No doubt my memory is failing me, but I can’t remember from my teenage years any category of fiction labelled “Young Adult”. Indeed, I cannot even remember the term “Young Adult”. I gather this term refers to teenagers, but why one cannot simply say “teenager” – which, as well as being more descriptive and less cumbersome, has the advantage of not sounding like something concocted by some faceless marketing department – I cannot imagine.
The reason I mention this is that in my peregrinations around the net, I frequently come across posts and articles fulminating on how absolutely ghastly those people are who look down on Young Adult Fiction. Now, I enjoy looking down on something as much as the next person, and if there really is anything in “Young Adult Fiction” that is worth looking down on, I wouldn’t want to miss out. But the problem is that I don’t know what “Young Adult Fiction” is in the first place.
Quite apart from the unwieldy nature of the term, I am a bit puzzled by its import. After one has matured mentally into adulthood – and that, of course, occurs at different ages for different people – there seems to me little point in classifying further in terms of age for the purpose merely of creating yet more literary ghettoes. If a book can be of value to an Old Adult, why can it not also be of value to a Young? Or, for that matter, vice versa ? If the adult population of readers is to be subdivided in terms of age, can we now look forward to “Middle-Aged Adult Fiction”, and “Mature Adult Fiction”, and, perhaps, “Geriatric Adult Fiction”?
In any case, what do Young Adults themselves – or teenagers, as a middle-aged fogey like myself prefers to call them – think of all this? Looking back on my own teenage years, I would have found it patronising to have been described as a “Young Adult”, and would have felt grossly insulted by the idea that some committee somewhere has met to determine which books are most suitable for my age. If teenagers feel no longer patronised and insulted by this sort of thing, the world has indeed changed over the last forty or so years – far more so than I had realised.