Joan Clarks asks if we should do away with the YA label.
There’s was an essay in yesterday’s Globe and Mail by author Joan Clark in which she argues that the YA label does a diservice to readers and authors. “Simply put,” she writes, “the Y/A label influences whether a reader is likely to choose or ignore a book” and suggests that the YA label can be off-putting to both adolescents and adults.
It’s an interesting argument, but I’m not sure I agree with her completely. It sounds like she has some hang ups about her work being labeled YA. Sure, calling something YA might deter a reader, but it might just as easily attract a reader. Personally, I appreciate the label. There are certain common conventions in YA that appeal to me, and I know that by visiting the YA section of a bookstore or library, I’m likely to find something I’ll enjoy. Besides, there’s no rule that says adults can’t select books from the YA section or teens can’t select books from the adult section.
There’s been a lot of speculation recently as to who’s actually reading YA. By many accounts, the genre has quite a large adult readership who obviously aren’t deterred by the label. And while to some degree, the label is a marketing decision, it doesn’t mean it’s completely invalid. I heard Kelley Armstrong speak at a Reader’s Advisory workshop recently, and she remarked that her adult fiction sells quite well when it’s “accidentally” shelved alongside her YA novels. This practice leaves her with some uneasiness however as there’s content in her adult novels that younger teen readers might not be ready for. I think in many ways, the YA label acts as a sort of guideline that helps parents, teachers, librarians, and even teens themselves, find suitable books.