Monday, May 24, 2010

This Post Features A High School Musical Poster. That's All I Can Say...

I don't know how this works in the official blogger world (I have not yet learned the proper blog edict), but I want to quote something from another blog. Something that made me mad. Offended. Something that made me want to say something about it.

It was from this blog, which I found when looking for early reviews of My Name of Memory by Ann Brashares, which comes out in a few weeks (I mentioned my excitement about in last week in this post). It wasn't that the reviewer didn't like the book. That's fine by me. There are tons of books I don't like. And I respect anyone's right to an opinion. No, it was this part the review that really got to me (the part in purple really rilled me up):
My main problem with this book is the same problem I had with Stephenie Meyer’s The Host: it’s lauded as an “adult” book, meaning not Young Adult fiction, but I didn’t get that distinction in The Host, and I don’t get it in My Name is Memory. Adding a couple of intimacy scenes along with abuse and genocide doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve written a more adult type of book. Though the plot was intriguing, and the writing wasn’t awful, I didn’t find that My Name is Memory contained the true maturity or message fit for it to be considered in the realm of “adulthood.” My definition of an “adult novel” would be one of stellar writing and advanced theme, characters with depth. Brashares writing was just average, and there were parts of the plot that were contrived and forced.
To me this passage is quite offensive. It suggests that YA books can't have good writing. Or good characters. Or important themes. Are you kidding me? I think (and I have much evidence to back this up) there have been MANY MANY great YA novels with great characters, great writing, and great themes. I don't think any of these are qualifiers for the whole YA vs. Adult novel distinction. But that got me thinking, and the obvious question came about: what defines an "adult novel"?

This has been a gray area, one publishers have been muddling around with for years. There is no hard and fast line, no swear count or sex scene number, like in the movies. Sometimes, I think publishers make mistakes. With the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty, for example, the publisher marketed them as adult books. They were about a teenager's experience in and after high school. I'm sorry, but that is clearly young adult. Teenagers and high school. It's pretty plain there.

Pretty simple formula: Teenagers + High School= Young Adult Novel

Looking at that example, I think my definition of "adult novel" is all about subject matter. Generally, I put anything that takes place in or around high school (or even sometimes university) as young adult. Anything that has a main character in between the ages of 12 and 20. Pretty much anything that features "young adults". I most certainly do not think it has anything to do with the quality of the work, as the blogger suggested. Some of the best books, most well written books I have ever read have been in the YA category. I have read a ton of YA books and a ton of adult books. And I have never found the adult books to be any better, on the whole.

It's an interesting thought (to me, at least). I've read a lot of interviews with authors where they're asked if they consider their books YA or adult or if they write for such specific audiences. The authors usually say that they originally intended to write an adult book, but when they showed it to their publisher, they put into YA. I find this interesting. It really begs the question: Does the author define the genre?

Of course, none of this really, truly matters at the end of the day. Young adults like me read so-called "adult books" all the time. And we've all heard about the adults who read Twilight. People read cross-genre all the time. But I don't think this categorization should be blown-off entirely. Because I know that distinction has influenced my book purchases more than once.

I want to say right out that I mean no ill-will to the blogger mentioned in this post (and let me say right now, preemptively perhaps, that I have no desire to start a blog war). It was simply a matter of differing opinion, one I wanted to discuss a little bit more. Really, I should thank you, dear blogger, for getting me thinking and writing and debating. You've given me a lot to ponder.


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