One of the most fascinating things about the books I read is how they’re classified. I read some adult literature I wouldn’t be afraid to hand out to a Girl Scout Troop. I read some YA that I feel like I shouldn’t be reading!
Classification of books as YA or Adult seems to be pretty arbitrary, especially as it’s become more and more common for YA to tackle dystopias and all of the sketchiness that comes with a horrible imagined future. Crank, Court of Thorns and Roses, and Lord of the Flies are all theoretically written for under-eighteeners.
When I was a kid I skipped right from the Babysitter’s Club to full-on adult fantasy novels. Every once in awhile, I know my mom was concerned about what I was reading. I was a voracious little reader– and like many of you, my reading level was high beyond my maturity at any given time (possibly still true). I remember being terrified into tears at around 12-13 years old reading about the child-eating giants in C.S. Lewis’s “The Silver Chair.” Were my parents very confused when their oldest child who had been reading adult books for a few years came upstairs crying and telling them Narnia was scary? Yeah, they really were. I never finished that book. True story.
So when I make book recommendations on here, I like to separate YA into three categories– True YA, Young Young Adult, and Adult Young Adult.
I don’t read horror novels because they disturb me. I’m an adult, and I know I’m not comfortable with that. Kids aren’t as able to discern what will upset them and what won’t. Remember, I was ~12 and reading at a college level when Narnia scared me into tears. They sometimes don’t have context for things they read. That’s where adults come in!
I think kids are small people who already live in the adult world. Kids are exposed to cancer, suicide, mild violence, divorce, kissing, sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, and tragedy on a daily basis. Kids hopefully aren’t exposed to torture, rape, and gore.
Kids at high reading levels are often bored with the regular fare for their own age-group, and those kids should be allowed books that are more linguistically difficult and deal with more adult topics, within reason, for that particular child. Otherwise, they’ll give up on reading. True story.
On the other end, adults with lower reading levels claim to hate reading and report not having ever finished a novel. Because they’re boring. To these folks, I say, read some Rick Riordan! Get some comics! It’s cool!
Age Recommendations are silly, but sensitivities and conversations about difficult topics are not.
The point of all of this is that my sorting of these books into my three categories shouldn’t tell you which ones are comfortable for you or your kids to read, though I would be happy to answer any questions!