More and more I’m seeing “young adult book” used in popular culture as an umbrella term for a wide assortment of titles only some of which are actually teen books. In articles, favorites lists, and blog posts, books being identified as young adult are in fact books for younger readers, children that is.
For example, The Atlantic‘s post “The Best of the Young Adult B-Sides” includes Gregor the Overlander which is a book for children firstly even if teens read it too. Granted, the post’s writers do acknowledge that “…we have sought out the best ‘B-sides’ of some of your favorite Y.A. and children’s authors” but then why use only “Young Adult” in the title? Or how about Flavorwire including two Newbery winners — an award for children’s books — Catherine, Called Birdy and The Westing Game in their “10 Best Young Adult Books for Grown-Ups“?
Telling is what happened last summer when NPR did a “Best YA Fiction Poll.” It caused a lot of controversy about many things among them questions about why favorite books didn’t end up on the final list. In a response NPR noted:
It turns out that a lot of the books we remember as YA are actually meant for younger kids. And librarians and educators recognize that those kids have distinct needs and tastes. If you look up many of the missing books, their publishers recommend them for children “8 and up” or “10 and up.” So if there’s a classic from your childhood that didn’t make the list, that’s probably why.
Bingo! Nostalgia is what is going on here and it isn’t fair. That is, it is all well and good that those adults who enjoy reading young adult books today like to reminisce about their favorite teen reads. But when they include children’s books among them and called them YA they are marginalizing the true readership of these books. My 4th grade students are children. They are not young adults. They are not teenagers. They are a separate group as are their books. And they and their books matter too. So please, consider the children…books, that is.
Also at the Huffington Post.