So the other day I read a GoodReads review of Ashes, Ashes written by a 20-something year old man who bemoaned the lack of violence and also, boobs (yup, BOOBS) in the book.
This puzzled me exceedingly.
It says right on the cover that the book is recommended for 12 years and up. To my mind, that means 12-17-ish. I’ll get to the ‘ish’ in a moment.
This was sort of a confusion with my first book as well which was middle-grade and rec’d for ages 8-12. That’s a broad span of years and I often clarified by saying that it was a good read-aloud book for 8 & 9 year-olds and a good read-to-yourself book for 11-year-olds and up, but of course kids read at different paces and it varies widely.
Before YA existed as a category, there were basically kid’s board and picture books, early reader chapter books, and everything else. If the subject matter was considered adult then the book was classified as adult lit, eg. The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird.
But now YA (which is really only a category intended to denote the reading level) has become the hottest genre in publishing. The term YA is used a catch-all and refers to a dizzying range of books. So lumped together you have upper-middle-grade-ish titles and lower YA-ish titles and higher-YA-ish titles which may have intense violence and sexual situations, and there’s no handy way to tell what you’ve got in your hands unless you open up the cover and read the blurb or a few pages.
I think of my ideal reader as being about 15, and I say that because I know that kids like to read about characters who are a year or two older than themselves and the heroes in my book are all 16 and 17. I wrote for that age group and I wrote in a way that I consider appropriate for that age group.
I think that unfortunately, because of the huge popularity of YA right now, books like Paranormalcy and Ashes, Ashes, and books like Nightshade and The Hunger Games (and I picked these because I’ve read them and know they fall at either ends of the 12-17 year old range, though one can definitely see how readers of all ages can enjoy them) are all squashed into one big group.
And that’s ludicrous because generally speaking a 12-year old is not the same kind of reader as an 18 year old. There’s 6 years of experience and growth between them, and kids are not made from the same cookie cutter.
I am a firm believer in kids reading books when they are ready to read those books, and parents being involved in their kid’s choices and open to discussion, so I’m thrilled when a 12 year old enjoys Ashes, Ashes and I’m thrilled when a 25 year old enjoys it. Or a 35 year old or a 65 year old.
But I’m not going to apologize for the lack of boobs in this particular instance. There will be boobs when they fit the story.