Maybe you’re a bit like me — given a cereal packet, a receipt, a magazine, a leaflet, a poster, a road sign, I’ll start reading and instantly lose myself. During everyday conversations my eyes soon start drifting around, looking for literary matter. Faced with bookshelves my head twists to one side to scan the titles (which, thankfully, these days mostly read vertically one way — unless they’re fat textbooks or foreign language titles). Maybe you’re even trying to scan the book titles in the illustration heading this post.
In addition you may have noticed from my reviews that I’m a literary omnivore, and that my reading — like yours too, perhaps — spans everything from reference to fairytale, non-fiction to fantasy, classics to children’s novels. You may even have landed up here on this blog because, as WordPress helpfully tells us, judicious tagging brings in more readers and followers. But I’ve got a problem, and it’s all to do with these pernicious labels. One label in particular. Young Adult.
Young Adult. Sometimes shortened to YA. What age range does that cover? Nobody seems to agree exactly. Without going into a long history about children’s literature (some time, but not now) I remember a time when children’s sections in libraries indicated a sub-section as Juvenile. It seems to have gone out of fashion — maybe the conjunction of ‘juvenile’ and ‘delinquent’ put paid to the term — and Young Adult or Adolescent or, most often, Teen has replaced it.
Does that mean a rigid 13-19 spread? Maturity varies a lot between twelve and twenty. And a lot of the titles seem to also appeal to pre-teens. Plus book review blogs of YA or teen novels are most likely to be written by 20-somethings or, heaven help us, senior citizens, who supposedly aren’t the target audience.
So, a plague on this particular categorisation. I’m happy to tag reviews according to genre or genres rather than straightjacketing the books according to an age-related ghetto, especially as the latter suggests that it’s inappropriate for me to enjoy something I’m supposed to be too old for. Alan Garner famously refused to acknowledge that the ‘children’s books’ of his early period were for children. And book-voracious children have always read, in the absence of specific children’s titles, whatever was available at hand.
You may also have noticed, if you search using the YA/Young Adult tag, that the label often leads you to a very limited type of subject matter, rather than the very wide range which that audience actually enjoys. But perhaps that’s a topic to follow through in a different post. In the meantime, this may be the only post you read here which will be tagged with the banned tags. For now, anyway.