Friday, 1 July 2011
Another Sort of Edge...by Keren David
Is it the content? In which case, where does the boundary lie?
Is it the viewpoint? Should a YA book be told from the point of view of a teenager looking forward, while a book from an adult viewpoint looking back is definitely adult?
Is it the narrator's age? Should there be a cut-off point...19 for example?
Or perhaps it's the language - with too much explicit swearing heading for those adult shelves.
Now, some books make it to crossover status - Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now for example, which I first heard about as an adult book, recommended by another adult.
This was all discussed brilliantly on Nicole Burstein's blog here . Nicole's view - she's a bookseller at Waterstone's Piccadilly and she really knows what she's talking about is that '...what signifies a book as being YA is that instant feeling of knowing exactly what it is like to be a teenager...Adult readers of YA do so with a yearning to return to that point in their lives where everything was new, exciting and dangerous.'
But Meg Rosoff herself in the comments takes a different view: 'A book about being young that's highly intelligent, beautifully written (as you said) and evokes what it feels like to be 16 with joyous versimilitude can be whatever it wants to be. Teens will love it. So will adults.'
The book they're discussing is Mal Peet's Life: An Exploded Diagram, and if it's as good as they both say (and I'm sure it is) then I tend to agree with Meg - except that I've never really understood why Mal Peet isn't a crossover writer. His books are about adults, they are far, far better than most of the books written for adults. They'd go down a storm as adult thrillers. So why are they shelved as teenage books?
Some books are hard to categorise, and get shown to adult and YA editors. It's a toss up which publisher will take them, which shelves they end up on, which competitions they are entered for. Someone who's written something aimed only at teens might feel disgruntled when a book with a wider range takes the Carnegie Medal. Others may feel frustrated that their book doesn't get the wide audience it deserves, because it's being marketed to the wrong people.
My feeling is that teen books are nearer to adult books than children's books. They need to be shelved near adult books, and many could do well if a canny bookseller put them - gasp - in BOTH sections.
Which YA books do you think should have been adult books? Are there adult books which would sit better in YA? And how do you know the difference?