The other night I was visiting with family and discussing YA books with my cousin-in-law. We will name her Marie.
Marie indicated how it is difficult for her to decipher which YA books are appropriate for her and which ones are not. Marie is in 8th grade. She comes from a wonderful, supportive, Catholic family and her parents are protective of what she and her siblings are exposed to, and for good reason. Let’s face it, there is a lot of crap out there (and I do not mean just in books). And, some books, although not necessarily crap, do have massive amounts of unnecessary inappropriate language. And generally, a handful of YA books involve their characters in premarital sexual relationships in one way, shape, or form.
While there are parents who are not concerned with what their kids read, there are many that are concerned. So does that mean we ignore those parents who are concerned? I don’t think so. That is exactly why ratings are placed on movies, TV shows, and even video games. They provide parents and children with a reference regarding age appropriateness.
Over the past few days I have participated in a bit of “blog creeping” if you will. I have searched out fellow YA blogs to get a sense of what I lack in my own blog, what I enjoy about other blogs, and what similarities I share with fellow YA bloggers in general.
One recurring theme I’ve seen is questioning the young adult category itself, in regards to reader age and definition. What exactly is YA?
While many seem to question why adults are reading YA, others are pondering, “Who are the intended readers?”
I specifically focused on age appropriateness when I first started my blog. The young adult age category has such a wide range of readers in regards to age brackets. What exactly does “young adult” classify as? Who is a “young adult”.
Personally, I feel as though I still fall into this category. I am 30. I really don’t feel like an “old adult” at 30, nor do I feel like a middle-aged adult. So yes, I believe I am a “young adult”.
And yet, how does a 12-year-old also fall into the same category as me?
Should YA fall into two separate categories, teens AND young adults? And what should these age ranges be?
Chances are, a reclassification is not going to happen any time soon. Hence, what can be done about it?
Currently, anyone can look up the product details of a book. Listed in the details is the suggested reading level. Most YA books either fall in the “12 years and older” or “14 years and older” bracket. But, is that enough? I don’t think so. There is a growing need for more. And, in regards to the booming population of Indie books, I have yet to come across one YA Indie book that does provide the suggested reading level.
Thus, should we, as reviewers, take responsibility and include an age appropriate range in our personal book reviews? Do we start thinking of books like we do movies, TV programs, and video games, and provide ratings like an “E” for everyone, a “PG” for parental guidance, “PG-13”, etc. OR, do we identify what the books contain like “V” for violence, “M” for mature situations, “L” for language, etc?
And, should young readers be limited to only finding age-appropriate ratings through YA blogger reviews? I don’t think so.
I honestly feel that the need is strong enough that large online book organizations like Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon should add an age appropriate rating system for their reviewers to utilize, just like the star-rating system that is currently in place for the “how good did you think this book was” review system. I don’t exactly know what it should look like, but it could be as simple as a drop-down box that allows each reviewer to pick a specific age he or she feels is appropriate for said book, and then all ratings be averaged and presented via the actual book synopsis (just like the star-rating system).
I honestly feel that young readers need this. Parents need this. If you go into any popular bookstore you will see shelves and shelves of young adult fiction. Who is going to know what is OK for their teen and what is not OK? The books themselves do not tell you anything. Teens and parents ultimately have to go to online review sites and blogs for age appropriate guidance.
Teens want to know, “Can I read this at my age? Would Mom let me read this?”
These teens are aware of what they should and shouldn’t be reading and what their parents would approve of or disapprove. Do we fault them for this? I don’t think we should. We should help them.
So why is this important?
For one, not all YA books should be looked upon as inappropriate just because they are YA. Not all of them carry the weight that qualifies as “suggestive”. Some do. Some don’t.
The Tiger Series, written by Collen Houck, is a YA series. I have read it and there is nothing suggestive about it. I would rate it “E” for everyone.
However, I would not provide an “E” rating for the Hush, Hush Series by Becca Fitzpatrick, The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series by Maggie Stiefvater, or the Fallen Series by Lauren Kate. Why? Because there are suggestive things in each series. Are they bad books? Absolutely not. I have personally read and loved all three of these series. Yet each carries “something,” be it language or mature subject matters (ie. fleeting moments of sexual situations).
Finally, I ask you, my fellow YA reviewers, to please consider adding an age appropriate-type rating system to your reviews because I think it is now necessary. While I would love to pitch my idea to the large online bookstores and review websites, I don’t know if they would agree that it is necessary. I believe it is.
I have witnessed young readers wanting to know if these books are appropriate for their ages. Right now we are on YA overload. There is so much of it out there and it is all so different.
We need to rate it for age appropriateness. We need to do it for kids like Marie. It is the least we can do for our young readers and their concerned parents.
- What’s the right age for YA? (keystrokesandwordcounts.wordpress.com)
- How Much Can Teens Handle? On Young Adult Literature and Young Adults in Literature with Shay Fabbro (quillshiv.wordpress.com)
- What is Y.A., Exactly? (prathambooks.org)