Wednesday, November 13, 2002

What I Found on the Young Adult Shelf


I want to talk about the difference between a book for young people and a book with a young character. I believe I've done this before, but, well, I'm doing it again.

This line of thought was inspired by I Never Liked You by Chester Brown, which I found in the Young Adult section of my local library. I Never Liked You describes itself as a "Comic-Strip Narrative." It's very much a comic-strip memoir. (Does anyone else besides Chester Brown and myself remember that on the Daniel Boone television show Boone had a sidekick named Mingo?) I Never Liked You is a little disjointed and rambly, but the episodes it describes are very true to adolescent life.

Does that mean it's a book for adolescents? There are panels of full-frontal nudity as well as large sections involving very rough language. Both the nudity and the language are appropriate for the story line and true to life. Would I want to hand the book to my 12 to 15 year-old-child? Hmmm. Do I think it should be promoted as a YA book? Definitely not.

The adolescent experience is one that still interests many adult readers. It makes sense that books for them will be written with adolescent characters. I Never Liked You appears to be one of them. I can't find any information on Brown that suggests he thinks of himself as a Young Adult writer or that anyone knowledgeable about independent comics/graphic novels considers him to be one.

However, the adult comic is such a new genre in this country (actually, Brown is Canadian) that literary types are having trouble categorizing it. Yeah, I know, categorizing is bad, and I guess this is an example that illustrates why that's so. While I Never Liked You is sitting on the YA shelf where it may be picked up by a teenager whose parents may find it too mature for their offspring, adults who could really appreciate it don't know it exists.

It may not even be accurate to assume that graphic novels are a genre teens are particularly interested in. I Never Liked You has been in my town library for seven months. I was the first person to take it out.

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