Forgotten Genres (TCWT)

Forgotten Genres (TCWT)

So. Guess what I was supposed to do on the 8th. That’s right, I completely missed my turn for the Teens Can Write Too blog chain, being under the mistaken impression (though I don’t know why) that I was due to write on the 12th. Since they have ceased to send us a schedule via email, it was not until I checked the site this morning to remember what the prompt actually was that I realised I should have written three days ago… I’m an idiot.

But, here it is, and hopefully you won’t judge me for completely failing to actually post when I should have done.

This month’s prompt is: “As anyone who reads (or writes) teen fiction knows, “Young Adult” covers a wide breadth of genres, from comedy to romance to horror. Should YA fiction be broken up into categories as adult fiction is?”

Yes. Okay, post over, let’s all go home.

No, but seriously. People are very quick to generalise – oh, it’s YA. So I’ll ask them about a book, ask them what genre it is or whatever, and they’ll tell me it’s young adult. That’s not a genre. That’s an audience. You wouldn’t just say ‘it’s an adult book’, would you?

And this is a problem, because you walk into the library and there’s a Teens section and you start looking at it and you have no idea where the books you’re interested in are. So you go through all of them. Now, on the one hand this is kind of handy, because you might come across something you’d have ignored. On the other hand, if you’re pushed for time, you want to know where to find sci-fi. Or where to find fantasy. Or where to find contemporary.

If I’m in the Adult section of the library, there’s a whole shelf for ‘Sci Fi and Fantasy’, and I can go and find what I want. I like that genre, because for me, it’s one of the few that’s generally suitable for younger people with perhaps more delicate sensibilities. To put it simply, most sci-fi and fantasy has minimal sex, generally because that’s not practical in a space suit. Yes, there are exceptions, but it’s quite an innocent genre. And I like that. I’ve been hanging out in that section of the library since I was about twelve.

There’s a Historical section. And a Sagas section. And a Romance section. And finally, a general Fiction section, which I guess is where they put everything that doesn’t fit anywhere else.

Yet when you go to the other side of the library, it’s Teen. And that’s it.

I guess I know why they do this: there isn’t enough YA in the library to have individual sections for it. (Here’s a thought – why not, in each Adult section, have a YA shelf? In the main SF section, why not have a shelf marked Teens that contains YA science fiction and fantasy? And ditto with other genres, so that when Teens run out of books on their own shelf they can easily branch out into the Adult section and they’ll know what genre they’re looking for? Just a thought.)

And it’s true that most teens haven’t yet decided what genre they like the most, so they won’t necessarily have a particular section to stick to. The variety of books they can find in one section is useful.

But I don’t want to pick up a book that looks really interesting, only to find it’s a romance novel. I don’t like them. I’d like things to be separated.

And when you go to recommend a book to a friend and they say, “What sort of book is it?” you need to be able to tell them what it is. Yet so often, you just don’t know, because the only label it’s given in is ‘YA’.

With Amazon and indie publishing it’s different, now. You have to put things in categories. So it’ll say Young Adult (or whatever the label is) and then >> Historical Fiction. Things are in lists and categories. Things are changing.

But ‘YA’ isn’t a genre. It’s an audience. I can’t stress this enough. You can’t just say “I’m writing a YA book” because that could be anything – anything at all, from a steampunk murder mystery to a twisted urban fantasy to a contemporary high school romance. The only thing that binds them together is the age range they’re aimed at.

Does that say Miriam Joy Writes on the 8th? Why yes, it does. How peculiar. My apologies to you all for being so tardy with my post.

November 5th – – Musings From Neville’s Navel

November 6th – – This Page Intentionally Left Blank

November 7th – – It’s All In My Head

November 8th – – Miriam Joy Writes

November 9th –  – The Loony Teen Writer

November 10th – – Ink Spilled = Pages Filled

November 11th – – Inside the Junk Door

November 12th – – A Mirror Made of Words

November 13th – – Life.

November 14th – – Reality Is Imaginary

November 15th – – Books Are Better Than Diamonds

November 16th – – The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer

November 17th – – Kirsten Writes!

November 18th – – Teens Can Write, Too! (We will be announcing the topic for next month’s chain)

21 thoughts on “Forgotten Genres (TCWT)

  1. Good point – I didn’t think to include that YA is an audience.

    Also, I love the line about sex not being practical in a space suit. *is still giggling*

    *makes puppy-dog eyes* Can you check out my TCWT post, please? No one has commented on it yet… *sniffles*

      1. Nice! I’ve heard of people who eat only metal and plastic, but I’ve never heard of anyone who can eat their words. *wink, wink* *is bad-joke Queen*

        …you just met Chris Hemsworth…? *thinks this is kind of cool despite thinking that the Hemsworth brothers look like slightly less hideous versions of Robert Pattinson*

  2. Hmm, you make a fair point here, though I’m inclined to disagree. The “YA” label does cover an audience, but how long do readers stay in that section for? It depends on the individual, certainly, but nobody really reads YA predominantly for more than . . . four, five years? You and I are both testament to the fact that we wandered into the “adult” section a long time ago.

    I’d also like to say that “YA” can refer to some specific trends or types of book. Usually, they have a romantic element. Often that element is linked to the paranormal. The narrators are usually described as “ordinary” and turn out to be anything but, thus being thrust into the main plot. It’s a genre in a way because it’s variations on a general pattern and theme.

    That, and I like to know EXACTLY the sparkly fairybeasts are. Unless contained, I fear they may spread.

    1. But there are like ten thousand YA books that don’t fit into that category. There are YA books that aren’t romance. Or, there are YA books that are contemporary romance, no paranormal in sight. There are YA books that are happy and nice and YA books that are freakishly twisted and weird. There are YA books about assassins and YA books about teenagers. There are YA books about teenage assassins.

      1. Okay, fair enough. But “ten thousand”, or some figure in that range, doesn’t quite compare to the near millions of “adult” novels. And even these trend-buckers tend to stick to most of the basic traits of YA, being a certain length and containing certain themes or character archetypes (namely because most all of them have young protagonists who will, inevitably, run into similar problems whatever or wherever they are).

        I don’t mean this as a criticism, of course. Just a general point of view.

  3. You know, I think I like your idea of having the YA shelf in the middle of the Genre shelves because I wouldn’t mind reading a YA sf or fatnasy stroy, but I have not clue how to find them in the YA section.

    And then that ‘all other fiction’ section can have an ‘all other YA’ section…

    And really, I wouldn’t mind seeing Romance broken up into heat levels – I don’t mind romance, it’s a guilty pleasure, but leave the sex behind closed doors, imo. :}

    1. Ehehe, my point. For me, Romance is a subplot and not a plot in itself. It adds flavour, like basil or something, but you actually need the pasta for the basil to be any use at all, otherwise you’re just eating leaves.
      We should totally initiate a new organisation of libraries into this pattern. Sheesh. Someone help me.

  4. I really like that you said that “YA is an audience”, because it’s totally true. However, I think that the big issue with reshelving the library is that for some people, it’s easier to have all the books aimed at them in one area/ the teen section of my library has these cool chairs and is sequestered from the rest of the library. Maybe the teen section could become a tiny library of its own with genre areas?

    1. Maybe; in our local library, it’s not that huge, so that wouldn’t be practical. My idea was simply to accommodate the fact that there are never as many YA books in the library as adult books, so there wouldn’t be enough to make sections. Our teens section has a couple of chairs, but they’re not specifically FOR that section, they just happen to be near it. It’s basically just another shelf.

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