Friday, June 20, 2014

I Heard Something Even More Bizarre About YA This Week

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 YAHorn 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.


Unknown said...

Sounds like she's confusing YA and middle-grade. Also, teen books are so much more than "the books with more sex and violence." But then I don't need to tell you. Preaching to the choir!

Gail Gauthier said...

Unless this store's classification system becomes commonly used, I should think they would lose children's sales. Parents who are familiar with what YA has been over the last decade or two (or more) are not going to look on shelves clearly marked "Young Adult" for children's books.

On the other hand, maybe promoters of this system (if there really are any) are thinking, People want YA. If we call children's books YA, they will buy them.

tanita✿davis said...

"On the other hand, maybe promoters of this system (if there really are any) are thinking, People want YA. If we call children's books YA, they will buy them."

Gail, I think that's the ticket.
There's been SO MUCH PRESS about how everyone loves YA that the net is really getting wider, in some places, for books in that genre. It all comes down to craziness in the end, though; I think most books are sold by word-of-mouth and handsold by smart booksellers who say, "If you liked this, you might like - " so fudging on what's really for young adults only confuses the people who like to shop without someone hand-selling things to them, and really, defeats the purpose, I think.