The frustrating thing about YA from a book blogger’s perspective

The frustrating thing about YA from a book blogger’s perspective (i.e mine) is no one seems to know who YA is actually for anymore.

I came across a thread recently of several authors lamenting the fact that some reviewers were reading their books and then giving lower ratings because of several YA aspects in the story. For example the MC was too immature. Reviewers have actually have gone as far to state that they would have loved the book if they were a teenager.

So why does this happen? Why are adults apparently reading books they find too immature and slamming them for being something a 12 year old would want to read?

I think the answer is simple.

It’s because they aren’t being marketed as if they are for teenagers.

Let me be frank, YA is a hot mess of a genre. Even the name Young Adults implies the books aren’t for teenagers. But technically YA is meant to be for anyone between the ages of 12 – 18. However when you have books like ACOTAR and Six of Crows sitting in the YA section things get confusing. A lot of people wouldn’t read ACOTAR at 12 and Six of Crows deals with adult themes like sex slavery and addiction.

Now inclusion of sex doesn’t automatically make a book not YA but that’s not the point I’m making.

My issue is that YA books today are heavily marketed towards adults and you can tell this alone from the price tag.

What average 12 year old can afford special collectors editions that are about £20? Hell, you only have to turn up to YALC to see a serious lack of anyone under the age of 16 at a convention for YOUNG ADULT literature.

Clearly adults have more disposable income and while these books are written for teenagers they are sold to adults. I think it’s great that YA has great cross over appeal but the reason these debates start is people think adults are intruding on teenagers spaces despite the fact they were basically invited.

A perfect example of this is The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. Two book boxes are doing collectors editions of the entire series with new covers. One book box has always done a special edition. That’s three different sets of covers for books that is supposed to be for teenagers? I couldn’t afford to spend that kind of money on books until I had a full time job which only happened this year and I’m 26.

Also, young adults, like myself (I.e not a teen) see “young adult” as something they should enjoy. And I personally (without specific industry knowledge of the genre age range) spent a good year reading YA and wondering why it was too immature for me. I remember very clearly the only YA books I enjoyed immensely was ACOTAR and Nevernight. The two books that are commonly seen as YA that aren’t. Do you see the problem?

I would love for publishers to finally stop the YA marketing hype and make New Adult a thing. The introduction of New Adult would provide a space for older teens and actual young adults and stop books like Nevernight getting into the hands of an audience it was never meant for.

In the future I do think reviewers should consider the audience of the book when complaining about immaturity etc. But when said book has been put into the hands of adult readers, book bloggers and book tubers I can’t blame them for reading it thinking it was meant for a reader more their age.

14 thoughts on “The frustrating thing about YA from a book blogger’s perspective”

  1. I 100% agree with this. I hate it when reviewers are disliking characters or “can’t connect” with them. Another example of this is Lilah Bard from ADSOM. The younger readers don’t like her but me as an older reader absolutely love her, she strong and knows what she wants! Wholeheartedly agree that we need New Adult as a new genre!

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      1. Haha I still think it’s aimed at me to some degree but think that I’m in denial about getting old 😂😂

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  2. I whole heartedly agree. I’m 34 and read and enjoy some books marketed for YA and then others that I don’t consider YA – and find out ARE meant to be. Make NA a thing.

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      1. Completely agree. Also – I rarely look at Adult fantasy because the marketing (I suppose) doesn’t appeal to me. But actually- I have accidentally discovered the All Souls Trilogy which I adore now and would never have picked that up. Adult fantasy seems marketed as musty and ‘odd’

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  3. Excellent article/feature! I do think there is a sort of YA side to YA fandom and then an adult side that is buying ostentatious special editions and getting deeply involved in fandom and kind of pushing their hopes onto various series that are youth-oriented (or conversely, seem to be marketed toward YA but should or could be considered Adult/New Adult) It’s a unique situation that probably calls for some interesting solutions on the behalf of publishers and marketing. Even though my brain kind of focuses on the idea of romance when hearing “New Adult”, I think the term should be utilized in that broader sense since there is such a demand for books that are suited to it.

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  4. I agree with you that publishers really need to stop marketing YA books to adults, and perhaps invest in stories with aged up characters. I’m 35 and read YA fantasy largely because of the pacing; adult fantasy tends to be long winded and drawn out, whereas YA is quick and on the fly but still can be all-encompassing.

    I am always cognizant of my annoyances with teenaged MCs because I know the book wasn’t ultimately written for me, but then again — it is my reading experience and I do have a right to voice it. But I always approach my reviews critically, and in the case of “right book, wrong reader” I always am up front about that. We all like and are drawn to different kinds of characters, regardless of age. It always bothers me when I see adults full on bashing teenager MCs in a review and giving books terrible ratings, that is an issue.

    I think the issue is a lot more nuanced than just the marketing — YA is filling a hole in the market that a lot of adult readers are looking for, especially SFF. Adult SFF is largely dominated still by white cis men. YA SFF is a space exploding with not only female authors but own voices narratives.

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  5. This is thought provoking. It’s clear from the themes in some YA books (like you pointed out, Six of Crows) are more “mature” but because of the tag “YA” it easily gets mixed up with books for a younger audience. It’s probably similar to books like the Lord of the Rings or His Dark Materials, which are usually classified as “children’s books” but somehow turns out to be more popular among adults. Great post!

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