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Adults or Children first? – Labels for readers…

Just a quick thought about the term in fiction and the book industry we call ‘Young Adult’. Now, I may not really-if ever at all-read these kind of books, but I do of course know people who do, a few of which are grown adults, and some who are teenage. I am very aware of the big sellers, some of which have been adapted to the big screen such as Twilight, The Maze Runner, Divergent, The Hunger Games series.

While I may not really write this kind of fiction, I do respect some of it, and how it can get many people into reading and reflecting upon society.

My main thought here though is the term ‘Young Adult’. What age are we thinking of here and why? Is it just simply a marketing idea, a suggested age for suitable readers the books are aimed or is the label very wrong, insulting or negative?

Why not instead ‘Mature teen’ or ‘Old teen’ fiction?

I could say something slightly mocking about adults who may read books like The Hunger Games or Twilight, but many people who do not read very regularly do simply want some not very demanding escapist fiction, or get pulled in by seeing the films based on the books or by the word-of-mouth or cultural zeitgeist.

Terms and labels can be restrictive for any kinds of art-music, books, actual artwork-and are often mostly used in order to sell and market the items more easily to consumers and audiences.

We can also sometimes find more easily what we are looking for when things are put into categories like ‘science fiction’, ‘steam punk’, ‘young adult’, ‘dystopian urban fantasy’ but what if these labels begin to make the writers or creators feel restricted as they produce the tales and stories?

Also my other main thought here was, where is the line? What kind of fiction crosses beyond what may be considered ‘Young Adult’ into real fantasy, science fiction, horror or other ‘adult’ level reading? What would make a story suitable for just adults- detailed sex scenes, politics, death, drugs or other things included in the book? Why could teenagers or ‘young adults’ not handle these, or why should they not be allowed to?

There are thankfully a number of very intelligent YA books which do involved and consider many relevant themes of race, class politics, crime, government, corruption, poverty, gender and more and this is a really good thing.

Thankfully some of the so-called ‘Young Adult’ books go beyond and around the label and offer many interesting ideas and stories for readers of many ages.



Author of science fiction novels Orbital Kin and Minerva Century-also horror, literary fiction, many short stories and screenplays. Always reading, writing, watching films, playing guitar/bass, and am a husband with a coffee addiction. New horror novel due for 2017. This is my blog, offshoot from my website. It will be where I post current thoughts, opinions, views, reviews, or discussions about contemporary film, movies, books, video games, television series mostly in the horror, science fiction, fantasy and their sub-genre offshoots. The entertainment not in the mainstream (for the most part) and proud of it. Also follow me on twitter- @ParsonsFiction, and facebook - James E Parsons

One response to “Adults or Children first? – Labels for readers…

  1. sjhigbee

    I enjoyed reading this thoughtful article, James.

    It’s a sub-genre I read quite a lot – and while I agree, a number of the books are maybe simpler and less demanding than Adult reads, there are also many which really drill down into the gnarly issues of Life. It seems a very grey area – but I personally like the muddle if it will attract either youngsters or adults who for a variety of reasons never acquired, or lost the habit of reading and feel more confident ‘dipping their toe’ into YA niche, rather than plunging the huge sea of Adult books waiting out there.

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