What is “YA,” Anyway?

In libraries it’s still called “Juvenile,” but everywhere else in the world of books you see this label: YA. It stands for Young Adult. Problem is, YA Lit seems to include everything from Judy Blume’s finding-out-about-your-adolescent-emotions books to some pretty dark, vampiry stuff, not to mention drugs, sex, and language that sounds like plain old Adult, without the Young. So what, exactly, qualifies a book as YA?

Sometimes publishers will subdivide YA into Middle Grades, meaning “Tweens”–11 and 12, I guess–but there’s still this question: what defines it? Is it a book where the main character is 12? Or one which mostly 12 year-olds read? Under that definition, the first two Harry Potter books both would and would not qualify. When those books first came out, I knew as many grownups in love with young Harry as I did kids. (I was one of ’em!)

Or maybe the definition of YA/Middle Grades is silly, and who cares? Well, I do, but only for this reason: there seem to be certain rules about what you can or can’t publish under these categories. In later posts, I’m going to examine this question, and I’m going to be asking for your input. Whether you are a young reader, a parent, a teacher, a librarian, or all of the above (?!), your opinion is valuable to me as I wend my way through the thickets of YA publication.

Stay tuned.

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