Friday, November 16, 2012

Young Adult vs. Middle Grade Literature

Over at the Huffington Post, Monica Erdinger is pleading with folks to "Stop Calling Books for Kids 'Young Adult'."  In the article, she notes that NPR was challenged by readers who submitted nominations of children's books to their 100 Best Ever Teen Novels and addressed them in a statement explaining why those books didn't make the cut*.  I often find that well-meaning adults (even teachers!) confuse "middle grade" (aka children's) and "young adult" literature.  Why is that?  And why, if something is a classic (I'm looking at you, Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) do people seem to get especially confused?  Those are children's classics.  They are not for teens.  Yes, they are awesome.  For children.

But it goes both ways!  I just weeded my library's fiction collection and found myself wondering what to do with books like Anna Karenina and Frankenstein.  Yes, they are beloved classics.  No, that does not make them appropriate for a middle school library!  Can we stop all of this confusion?!?!  Just because a book is beloved, does not mean it is intended for all audiences.  Certainly, there's no problem with anyone reading whatever they want, whenever they want**, but if we're going to classify books - and as a librarian, I feel it my professional duty to do so - then here's the rule:

If the intended audience is aged 8-12, it is a middle grade or children's book.

If the intended audience is aged 12-18, it is a young adult or teen book.

If the intended audience is aged 18+, it is an adult book.

Can we agree on this?

*Though can we talk about how books like The Giver, Stargirl and Betsy-Tacy made the list? These are not for teens.  These are middle grade novels, intended for (and read by) children ages 8-12.

**Exercise your right to read!  Hey, I read VC Andrews in middle school, but there's NO WAY I'd call those books "middle grade" or even "young adult."

The LibrariYAn is an Amazon Associate. If you click from links on this blog to Amazon and buy something (anything!), I receive a small percentage of the purchase price.


  1. Perfectly put!

    (Btw, The Giver is an especially good example. I think most readers 13+ don't get the full effect of what Jonas realizes at the end, because they've already figured it out.)

    Also, unrelated to this post but to an earlier one, about The Perks of Being a Wallflower: I've recently had to remind myself of that (re "the relationships we deserve") in view of a recent situation (not one I've otherwise mentioned). Need to remind myself not to continue to pursue a bad situation: if I have to beg to be in someone's life, maybe I should reconsider why I want them in mine. So, thank you for reminding me of that line.

  2. I think that books like "The Giver" confuse adult readers because they are so deep, adults might think it's for an older audience.
    The middle grade v. young adult category is relatively new compared to childrens v. adult so older, well meaning readers that aren't up on the genres could mitakenly lump middle grade books that are targeted for 10+ into the teen section.