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.

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Posted on November 18, 2009, in by Erin and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I don’t agree with her arguement. I think YA is a good label to have and I don’t think it deters adults from reading the books. But if you start saying everything that’s not a children’s book is 12 and up, then I could see many more complaints from parents. YA serves as a guideline, but it doesn’t mean you are required to read from that area.

  2. I know a library that shelves it’s YA fiction – defined as 9th grade and up – with the adult fiction. I’ve no idea how it circs, but in my experience teens prefer to see “their” fiction all together. We have a “young adult room” which has materials suitable for age 12 up to college and it works very well. Adults have no problems wandering in to find stuff (usually Twilight and similar books) and younger kids come in to get Star Wars comics.

  3. Short Stack Librarian

    I personally feel that YA is for 18-24 y.o. and we should be using TEEN for our 12-17 y.o.

    The genre has changed as society has changed so we should adjust. It might also clear up some of the book challenges out there!

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