Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Young Adult Label

I recently read a very interesting opinion piece in the Globe and Mail, The Curious Incident of the Y/A label, by author Joan Clark.

This article discusses North American bookstore's and publisher's use of the Young Adult (YA) fiction label, which we use at the public library as well.

Ms. Clark feels that the use of the label greatly restricts a book from finding it's full audience. That there lies great crossover potential for many young adult and adult fiction titles that is discouraged by separating and/or labeling the collections.

Apparently the YA label is not used in the UK, where fiction is classified as "for 12 years old and under" and "over 12 years old".

I think I might agree with Joan?

Some of my most satisfying reads as an adult over the years have been classified as YA.
For example:

Chanda's Secrets, by Alan Stratton. This story deeply affected me and is still inspiring/haunting me two years after reading it.

Honour the Sun and Silent Words. These two YA novels by Ruby Slipperjack have also left a lasting impression on me, despite reading them as an adult more than 15 years ago.

I have also offered up these titles as reading suggestions to other adults.

As well, I recall reading Joseph Heller's Catch 22 as a teen, having picked up my mother's copy. I really enjoyed it, so much that I have re-read it several times. This title would not have been on the reading radar of many teens of the time.

Joan's arguments might also be used for making a case against using any genre stickers. I bet a lot of readers would enjoy Robert J. Sawyer (Science fiction) or Peter Robinson (Mystery) if they ignored the stereotypes associated with genre stickers.

Having said all that, I do understand the value of making it easier for readers to broadly identify the parts of our collection that are most appealing to them. Genre stickers are very helpful in that regard, as are genre separations.

Perhaps the only truly effective solution is the case of Harry Potter: create separate adult and youth versions and shelf them in all parts of the collection.

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Young Adult and other genre labels.
    I also think I agree with Joan Clark's thoughts on the use of Y.A.labels. The U.K. system may be better but the wording does sound rather ponderous.
    With regard to the other genre labels maybe there are two sides to the story! I think some readers want to find books in their chosen genres easily and quickly. However they may be missing out... so this is where the face out displays come into play. They can lead a reader into other genres. If some of these displays were not categorized maybe a particular book would reach the right reader at the right time! I love it when a book seems to jump off the shelf for me, often from a display area. JAD.

    P.S. I really enjoy "The Reader" apart from the fact I often browse after dinner, perhaps with a cup of tea or coffee to hand, then find myself doing dishes at bedtime....!!!