On Wednesday, I visited a lovely new independent bookstore. A big store, connected with a state university that's home to a children's literature collection and a good-sized annual children's bookfair. I noticed that the store had a "Teen" section. Then I noticed that it also had a "YA" section. The YA section was large, larger than the Teen section. And I saw what I thought were children's books shelved there.
Well, I was intrigued. No, I was confused. So, since there was no one else there, I asked the woman behind the counter why they had both a Teen and YA section. The Teen section, I was told, was for books that had more sex and violence. The YA section would have less. I said I'd noticed what I'd consider children's books in the YA section. She said, yes, YA begins at third grade. Teen, I believe she said, begins at ninth, though I'm not sure I'm recalling that correctly.
I asked where these designations were coming from. She said, "The publishers."
Now, I'm not a publishing insider by a long shot. But there's been a lot of turmoil regarding YA recently, particularly regarding adults reading YA. Horn Book editor Roger Sutton did a post on Why Do We Even Call It YA Anymore? because of the number of adults reading it. But that salesperson's explanation was the first I'd heard of YA as a classification for children's books or that publishers were suggesting that it should be.
I know that I get a little obsessive about definitions. However, declaring that the Young Adult category is for children's books, at a time when adults are supposed to be reading them for their adult pleasure, seems to be making this whole situation so confusing that the name Young Adult is going to become meaningless. I certainly don't know what it means now.