What makes for a classic book, and what is the utility of the YA label? I ask those questions at Publishing Perspectives
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Over on Publishing Perspectives today, I'm asking a perhaps radical (and yes, of course, naive) question: What would happen if we stopped labeling books, YA or otherwise? It's a notion I've bandied about in my head for a while now—one that seems extraordinarily relevant as we consider the very notion of crossover books, classic books, and the role that labels have or have not played. From the essay:
Crossover books. Classic books. Aren’t they, at the very least, kissing cousins? And aren’t they also the books whose labels have been systematically sidestepped or blatantly ignored, whose labels, in the end, made no perceivable difference, save for the various honors and awards for which the books qualified? This conspicuous refusal to stay within the reading lines has represented, I think we can all agree, excellent good news for the books themselves, and excellent good news for readers.The whole can be found here.
What, then, does all this suggest about a label’s utility? What, indeed, would happen if the “young adult” label suddenly (in fantastical, whimsical, utterly surreal fashion) vanished? Certainly the YA label is not “protecting” teens from scandalous reads (however readers choose to define scandalous these days); it’s not the equivalent, in other words, of a PG rating. And certainly the YA label doesn’t tell us much of anything about the story we’re about to encounter, or about its relative artistry. “YA” tells us only that a teen or teens is involved. But so what, really, because at the end of the day, that’s the case for many an adult novel, too.
In the meantime, while I was posting this, I received word that Kirkus named Small Damages the recommended teen book of the week.
My head happily spins.