Let’s Talk Bookish: What makes a book YA?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion where bookish and blogging topics are discussed.

I just recently found out about this meme and today’s topic immediately appealed to me as it’s something I’ve thought about a lot before: What makes a book YA?

Young Adult books are essentially coming of age stories featuring young characters which can be applied to several different genres. The problem with YA for me, besides the usually predictable plots, is the definition of ‘young adult’ itself.

According to Goodreads, YA books are for teens aged 13 to 18. Now, I don’t know about you guys but this just sounds a bit ridiculous to me. How can anyone 13, 14, even 15 sometimes be considered mentally mature enough to be a young adult!? (Simultaneously, 13 to 15 is the age of most Middle Grade characters so think about that for a moment.) I think it’s more a matter of perspective than age per say. Personally, I think a young adult – and perhaps the audience of these books should be – from 15 to early 20’s. We’re all still figuring life out during those ages so it seems perfectly reasonable to me, and one of the things I’d love to see more in YA stories are characters that are college-aged or college settings like in Fangirl.

But whenever the definition of YA is questioned, it’s usually due to a specific book that most people think has content too mature for teenagers.

Let’s talk about A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas for a hot minute because I’ve seen so many people raging about it being labeled as YA when it has mature content and should be NA or Adult. It certainly had some graphic sexual content, but is it too mature for YA? It’s maybe too mature for 13/14 year-olds (maybe… y’all know they prob watch porn if they want anyway), but for 15yo to 18yo (or older)? I don’t think so… (Personally, it didn’t bother me at all, but A Court of Wings and Ruin came with a content warning in the back cover, so the complaints were heard by all the important people.)

Personally, I feel it would be much better if content warnings for triggering subjects were placed in the beginning of books. YA books often deal with suicide, self-harm, sexual assault, among other triggering subjects, and everyone who doesn’t want to read it, for whatever reason of their own, just gets completely blindsided and possibly hurt and triggered by something that perhaps they thought was safe. (On another note, I love to see more and more bloggers nowadays placing content warnings in their reviews.)

… so what makes a book YA? I’m not sure I answered that question per say in this short rant but this is what I wanted to say about this topic.

What do you think constitutes YA? Is it about age, themes, or something else? Are there books you think have been mislabeled or should’ve been done differently somehow??

7 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish: What makes a book YA?

  1. I didn’t read Middle Grade books and jumped right into YA, NA and Adult. It is definitely a very subjective categorization. The ages while very logic and sensible parameters shouldn’t be constraining, and I find it is also very much depending on how mature a person is or feels. I always have problems categorizing books (MG/YA/NA/A) because I’m never too sure of which characteristics define if a book is one genre or the other (but that is a personal problem haha! 😅)
    I enjoyed reading this, thank you for sharing! I’ll also be trying to learn more about content warnings too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think 13-18 is a terrible age range. Things change a lot during those times, and some YA protagonists are out of those ages entirely. Also who are teen books for then? I see some bookstores with both a YA and a Teen section. I also concur about A Court of Mist and Fury. I’ll never know how that snuck its way onto YA shelves for teens to pick up.

    Liked by 1 person

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