Monday, September 9, 2019

WTF is YA?


Hello everyone! I honestly hadn't planned on doing a Monday post because I just got back from a work trip and my energy is at an all-time low, but I kept seeing conversations about mislabeling books as YA (when they are, in fact, adult) and it really got me thinking. 
So the question is, why do adult books keep getting shelved (be it physical or virtual spaces) as YA? I think the first question we have to ask ourselves is, well what is YA? For me, Young Adult is strictly an age group. It's a category of books that are (or should be) marketed to peoples ages 14-17. Now this doesn't mean that adults can't read YA and teens can't read adult, we all know that's not true. When I was a teen, I read exclusively adult historical romance and paranormal romance. I think the only YA title I read was Harry Potter. We also know that tons of adults read YA because the category is inclusive and just so different from what it was when we were younger. 

After being a part of a few conversations, I recognize that our definitions of YA have changed...which is confusing. YA has become synonymous with "buzz titles" and these titles typically have better marketing than any other age group. Hell, even their imprints are more fun, have you seen this YA imprints on twitter lately? Absolutely wild, but I digress. 

Now, let's get to the meat of the problem: people keep assuming adult titles are YA titles and I have some ideas as to why this is happening. 

1. The author had previously written a YA title. 
I'm not going to lie, I picked up Jay Kristoff's Nevernight because I knew he had written previous YA titles and had just assumed that this was another. I mean, it has a girl on the cover so it has to be YA! I recognize that's my own fault, but I also just went to the Nevernight GR page and it is currently shelved by 591 people as Young Adult. Leigh Bardugo is experiencing the same thing with her upcoming title Ninth House. This is something the readership has to fix, we can't pigeonhole authors into being one-trick ponies. Authors should be able to write whatever they want without forever being categorized as a YA author forever. 

2. The author is a woman in her 20s-30s writing fantasy. 
I've seen this sooo many times. Fantasy has been taking over YA for a few years now and because adult SFF is seen as predominately (white) male, up and coming female SFF authors are assumed to be writing YA fantasy, especially if they are a woman of color. I've seen this with S.A. Chakraborty, R.F Kuang, and Tasha Suri. To my knowledge, none of these authors have previously written YA but so often readers assume their stories are. Over the weekend, Chakraborty noted that her upcoming novel about a retired pirate was already labeled on GR as YA. HOW Y'ALL, HOW? 

3. The publisher is marketing it as YA. 
Luckily this is a rare example, but it still happens. Yup, this is a direct call-out ACOTAR. I adore A Court of Thorns and Roses and the series; however, that shit is NOT YA nor should it have ever been classified. I never finished the Throne of Glass series which I understand is more crossover, but at no point should ACOTAR been published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens. Not even noting the violence and explicit sex scenes, the main character is 19 years old. Nor sir, je refuse. 

4. Dark fantasies are aging YA up. 
I mentioned dark fantasies specifically because I don't read a lot of YA contemporary, but I've noticed a spike in darker fantasies over the past few years. Fantasy has more wiggle room in YA because the characters are typically aged older and they often act older (because they're leading rebellions and what not). With this trend, we tend to see characters who are 17 and 18 and dealing with serious things (like mass murder of their people) which is great, but what about those teens are who not ready for that level of dark yet? I feel like a lot of YA fantasy nowadays could easily be aged up to adult. Easily. 

5. YA readers are talking about this adult title. 
This happens a lot, especially with adult romance. The trend in adult romance is to have the cutesy illustrated covers and as we mentioned earlier, YA has a lot of adult readers. I remember when Helen Hoang's The Kiss Quotient came out and many of my bookish friends were raving about it. I know some people assumed that this would be a cutesy YA contemporary only to be surprised when they got to the first very explicit sex scene. Something similar happened with Red, White and Royal Blue. This one hit the trifecta because it had a cutesy cover, it was a gay romance, the author was a young woman, AND everyone was talking about it. 

So those are my thoughts as to why adult novels are being pushed as YA and what YA means to me. Did I ramble, yes. Do I regret it? No. 


How do you define YA?
What are some adult books that you notice keep getting miscategorized? 



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