I'm seventeen and I just finished A Wonderlandiful World. I loved it. The fourth wall breaks, the Wonderland elements, Kitty's dry humor, Maddie's speech about readers connecting with books and NO I'M NOT TEARING UP. I only cry in books when someone dies. How dare you suggest that. And I don't have Princess in Black on hold either.
I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said. I'm passionate about age the way some people are with their race or gender. It's nice to see an adult feel the same.

Heidi

I was so relieved when I had kids so I had an excuse for going to the children's section of the library to pick up books like yours (I have always loved reading all sorts of books, but as a 34yo mom I think I still like MG/YA best). How ridiculous is that! Like anyone knew or cared whether I had kids or was getting books for myself? We are so silly sometimes. :)

rinna-girl

I guess I used to think of YA books being for about ages 13-17. But now I'm about to turn 18 and I want to keep reading my favourite YA novels, as well as any new ones I might find. When I was younger I was actually dreading becoming an adult because I thought it meant you could only read "adult" books, ones that are dark and have sex scenes or Important Life Lessons. My view of what people "should" read at a certain age has definitely changed, thank goodness, and I see no problem with adults reading YA books

Lindsay

Maybe by "not really a YA author" they meant "not JUST a YA author" - since you have published several books for adults and several aimed at elementary school children as well as several marketed to teens and tweens. That's just me trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, because otherwise they sound pretty silly.

But I'm not a big fan of labels, and I read from all the different sections of the library.

Liza

I never thought about a divide between YA and middle grade books until last weekend. I went with my 10 year old son to the Tweens Read Festival in Houston. (We had a blast!) The festival is geared towards 5-8th grades. While all the books there were labeled middle grade, there were a few that I would consider more YA than middle grade. Could I define the difference? Not really. But I knew there was a difference.

I ate lunch with our school librarian (the school is 5th-6th grade) and we discussed some of the books presented. With the question of are they really middle grade or is the content for the older crowd? We came to the conclusion that I need to read them and report back to her. (Yes, the conversation was: Her: "You're going to be my reader. You read these books and report back to me what you think." Me: "Absolutely!") I suspect that the books in question will be perfect for kids as they are finishing 6th grade.

The more I think about it, the more I realize it's a continuum. There is a lot of overlap, but some are far enough on one end to be labeled one thing and some are far enough on the other end to be labeled something else. The problem is that labels are subjective. It reminds me of the time I recommended "The Goose Girl" for a friend's daughter to read. I told her the basic premise of the book and she was a bit concerned about the fantasy elements (which I was able to reassure her about). Then, she said that she just didn't want her daughter reading books with murders and violence and spirits and things. And there is murder and violence in The Goose Girl! But it's not graphic and not gratuitous and it's minimal and it's necessary to move the story forward. To her, it's not appropriate for her daughter. To me, it's perfect for the daughter. It's all subjective.

For you specifically, I think of you as YA even though many of your books are better classified as middle grade. Then again, I often think of middle grade as part of YA. I think labels exist only as a way to decide what to put on which shelves. Labels exist for the marketing departments.

Me? I don't let labels dictate my reading. I do read a lot of YA, but I don't read only YA. Honestly, I've read many books because they were well recommended and was surprised when I later learned that they were YA. I had not thought of them that way; I thought of them as really good books!

Kendyl

As far as age labeling, I have definitely felt like there are some books I shouldn't be reading because they're "kid books," and I'm in high school. But frequently, those "kid books" are more exciting, more well-written, and generally better than some of the books my friends recommend. I have read and enjoyed books like Behind the Beautiful Forevers (an adult book), but I also loved looking through the picture book Journey and the Ever After High series (I stayed up past midnight to reread the first two when the third one came out). What matters to me is the story in the book, not whether it's YA or kids or whatever.

Corinne

I started reading some YA books when I was in elementary school, and I still read them now that I actually am in high school (Junior). But I also like to read children's books, adult books, non-fiction, and the classics. I mean, I don't think age defines what you can read or what you can't. Sure, I think that kids probably shouldn't read some YA until they are older and more mature, but I don't think you can ever be too old for a book. To think that you can't read a book because it isn't meant for your "age group" is ridiculous, and it's crazy to think that reading a book that's for younger readers somehow makes you immature or something like that. I think reading ANYTHING (except for books that are excessive in profanity or sex or drugs, etc.) helps you grow, and it's just what you enjoy or what speaks to you the most that matters. Reading books helps you know what if feels like to go through different experiences without actually going through them, and that makes you understand people better and understand life better. Books are wonderful things and putting a limit on them is absurd. So that's my rant :)
P.S. I will still be reading YA when I'm an adult

Jessica

I've never ever taken the age ranges seriously. They're all books and the age range is a suggestion for what they think people of different ages would enjoy. This, to me, doesn't mean you can't read books that are young adult or middle grade. Saying that if you're not in the right age description you can't read a book is like saying that if you're a small child you can't eat lasagna or chicken cordon bleu or if you're an adult you can't get excited over cookies. Anybody can read whatever kind of book they want to regardless, why let some silly age ranges prevent you from reading something you love or even trying new things? Age ranges are guidelines not actual rules there is no book police that's gonna arrest you if you're not reading books in your age range.

Anna

I am seventeen years old and let me just say, I kind of devoured the Ever After High series! I read them to my younger sister who is eight and we both LOVED them! I never take age ranges seriously!

Sondy

As a librarian, this desire to categorize books to be for a certain age range bothers me a lot. As an aspiring writer, who likes to do fairy-tale type books, with the heroine falling in love with the hero -- it's hard to decide where to fit it. I don't want to have them super young, but neither do I want to put in graphic sex and violence. It's kind of frustrating.

Rhea

I'm a 27 year old adult and I love your books! Don't let silly people get you down. You are such a great writer, you attract readers of all ages!

The comments to this entry are closed.