I’m in my 6th decade of reading, but my first as an author. I never heard the word “genre” discussed so much as I have these past few years. In my lifetime, I read what I wanted, when I wanted. I didn’t know about “genres” for books to be classified into. Books were described by the type of story : sci-fi, murder-mystery, romance. Historical fiction. Horror. Most of what I read could contain a little bit of everything – there would be some romantic interest, some mystery, some historical or invented setting. If asked what “genre” I was reading, I was stumped. Books were “general fiction” for me. Unless I was reading non-fiction. (Like my own memoir : Camp Follower One Army Brat’s Story)
I understand that books need to be categorized to be age-appropriate for children : baby picture books, grade-school reader chapter books. But something about the (new?) genres of YA and NA bother me. Young Adult, New Adult. What’s the common denominator, people : ADULT. Classifying books by the age of the adult characters doesn’t sound right to me. I asked a bookstore clerk what defined YA and NA, and what was the difference. Oh, YA is for younger adults, with characters around, you know, 18ish. And NA is 20-somethings, more sex and violence allowed. Things “newer” (ie, younger?) adults can relate to. Oh really? I was a married woman at 18. Don’t tell me 18s (and younger) don’t read about sex and violence. And I know my elder mother-in-law wouldn’t read an NA-classified book if told it had violence. So, what’s the point?
I guess I find the YA and NA “genres” patronizing. Adults don’t read fiction just to “relate” to characters like themselves – at least I don’t! I read to be entertained, to enter worlds and viewpoints, to envision character lives that are NOT like my own. I’m an adult. I’ve been an adult reader since I was … well, an adult. Books should be classified by their content, not by the age of the reader. Let the adults decide. Not the publishers and marketers who invent such things as “YA” and “NA” genres. And authors : Let’s write stories with interesting characters, be they 18 or 88. Even in the same story! The readers will find what they want to read, be they themselves 18 or 88.