*Sigh* This is a topic that I’ve been thinking about and noticing for a little while now, but it wasn’t until I saw someone mention a similar idea on Twitter that I decided to share my ramblings.
Most can agree that Young Adult Books are books aimed at readers aged 13-18. Once you get younger than that, it is usually considered Middle Grade, and older than that could be New Adult or Adult. I’ve been reading YA since I was probably 12 or 13 so I’ve been with this age range for a while, and I’ve been seeing a recent trend that is a little worrying— the widening age gap between Middle Grade and YA books.
Back when I started reading I remember books such as Percy Jackson (could be considered Middle Grade), The Hunger Games, Legend, and Harry Potter. These books are all fairly clean when it comes to not being overly violent or explicit. They are suitable for tweens, teens, and adults. They were all enjoyable and great reads to get me into some more adult novels.
Lately I’ve been reading things such as A Court of Thorns and Roses, History is All You Left Me, and An Ember in the Ashes. I’ll be the first to say that I enjoyed ALL of these novels and even LOVED some of them, but they aren’t really suitable for younger readers. They touch on heavier topics and/or include more explicit content (whether it be cursing, sex, or graphic violence) and I wouldn’t be comfortable giving them to a 13 year old.
Don’t get me wrong, these more mature reads are GREAT! As I said, I’m a fan of all the novels mentioned above, but the issue comes when I can’t think of many lower level YA novels. Maybe I’m just ignorant in that age range, and I need someone to point these novels out to me, but I don’t see them circulating in YA circles online. This could easily get into another topic of why YA blogging is dominated by adults instead of teens. It could be because these people were always fans of books for that age range and just grew up with it and never stopped reading it, or maybe because not many teens know enough about blogging circles online to want to start a blog. I don’t think it’s inherently bad that YA has a strong adult reader base. Honestly, it’s good because that means where breaking down this stigma that YA in somehow lessor to adult novels. However, what I DO think is bad, is when the majority of YA novels become targeted at older and adult readers instead of the teen reader base they are supposed to be for.
The biggest example of this I can think of is Sarah J Maas novels. I first picked up Throne of Glass when I was in 9th grade. I’d say the novel is appropriate for people 14 and up only because there’s a lot of graphic violence. But as you read on in the series (specifically around Queen of Shadows) things get significantly more adult. At this point, I can hardly consider Empire of Storms YA… I’ve seen it described as “Not for younger readers” and this is true. I will NEVER understand why anyone thought it was a good idea to make this age jump MID SERIES. If I was a younger reader who just found this series, I would not be happy when I got to Empire of Storms and there were suddenly multiple sex scenes throughout the book. Similar to this, when I read A Court of Thorns and Roses I was really surprised by how explicit it was. The sex in these books is more graphic than anything I’ve read in an “adult” book. Maybe that’s because I don’t read very much adult lit and also don’t read much romance, but this novel is NOT YA. I would consider it New Adult (for readers aged 18-30). I would never be comfortable giving ACOTAR to anyone younger than 16/17. Maybe that is because I’ve grown up in a conservative area, in a fairly sheltered environment, but it doesn’t feel right as a YA book, and shouldn’t be marketed in the same section as books aimed at 13 year olds.
Basically, what I’m saying is that we need more novels aimed at younger readers. There shouldn’t be this gap between middle grade and YA because, what do the 12-15 year olds have to read? Excluding age ranges is a great way to make people disinterested in reading because they don’t feel they have any appropriate books to read. I can’t say I have a great solution to this issue because people can and should write whatever they want. No one should feel pressured to write anything but if we bring awareness to this growing gap, maybe things will change. Maybe, if we bring more attention to New Adult and make it feel more legitimate as a demographic, then some of these “upper YA” novels could be moved there.
What are your thoughts on this widening gap? Am I missing some super great lower YA books that I should check out? How do you think we should close this gap? What are your thoughts on New Adult? Do you have any great New Adult books I should check out?