Recently while reviewing the very excellent Holes, I recounted how my 10 year old’s library card was refused as it was a book for Young Adults. This has led to much discussion about what exactly is a Young Adult book. And just what exactly should children be reading if they are a tweeney?
Advanced readers beware
More often than not you will be able to tell if a book is aimed at an adult or a child. The front cover, the font size, the page count are all easy giveaways. But a child of 10 is very different to a child of 16. Not only will their reading capabilities be different, but so will their life experiences and knowledge of the world. It’s not even a case of ‘well my son is a very advanced reader so he needs to be reading older books’. Yes, but what if those older books contain swearing? Violence? Sex! It’s not just being able to read the word masturbation, transgender or cocaine. It’s whether you want your child to be exposed to such reading material.
To help parents make an informed choice, the industry has taken to using several labels that serve as a guide. From the ratio of words to pictures it’s often very easy to spot books for very young children without any additional help. It’s as your child creeps towards double digits and the word count increases that the complications start. This is when parents should start looking for ‘Chapter Books’. These often have more illustrations than Young Adult books and have shorter chapters, easier text and topics generally suitable for 7-10 year olds.
Chapter Books recommended reads
I cringe at the american-ness of it but the bracket for the 8-12s (note the overlap) is often referred to as ‘Middle Grade’ due to the school year of american 8-12s. Fewer pictures, higher word count and more complex themes/content are offered. It’s a particularly strong genre at the moment and I certainly get enjoyment out of the books my 10 year old reads. Try Brightstorm, our May Book of the Month She Wolf or Nevermoor as a less daunting alternative to Harry Potter.
Next up is ‘Young Adult’ for those 12 and up. This is a very large category that parents should approach with caution. These are the books most like adult fiction. They have virtually no pictures, and are often the same font size and length as adult books They can therefore be very difficult to spot when lined up next to adult fiction on the shelf. Even if you do find a neon ‘Young Adult’ sign, the varying content can often be nerve racking. The protagonists are often teenagers, yet the themes can be as hard hitting as suicide (Thirteen Reasons Why), or police brutality and systematic racism (The Hate U Give). If you have a ‘young’ tweeney then maybe steer clear for a year or two.
Young Adult recommended reads
For the younger ones in this category we recommend the fabulous Holes by Louis Sachar. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman is a fantastic trilogy that has film links for the cinema going teens, or for something slightly different, try Six Stories. A book not necessarily classed as YA, but a great step up to adult fiction for those ready.
If all else fails
If you’re still a bit stuck check in the Kids/YoungAdult section of Book-Social, as we always indicate what age range we think a book falls under. Book sellers will always be happy to guide you and may even have read the book in question so you can get a feel for whether the content is suitable or not. However with books in these categories so good, you could always have a read yourself. Holes after all is in contention for our book of the year, Young Adult or no!