It’s an Issue of Genre

More accurately, it is an issue of sub-genre.

Recently we have been discussing the issue of content and censorship in young adult literature. Because of explicit content such as the drug abuse in Swimmers, or the sex and sexual assault innuendos in The Shore Girl, complaints have been launched against the appropriateness and intended audience of the young adult literature genre as a whole.

While arguments could certainly be made the for the censorship of explicit drug and sex content in young adult literature, why are these complaints tarnishing the genre of young adult literature as a whole? I believe that issue lies in how young adult literature is classified.

When I visit a book store and make my way to adult fiction section, I find the section for the adult fiction genre broken up into smaller sections of sub-genre. There are shelves for fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, romance, and many other sub-genres. Erotica is even categorized on a different shelf from romance, despite at one time both of these genres being considered one. When I venture into the young adult and the children’s sections, I find no such categorization. Young adult books about high school love affairs share shelf space with young adult novels about dragons. Historical fictions about World War Two rub covers with books about drug abuse.

Perhaps breaking young adult fiction down to recognizable sub-genres would help to alleviate the overwhelming criticism that attacks young adult fiction. When an adult mystery novel has a disturbing scene that could be interpreted as promoting violence, adult fiction is not criticized, the mystery genre is. This is probably because the target audience of an adult mystery novel is mystery novel readers, and not adult readers in general. It is highly unlikely that the fantasy sub-genre of adult literature would be criticized for the content of a book from a different sub-genre. So why not do the same with young adult literature?

As it currently stands, the only target audience for young adult literature is young adults, and not young horror or romance readers. As a consequence, a novel by Darren Shan is placed next to a novel by Fran Kimmel, despite the only major thing that these two novels have in common is that they are both classified as young adult literature. Perhaps if sub-genres were utilized to divide young adult literature the criticism towards The Lesser Blessed would not tarnish the reputation of Harry Potter.

The next questions to answer then would be: what are the sub-genres of young adult literature? Do the same type of sub-genres used in adult literature apply to young adult literature? What new sub-genres would have to be created within the young adult genre? And most importantly in relation to this course: What sub-genre(s) would be used to classify The Shore Girl, Swimmers, and The Lesser Blessed?

I will leave the answers to those last questions up to you dear reader. Comment below what sub-genre you think the novels we’ve studied could be classified as. I would love to read about what you all think about this idea of sub-genres in young adult literature, and what new sub-genres you all think should be created within young adult literature.Thanks for reading!



2 thoughts on “It’s an Issue of Genre

  1. Peyton says:

    I agree with you that if YA books were categorized into subgenres the same way that adult books are it would lead to less censorship towards YA as a whole. I do think that YA should be divided among the same subgenres as adult books because it will help readers discover their favourite subgenres which can be passed over to adult books when they are ready to move away from YA. I think all three novels from the class (Shore Girl, Swimmers, and The Lesser Blessed) would be classified as realistic fiction or drama. I wonder, though, whether or not dividing YA into subgenres might turn away readers from reading something that is out of their comfort zone. Would teens not read romance because of the Harlequin stereotype that has surrounded the genre? I like the idea of dividing YA into subgenres; I know it would have helped me in high school.


    Okay that probably sounds sarcastic because the extent to which I agree with this post is extreme. As a young adult I found myself constantly being pulled into the ‘adult’ section because instead of being forced to look up specific authors and then find them in the horrible alphabetic mess that was the YA section was a pain… and more than that, I had to come into the store with an idea of what text I was looking for. If we want to encourage readers to, well, read, we should be offering them suggestions to keep them coming back. By offering a genre area for young adults, they could find books similar to the ones they’ve already read. In the current step up young adults just have to roam the book store looking at spine after spine of novels that they know nothing about, hoping beyond hope that something they find will resonate with them.
    Think about YouTube, if I’m taking a break from writing an essay to watch a cat video suddenly a hundred suggestions pop up of similarly cute cat videos and even some dog videos and one of jumping goats. This appeals to me as a consumer and the next thing I know its two hours later and I’ve been watching baby goats instead of writing my paper for the past hour and a half. This kind of marketing works on me, but I’d love to see it used in a way that can get young adults reading more instead of watching so many silly animal videos.
    I think the books we’ve read this semester have bothered me because compared to other smash hits like The Hunger Games or Divergent, the plots have been relatively slow. But you’re totally right, these novels shouldn’t be compared to action-packed dystopian novels because they bring something entirely different to the table. They’re realistic fiction and they belong on their own shelf.


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