There are some books and attitudes that inform my bafflement and confusion about the classification of “YA”.
The idea that once children learn reading basics, they must then be directed into specific “reading levels” and adhere to some specialized subject areas/topics, strictly monitored for word counts, font size and syllabic range – it disturbs me. It’s as if we assume that not only children’s interests, but their abilities, are tied to their age, and that by allowing them to stretch beyond this (and, yes, conceivably fail) would traumatize them beyond redemption.
The rules, folks. The rules that govern what’s “YA” and what’s not (and the latest invention: “New Adult” omg, what insanity is this?) are the most arrogant, parent-driven, moralistic and saddest thing that really has happened to reading as a pastime. Forget eBooks, or Twitter, or video games.
The thing that’s killing reading is the friendly cloak adults have thrown over an ugly and pervasive thing that can only be termed censorship.
Apparently, no one under 25 is allowed to read about anyone not the same age as them. No one under the age of twelve is allowed to come into contact with any word of more than three syllables, and heaven forfend they should be required to look a word up! O, the horror!
(It’s also, curiously, perfectly all right for them to read about some bloodsucking undead luring a child into a bizarre relationship in unashamedly graphic and erotic terms, even when the readers are still at the preteen level. But drop an f-bomb into that mix, and you have taken yourself right out of the running.)
We shortchange our children every day in this way. And worse: as writers, by knuckling under, we are demeaning ourselves, failing our audience, and perpetuating a system that crushes our own writing skills by suborning them to an invented marketing stereotype.
You know what I was reading when I was 12?
C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.
With equal enjoyment.