This post is sort of a continuation from last week's.
If there had been a section called Young Adult back when "To Kill A Mockingbird" was first published, according to today's rules it would belong there. I've read more than one literary agent's guidelines that state something like, "If the protagonist is a child or teen, the book is for children."
Well, what if the protagonist is a hobbit...or even a rabbit? When I ran a children's bookstore, we kept a copy or two of "Watership Down" on the shelf. I can't recall selling a single copy of it. The general bookstore across the street from my store carried it too -- in their fiction section. They didn't carry books for children.
But what about this year's "The Book Thief?" It was marketed originally in Australia as a book for adults, even though the protag is eleven. Here, it's called a young adult book, but I've seen it in both children's and adult's sections of bookstores. This book is a successful crossover book - it appeals to an audience of many ages.
Harry Potter -- another obvious success in the crossover department. And Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" was a surprise crossover. Adults love Edward just as much as teenage girls.
Because I write for teens, I read a LOT of middle grade and young adult books, both new releases and some of the old favorites I read as a teenager. Just finished Judy Blume's "Deenie" the other day...ah, the memories. There are many, many young adult books that I think adults would love. Pick up just about any Newbery Medal or Honor book and you'll find yourself engrossed (I said 'just about'! There are a few that make me shake my head and go 'what were they thinking').
I don't really like compartments, but I can work with them. I'm not sure why the industry has turned in this direction, but for a need for organization - everything in its own defined space. Or maybe the intent was to show kids, "Here -- this is for you. A section, a space, something to which you can claim ownership, in hopes that it will make you want to read more." Did this all begin when R.I.F. began? I have no idea. I never really spent much time thinking about it before.
I wish, though, that calling something YA or MG doesn't somehow 'alienate' adult readers, or cause adults to decide that YA books are for kids, not for grown-ups. Because the adults are really missing out on some terrific stuff!
I'm hoping to see a larger, growing trend of 'crossover' books. Books with child or teen protags that adults will read, even if they have to go to the YA section to find them. I'd guess most bookstores will double-shelf the crossover books, with a few in YA and a few in whatever special adult section it belongs.
Your comments are encouraged.