Young Adult: Yay or Nay?

I have a question: How do I identify a Young Adult book?

Now, my understanding is that Young Adult is a category, rather than a genre (like “Picture Book” or “Literary”), so presumably I know it’s a Young Adult book if the Marketers tell me it is. But – how do they know?

Is it a fantastical element (because only the young are interested in magic)? Is it the age of the protagonist (because adults don’t want to know about children/teenagers)? Is it the Theme (because only Adult books deal with Adult themes and issues)? Is it a perceived simplicity of language (because only Adults can deal with complicated sentence structure)?

Also – what’s the age range at which Young Adult books are targeted? I’m in my mid-20s; am I a Young Adult?

I don’t particularly care what others think of my reading-lists – I read what interests me if it promises to be a good story, regardless of the age-group marketers think should be reading it (currently I’m rereading books from my teenage years) – but I’m curious about Young Adult novels. There’s a lot of snobbery around about such books, especially if read by people who quite clearly aren’t Young Adults. Given that these books are often written by authors who would be deemed too old to read them, this seems…well…just a tad bit ridiculous.

I’ve said before I don’t think much of the over-complicated methods those in the biz use to categorise books. Although how I would categorise them changes if I think too deeply about it, broadly speaking, I’d go with: Picture Books (possibly including Graphic Novels, haven’t quite decided), Children’s Books (meaning those short, non- or early-chapter stories), and Books (meaning everything else). These three categories can then be split into their various genres, but we can do away with ages being applied to books.

If you have an answer to my opening question – please let me know!


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