Awhile ago, Cassandra Clare posted this quote from Garth Nix on her Tumblr regarding YA age limits. I captures my thoughts perfectly.
“To my mind, YA is a subset of adult fiction, not of children’s fiction, and should be considered as having an entry reading age rather than an age *range*. The entry level is probably 13 or 14, but there is no upper level because the books are also for adults. Saying YA is 13-21, or 13-18 or whatever misses the point, because it suggests that the books are not for older adults, whereas I would say that in fact the core audience of people reading YA (and YA SFF in particular) are in fact 16-35. But this is only the core and the readership extends more broadly upward in age and down as well.” [From Podcast Coode Street Episode 20, second comment]
|This lady is really excited about YA literature. Photo credit.|
I've thought for a long time (since I became an adult reader of YA) that YA can be defined far less by the age of readers and content than how the authors handle that content. I think YA authors are free in a way authors in no other genre are to mix genre elements and play around with form. YA is no longer a "bridge" between children's and adult literature. It is a fully-realized genre* of its own. We might also define YA by saying it's teen-centric. Even if many of the readers are not teenagers, what defines it as a category is an emphasis on and attempt to express the teenage condition. Perhaps this is so relevant to adult readers because the teenage condition never really dies; it merely gets forced to put on a suit and get a day job.
I'm curious what your thoughts are. Can YA really no longer be defined by age limits? If not, what does define YA?
*Some may take issue with my calling YA a "genre." Genre is the word we have for cordoning off different areas of literature. It means "type" or "category", and its current use in separating Fantasy or Mystery or Sci-Fi isn't its only use. According to Wikipedia, a genre is composed of "conventions that change over time as new genres are invented and the use of old ones are discontinued." This sounds a whole lot like YA to me. The use of the word genre is increasingly relevant as YA progresses from a "category" simply defined by age limits to an entity that is only defined by its internal rules--a genre.