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Jul. 26th, 2010 | 09:25 pm
posted by: beth_shulman in sounis

Have you ever wondered why MWT's books are usually shelved in the Children's section of bookstores? Even if they're classified as Young Adult, they usually stand out. They're different than most YA books. (I'm excluding The Thief from this, because I think it's a more traditional offering than the following three books.)

So: What is Children's lit, exactly? And what is YA lit? And where do these books belong?

Surprisingly (or maybe not), the specifications of both are very contentious.

Let's start with literature for children.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica here: Children's literature is a "body of written works produced to entertain or instruct young people".

That's very neutral. No age range, no specification as to what exactly "entertainment" and "instruction" are.

Here are the criteria for the Newbery Medal, which is awarded by the American Library Association every year to "the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children". They define "contribution to American literature for children" as:

a book for which children are an intended potential audience. The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen, and books for this entire age range are to be considered.

This appears to indicate that children have less understandings, abilities, and appreciations than adults. Is this true?

Parent or guardians or teachers who choose to restrict children's reading choices to shield them from dangerous and frightening things are practicing an exercise in futility. Children know that dangerous and frightening situations and people exist. Children learn history. Children live through history. The occurrence of 9-11 (or any horrors that happen often) wasn't something that could be dismissed to protect the children.

Children can appreciate books with darker themes. They may not recognize the full extent of the darkness, but they perceive the tone and feel of the book. They can read books like The Giver and A Wrinkle in Time, both Newbery winners, and know that there are bad situations and people, and learn to emphasize, and they will not be scarred for life. (Then again, The Giver and A Wrinkle in Time are books that adults can and do read as well.)

Here is a quote from Lois Lowry's Newbery acceptance speech for The Giver:
 
The Newbery Committee was gutsy [too]. There would have been safer books. More comfortable books. More familiar books. They took a trip beyond the realm of sameness, with this one, and I think they should be very proud of that.
And all of you, as well. Let me say something to those of you here who do such dangerous work.
The man that I named The Giver passed along to the boy knowledge, history, memories, color, pain, laughter, love, and truth. Every time you place a book in the hands of a child, you do the same thing.
It is very risky.
But each time a child opens a book, he pushes open the gate that separates him from Elsewhere. It gives him choices. It gives him freedom.
Those are magnificent, wonderfully unsafe things.
 
Now, there are cases in which children's understandings are limited. In my opinion, any book which contains sexual material is inappropriate for children. Not because we're trying to keep them stupid, but because they aren't mature enough to understand it yet.

Here
is part of children's librarian Elizabeth Bird's review of The King of Attolia:
 
It all comes down to this: You can’t understand this book if you don’t know why a man would fall in love with the woman who cut off his hand.
 
She goes on to say that while she can't recommend it to her readers, if she were a teen librarian, she'd be pushing it onto her teens.

Children usually don't have the emotional maturity to understand love, either. I would say that there is no possibility of a child understanding Gen and Irene's relationship. That's not to say that children should be condescended to. It just means that adult authors can't write about adult experiences for children, because children are not ready to understand them.

Here's
a quote from Madeleine L'Engle, just to put things into perspective: "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

Here's an article from the Washington University in St. Louis website quoting Gerald Early:

Children's literature exists as an idea in the adult mind about the ways one speaks to children, about how we adults configure childhood. Children's literature celebrates the imagination we think is necessary for us to engage childhood as adults. It is a way for adults, in short, to distinguish children from adults.

We understand the customs and practices of the genre so well that we can usually spot a children's book without having to be told... But a children's book, as with virtually all of our thinking about children, has reality only in relation to how we see something that is not for children. If something is for children, it does not have sex, it does not have graphic violence, it does not have obscene language.

And, interestingly, he continues:

At their best, books aimed at children express how adults feel conflicted about their childhood — and how this feeling reflects an ambivalence that children, too, feel about childhood. That is why this literature speaks to adults as well as to children. As adults, we never outgrow childhood. We learn to live with what our childhoods have made us.
 
Now for YA. Because of the recent growth of the young adult genre, its specifications have been debated a lot lately. Here are the criteria for the Michael L. Printz Award, which is awarded to "the best young adult book ("best" being defined solely in terms of literary merit)".

To be eligible, a title must have been designated by its publisher as being either a young adult book or one published for the age range that YALSA defines as "young adult," i.e., 12 through 18. Adult books are not eligible.

That's an extremely vague explanation. How does a publisher or YALSA determine what books should be published for 12-18 year olds?

Here's a post from Cheryl Klein, an editor at a division of Scholastic, who blogs at Brooklyn Arden:
  1. A YA novel is centrally interested in the experience and growth of
  2. its teenage protagonist(s),
  3. whose dramatized choices, actions, and concerns drive the
  4. story,
  5. and it is narrated with relative immediacy to that teenage perspective.
1) "centrally interested": The book's central storyline focuses upon the emotional, intellectual, and all other forms of experience and growth of its main character. It may be interested in other things as well -- dragons, the definition of justice, life in 1908 Russia -- but all of those interests are secondary to the experience of the main character, and usually filtered only through him/her.

This is often where I find adult books separating themselves out here, because while they may have a younger protagonist, the adult books aren't interested in that protagonist's life per se -- they're interested in showing the world the protagonist will encounter in all its ugliness or glory, and a younger character often provides a useful "innocent" or "naive" viewpoint, or at the very least a figure of instant sympathy to adults.

"growth" -- the character is different at the beginning than he is at the end, and usually for the better. I always think of Richard Peck's wise dictum that a YA novel ends "ends not with happily ever after, but at a new beginning, with the sense of a lot of life yet to be lived"; and that the events of the book have left the character better prepared for that.

2) "teenage protagonist(s)": Yeah, I'm going to posit that YA novels require a protagonist at an adolescent stage of life, between childhood and the full rights and privileges of adulthood. I do not think this is true of children's books, particularly picture books (that is, that they must have a child main character); but I think it's true of teen books, because life between the ages of 14-18 is such a unique time, full of so much intensity and so many firsts, that only a very sheltered adult or a very advanced child could have those same sorts of experiences and changes.

Now, I think there's debate about exactly how old Gen is, but I also think that most, if not all, readers consider him an adult. He has the responsibilities of an adult: he has a job he feels obligated to fulfill, he loves a woman, he gets married, he runs a country. He may do it in an extremely original way, but there's no question but that he's an adult. Even if he's a teenager, which I don't think he is, he's beyond typical teenage adolescence. These YA criteria do not apply.

More on YA from Patty Campell's 2004 article in the Horn Book magazine, quoted in author Gail Gauthier's blog here:
 
The central theme of YA fiction is becoming an adult, finding the answer to the question "Who am I, and what am I going to do about it?" Whether it is told in first or third (or even second person), to be a YA novel a book must have a teen protagonist speaking from an adolescent point of view, with all the limitations of understanding this implies. To be a YA novel, then, a book must have a climactic epiphany of new maturity as the subtext and be told in the YA voice from the limited adolescent viewpoint. In addition, it must be relevant to the lives of young readers in some way.
 
From author Justine Larbalestier here:
 
Part of the problem with defining Young Adult fiction is that it’s a category defined by its audience in a way that “science fiction” or “romance” or “mysteries” or even “literature” is not.

Defining a genre in terms of its presumed audience is a problem. Especially when that audience is something as nebulous as “teenagers”.

So, yes, YA is a publishing category and books are published there if that’s where a publisher thinks a book will sell best and attract the most attention. But it’s also a distinctive genre with its own flavour.

She does not explain what she means when she says that YA is a distinctive genre.

More from author Gayle Forman here:
 
Traditionally, YA covered the ages of 12-18 but ... there is the whole sub-genre of upper-YA. When I told my editor that my characters who were teens in If I Stay now were not, her concern wasn’t their ages but that they needed to be on the “precipice” of some major life change. I don’t think 30 can be YA, but 20 can. The term is young adult. Not teen.

A YA novel will feature characters/narrator with a certain voice that sounds young, feels young, authentically so.

From the blog Alien Onions here (who are in publishing in Australia):
 
We tend to consider the YA readership to be 14 or 15+ (often extending into early 20s). But more important than age range, YA fiction tends to address the emotional intensity that is a teenager's journey through the often bewildering waters of adolescence. This life-stage is all about change - and the experience is often isolating and confusing.

So YA fiction is often about a world in flux. It's about exploring this new world, or surviving it, or simply trying to navigate it without a compass.

And it's the YA books that capture the authenticity of this see-saw between strength and vulnerability that resonate most with readers.

So YA characters are often consumed by these questions: 'Who am I? What am I going to become? Where am I going and how can I possibly get there from here?' Their emotions and desires are intense and can have a huge impact on how they make decisions and which pathways they choose.

Books for adults often have young protagonists, but this doesn't mean they are YA books.... A young protagonist in an adult novel is usually knowing and has an adult sensibility in their telling of the story.

Here's what Orson Scott Card wrote about The King of Attolia:

...this book isn't [is] "young adult." Yes, a couple of main characters are young - but in an era when they could already function in adult roles. And I wonder if this book might be too sophisticated for a lot of young readers. Not because of sex, for the book shows none, but because Turner writes about small-kingdom politics at a very high level.

But then, there is no place in our society where personal politics is carried on with more ruthlessness and intensity than junior high school. No matter how much childish behavior you find in Congress or university faculties, image-building, character-assassination, and jockeying for position reach their peak among seventh and eighth graders. So this novel may be exactly right for that age group.

It's also an adult book, however - an unusually entertaining and intelligent one - and I recommend it highly. Give the gross-out thrillers a break and pick up something that will actually exercise your brain and leave you feeling rather good about being human.

I think what I said above about Gen is still true. He's not emotionally an adolescent, and Eddis and Attolia are definitely not. Think about how Ornon respects Gen, and the magus, and Sounis, and Attolia. He's an individual fully cognizant of his abilities and capable of making his own decisions and living with the consequences. He's an adult.

So, in conclusion: The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia (I'm actually not sure if I can include A Conspiracy of Kings; Sophos seems to be a traditional YA protagonist)

a) don't belong on the Children's shelf
b) don't belong on the Young Adult shelf

Where do they go, exactly? I still agree with the blogger who called it "a riveting political drama", and for all my Googling, I haven't found which blogger it was. So I can't credit it, though I think it's exactly right. They're in a genre of their own.

Thoughts?

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Comments {84}

reader_marie

(no subject)

from: reader_marie
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 01:58 am (UTC)
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Thanks for this really fascinating analysis of genre! I confess, I've always thought of divisions like "children's books" and especially "YA literature" in terms of the Pirate's Code: guidelines, not actual rules. You make a good case for how they stand, though.

I agree that these books are neither traditionally children's books nor YA-ish. I, however, may have a slightly skewed perspective. While I definitely read books now that would not have been appropriate even for a precocious reader like the child I was, I still read a lot of the same books that I read as a child and a young adult. Why? Because they're GOOD BOOKS! (I realize you have touched on this in your post, I'm just reiterating for my own enlightenment, which is basically why I write things.)

And of course MWT's books don't belong on the children's or the YA shelf--they belong in our hands, being read, and in other peoples' hands, being discovered!

(That's as far as wit will take me at this hour.)

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all is always now

(no subject)

from: beth_shulman
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 02:10 am (UTC)
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You're right about them being guidelines, not actual rules, although I think that does apply more to adults than to children. In my library, children can't check out YA or adult materials with their cards. Their reading material is usually limited by their parents and schools as well.

So I think there are rules, and the thought behind those rules is extremely important when you're dealing with children.

(I don't know if I'm being coherent anymore. I think all I did today was write about genre. First about fantasy, on that enchantedinkpot post, then here. My brain is fried right now.)

Why? Because they're GOOD BOOKS!

Exactly! Me, too! And I couldn't even touch on the adults-reading-YA and children's lit, because there is just so much written about it.

And that's exactly where MWT's books belong! I love that :)

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(Deleted comment)

Lady Jane

(no subject)

from: ninedaysaqueen
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 01:58 am (UTC)
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They are a class unto themselves, and that is all we can say.

Fantastic, Beth. I really enjoyed this.

I don't want to call them Children's books, because I don't think they belong next to Magic Pony Power.

I don't really want to call them YA because the characters behave as adults.

I don't want to call them Adult because they have no adult content (sex, strong language, gore, etc.).

What do I call them? It may remain a mystery.

I know, how about the made-of-awesome genre?

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all is always now

(no subject)

from: beth_shulman
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 02:13 am (UTC)
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They are a class unto themselves, and that is all we can say.

Drumroll, please. That's exactly it.

And they don't belong next to Magic Pony Power. When I went to pick up my copy of ACoK, I was so taken aback to see it shelved in the children's section.

Thank you :)

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brandy_painter

(no subject)

from: brandy_painter
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 02:34 am (UTC)
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Parent or guardians or teachers who choose to restrict children's reading choices to shield them from dangerous and frightening things are practicing an exercise in futility. Children know that dangerous and frightening situations and people exist.

and then

Children can appreciate books with darker themes. They may not recognize the full extent of the darkness, but they perceive the tone and feel of the book. They can read books like The Giver and A Wrinkle in Time, both Newbery winners, and know that there are bad situations and
people, and learn to emphasize, and they will not be scarred for life.


I like this. I taught fifth grade and my last year at the school The Giver was challenged by one of our parents. I fought a long hard battle to keep it in our library. Thankfully I was on the committee that decided those challenges because no one else on it had read it. And the parent made it sound very evil indeed.

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all is always now

(no subject)

from: beth_shulman
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 02:44 am (UTC)
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Thank you! There are very few times when challenges are really merited, you know? John Green has a video up where he talks about Looking for Alaska being challenged. It's a great watch.

Here's a link, if you're interested (warning: slight language):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHMPtYvZ8tM

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(Deleted comment)

(no subject)

from: thesehnsucht
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 03:52 am (UTC)
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http://fusenumber8.blogspot.com/2006/10/review-of-day-king-of-attolia.html

"Court Intrigue: The Book" SO right

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all is always now

(no subject)

from: beth_shulman
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 03:56 am (UTC)
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YES I know, isn't it? She's a great blogger.

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lizzyazula

(no subject)

from: lizzyazula
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 04:23 am (UTC)
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You know, at my bookstore these books are in the Teen section.

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all is always now

(no subject)

from: beth_shulman
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 05:05 am (UTC)
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Really? They're in the children's section in mine. (I called to reserve my copy and was so surprised when the sales associate said, "So it's a children's book, right?")

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msmcknittington

(no subject)

from: msmcknittington
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 05:01 am (UTC)
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I think King of Attolia can still be classified as YA. It's certainly not the lower range of YA, but I think it works well for the older members of that group while still not being adult fiction. KoA is as much a story of Gen learning to be an adult as it is about court intrigue. While going away to college is not quite as extreme as getting married and ruling a country, the emotional journey that we (a little distantly because of the narrator) see Gen go through really reminded me of what my freshman year of college was like. No, no one tried to assassinate me, but I remember seeing trees and just crying and crying, because I grew up on a farm, and there was so much concrete in the Big City. I got to go home, but poor Gen is never going to see the mountains again the same way he did before. You can't go home again, right?

So, yeah. I think King of Attolia is a coming of age story for Gen. He goes through things that a lot of people go through in late adolescence: moving away from home, first serious romantic relationship, learning responsibility, giving up dreams out of duty/practicality. He might be capable of manipulating people and playing complex games of political intrigue, but don't several characters in the series mention that he hasn't fully thought out the impact of his decision to become king? He thought he could still be the Thief while being his wife's puppet king, and KoA is about him learning that isn't so.

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all is always now

(no subject)

from: beth_shulman
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 05:11 am (UTC)
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I've never thought of it that way. I definitely see your point (though I'm going to politely disagree). To me, The King of Attolia is primarily court intrigue chiefly because the entire plot hinges on that. There are flashes of Gen's humanity, but I don't consider them to be adolescent signs (just my opinion). Anyone can be homesick, and make hasty decisions, and learn to work on a relationship. I don't think those are exclusively YA attributes.

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attackfish

I Quibble

from: attackfish
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 07:01 am (UTC)
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Children usually don't have the emotional maturity to understand love, either. I would say that there is no possibility of a child understanding Gen and Irene's relationship

If we take the Newbery definition of childhood, I read TT and QoA when I was still a child, twelve, and I was enthralled by the love story. I saw that it was highly dysfunctional (don't shoot me, I still feel this way, even as I root for them and adore Irene and Gen both). Children of that age group frequently understand less than perfect love. I understood why I love my self destructive relatives and frequently cruel best friend, and I could understand the sympathy laced admiration Gen had that grew into love. And obviously I could understand why Irene loved Gen.

Aside from my irritation at your assumptions about children: I too disagree with these being classified as children's lit (or, in publishing terms, Middle Grade lit) as they really wouldn't have appealed to me until about the same time I read them, and as a budding policy wonk, my threshold for enjoyment of them came a little young. However, I disagree strongly with your characterization of them as not a coming of age story. Way back when I first started doing book reviews on my livejournal, I titled my review of the first three QT books "The Boy Hero Grows Up" (don't hunt it down; I wasn't good at writing reviews yet), because I always saw Gen as pre-coming of age in TT (He between the ages of the Magus' two apprentices and the Magus treats them all as adolescents, so I see Gen as around fifteen) He's considered a "boy hero" or "golden boy" by the Eddisan court upon his return with the Gift, and his reasons have more to do with seeing to it that his favorite cousin doesn't have to marry Sounis and personal ambition than duty or what it means for his country. At the end of TT, when Gen's cleverness is revealed, and he first meets and refuses Irene, he crosses out of childhood into the liminal state between childhood and adulthood.

QoA takes place in that liminal state. He tests the waters of political engagement (before, he chose to do things that effected political change, but avoided actual politics), he angsts enough to do any teen proud (and like all good YA protagonists, he has a good reason to angst) and emerges with his kidnapping of the Magus as a figure seen as an adult for the first time. Still he doesn't step out of his liminal state until the end of the book, as his meeting with the amputees and his subsequent conversation with Eddis reflects ("I don't feel like a hero, I feel like an idiot"). The book ends with a marriage, a traditional rite of passage into adulthood, before which his rival again refers to him as a boy and he asserts his adult wishes and desires ("Calf love doesn't usually survive amputation, Your Majesty.") It's also likely his first serious romantic bond, which shows his new-found emotional maturity.

The myths told in the two novels reflect this. In TT, we have a creation myth, a heroic origin myth, and then a coming of age myth. In QoA, we have a story about a marriage, and Eddis talks about how mothers must learn to accept their children leaving the nest.

KoA is the last of Gen's coming of age story, showing him taking his first steps as an adult, and proving himself. In other words, it's the story of his first time acting as an adult, and after this, he leaves behind the whispers that he's still a boy.

CoK on the other hand, is Sophos' coming of age story. In many ways, Sophos' story is less triumphant, as it's a story of disillusionment, whereas Gen came pre-disillusioned. With the death of his mother and his kidnapping, Sophos enters the liminal state, and when he claims his own throne, he asserts his adulthood. He learns the sorts of choices he will have to make as a king, and like Gen at the end of QoA also gets married. Throughout CoK, Sophos' idolization and then disillusionment with Gen is that of a boy looking for a mentor, someone to teach him how to become a man, and Gen does in the end serve this purpose.

In coming of age stories, the heroes usually engage in adult behavior. It's the fact that they're learning to be adults as they do so that makes it a coming of age story.

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all is always now

Re: I Quibble

from: beth_shulman
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 05:53 pm (UTC)
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First of all, wow. Thanks for your comment!

Okay, here I go. I do agree with a lot of what you're saying. I also think that you were probably a mature child.

I really think that children don't fully understand love. Not because I'm condescending to them, not because I think they're stupid, because children can frequently be more perceptive than adults, but simply because they've never been in a romantic relationship. They haven't experienced it. They may watch such relationships, but I think until you've been in one, you can't understand it. (I also don't think middle school boyfriends and girlfriends count, because that's more of a status thing.) I think they can see the problems in relationships, even if they don't know why those problems come about, but they can't pinpoint them.

There are problems many times with people whose parents have divorced when they were children, where these people don't know how to have a healthy relationship because they've never had a model of one. They knew that something was wrong with their parents' relationship, but it doesn't mean that they're mature enough to identify what that problem was, and to learn to avoid it themselves.

I just want to say a bit more about love: I do think that everyone has a different definition of love, so we can be reacting differently as a result of that. I'm not condescending to children (I hate when people do that) because in many cases they do see more clearly than adults. I'm completely against banning books like The Giver. But I think that when it comes to romantic relationships, they're too young to understand.

Then again, I'm not so sure that 12-14 year olds are still children, although including those ages in the criteria does, I think, include more thoughtful books.

To me, Gen doesn't angst at all. In all fairness, I usually attribute angst to awful teenage protagonists like Bella Swan, so I'm just reacting to that word negatively. But I do consider angst to be a reaction out of proportion to the cause of that reaction - worrying more than necessary, obsessing over something trivial. Gen has very valid reasons to complain. To me, he wasn't a child during The Thief; I think he recognized his responsibilities even if he was flippant about them. But he became an adult when his hand was cut off. Here was something he couldn't steal back. One of his first adult moments to me was when he told Galen he didn't want to die blind. I don't think that's angst. I think he was facing his reality and being honest with himself and, more unusually, being honest with another person.

I definitely agree with you about the series' arc being coming-of-age, because there is a drastic change from The Thief to The Queen of Attolia. But I just don't see how Gen's still young in QoA. He's facing too many adult situations (immediately, from the book's beginning) and he ages mentally as a result. Although now that I think about it, in the very beginning, when he's sneaking through Attolia's palace, he is more of the Gen I saw in TT. That Gen disappears right after, though, in my opinion.

Somehow, even though Gen's doing all these firsts, I still see him as an adult. Probably because he's always so omnipotent and far-seeing that I assumed he was in all areas? Hmmm. Though I do think that having a first serious romantic relationship is adult, and the reason it is sometimes put into YA (serious YA, not the relationship-a-week stuff) is because it's in conflict there with the "younger" feelings the protagonist is still facing, i.e. fighting with her mother or sister. Gen doesn't really face that. In QoA, when he finds out that his cousin was the messenger who was killed, he doesn't rejoice even the slightest, though he may have hated his cousin.

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Kee

Random disconnected thoughts because I should be writing my thesis...

from: keestone
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 12:29 pm (UTC)
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Regarding the Newbery quote: "The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations"

That doesn't necessarily mean that children's understandings etc. are lesser, just different. Kids can process a lot that adults don't want to admit they can, but they may pick up on different things while passing over the bits that Adults worry about. (My reading was never restricted,and the only book I can ever remember dis-recommending a kid was The Princess Bride, simply because of the cynicism in the book.) I don't think it's necessary to be an adult to "understand" love. I don't think that the idea that "children don't understand" love or seriously complex emotional relationships is correct. Nor do I think that knowledge and understanding must come before reading. I don't know why a man would fall in love with a woman who cut off his hand. But reading QoA, I get an inkling. How is that any different from an eleven-year-old's perspective?


I don't have a lot to say at the moment, but it looks to me like the sense of what "YA books" are has expanded since the early to mid-nineties, or at least the early to mid-nineties in my local library. I avoided the YA shelves as a teen, because it mostly seemed to be filled with "Issues" books, like an after-school special on drugs, sex and peer-pressure or whatever else "teens these days are dealing with". The more imaginative fiction seemed to either be shelved in the Children's or Adults' sections.

I'm totally bookmarking this page for interesting questions to bring up in class. :D

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Kee

Re: Random disconnected thoughts because I should be writing my thesis...

from: keestone
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 12:43 pm (UTC)
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Incidentally, said local library had copies of Don Quixote and Gulliver's Travels in the Children's section . . . there's a lot there that you can pretty well be sure children won't get or understand -- for instance the main satirical points of the books (which may not be too different from many adults, really). So were they put there for children because they were Classics and thus "edifying" or because they had Fantastic elements and were thus "for children"?

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Mordena Babich

(no subject)

from: philia_fan
date: Jul. 27th, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
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Well, I hesitate to get into this can of worms, but what the heck.

First, I actually DO think Gen is a teenager. He might be 20 by now, I don't really keep track, but some Sounis folks do. He's an adult in his world, but then many kids in historical YA fiction are mature beyond their years by modern standards.

But second, I think it's important to remember that a label like YA is not about what a book IS, it's about how it's marketed. Some books end up marketed both as YA and adult, often with different covers. The Attolia books are sophisticated, yes, but they're also fantasy novels full of adventures and interesting characters, they're not about midlife crises and any sex is by implication, offstage. They don't really fit and might be lost in the adult market. I'm perfectly happy to see them as YA. MG seems a stretch, I must say, but then no one can even agree on where the MG/YA line is any more. My daughter enjoyed all the books at 12. Did she understand everything? I'm sure not. All the more fun when she rereads later, I say. I think they belong on every shelf we can get them on!

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elle_winters

(no subject)

from: elle_winters
date: Jul. 28th, 2010 05:30 am (UTC)
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Elle Winters agrees with the Above.

=D

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Queen's Thief

from: anonymous
date: Jul. 28th, 2010 05:20 pm (UTC)
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This is way off topic, but I don't have an account, so I can't post this to the main page. In her Smart Chicks Kick it Tour guest blog, Sarah Rees Brennan mentions Attolia as one of her favorite heroines. It's close to the end.

http://smartchickskickit.blogspot.com/2010/07/sisters-are-doing-it-for-practically.html

~Priya

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Lady Jane

(no subject)

from: ninedaysaqueen
date: Jul. 28th, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
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Okay, that's really funny. Now I want to do one for Veronica Mars.

Veronica's To-Do:

1. Stop angsting teen from blowing up school with homemade bombs. Not that Neptune Hell couldn't use a few good incinerations.

2. Walk overprotective pit-bull that has the ability to chew a grown man to pieces.

3. Absolve self of fake I.D. charges (I was professional insulted when they said those were made by me.), while putting Sheriff Lamb in his place in a calculated and very effective manner. - Veronica Mars is smarter than me. I'm good.

4. Buy snakes for stakeout. JAKE KANE IS UP TO SOMETHING.

5. Bring dad dinner. Crack safe when he goes on stakeout.

6. Return DVDs. Oh yeah... And I still have to find out for the kid who works there where his "dead" dad is.

7. Get Logan arrested again. No one insults my mother!

8. Get tazer fixed.

9. Consolidate with biker-gang leader friend. He owes me after I absolved him of those identity theft charges.

10. Find out who murdered my best friend, Lilly and MAKE HIM PAY.

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definitions and fuzzy categories

from: etv13
date: Jul. 31st, 2010 10:06 pm (UTC)
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Klein's and Campbell's definitions of "YA literature" are both underinclusive and overinclusive. By focusing on a teenage character/perspective, they exclude classic examples of the genre, like Rosemary Sutcliff's The Eagle of the Ninth, and The Mark of the Horse Lord -- both of which of which involve young heroes who are unquestionably adults from the beginning of their stories. In essence, they're defining "adult" right out of "young adult." The Queen's Thief books are YA in exactly the same way The Eagle of the Ninth and The Mark of the Horse Lord are YA. (And not only does MWT make references to both of these books in the Queen's Thief books, but I just realized that a lot of The Eagle of the Ninth is about the hero learning to deal with a disability, and The Mark of the Horse Lord is about learning what it means to be a king. Hopefully, Gen won't have to learn that in quite the same way Phaedrus the Red does.)

The definitions are overinclusive, too. Georgette Heyer's The Corinthian and Arabella -- indeed, probably a lot of Regency romance -- are YA by that definition.

Maybe what Potter Stewart said about obscenity applies to most genres: I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.

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hazelwillow

(no subject)

from: hazelwillow
date: Aug. 1st, 2010 07:59 am (UTC)
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I don't think it's entirely fair to define Children's Lit and YA by their content. I mean, it's fine to say "young adult TENDS to address the emotional intensity that is a teenager's journey... [which is] all about change", but that's the sort of observation that follows from YA literature. It doesn't preclude it, or define it. Young Adult is not the type of genre (if it is a genre, I think it's a broader type of category) that can be defined by content like story type or protagonist --unlike, say, Mystery, which could be summarized as featuring a certain type of plot and a certain type of protagonist. Children's Lit is simply literature that is expected to be enjoyed by children. YA is simply literature that is expected (by publishers, librarians, and other readers who are good at predicting these things) to be enjoyed by young people who are already going through, or have gone through, adolescence or puberty. (To me, that change that happens somewhere between eleven and fourteen is the boundary between the two age groups. It's a big change but also a nebulous line to draw, and many books straddle it).

It's fascinating to look at the common themes and types of protagonists and types of stories that often speak to these age groups. I've always really noticed the themes about growing up that inhabit children's literature for kids who haven't gone through puberty yet (Susan and Peter leaving Narnia, Wendy leaving Neverland, or Philip Pullman's more well-rounded reinvention which is Lyra's daemon settling). But I had never really noticed that fiction for teens often does feature heavily absorbing emotions. That is so interesting! Maybe I'm still too close to it to see it (I'm 22), so thanks for the insight.

But again, I don't think those themes and issues can be used to *define* children's/ya lit. That's just too limiting... Young people are interested in just as many things as adults, and the politics of small kingdoms may be fascinating for some kids. You can't define QoA and KoA as *not young adult* because they are about politics. In fact, many older teens are idealistic and interested in politics and power.

Also, the way we *see* protagonists changes as we get older --for instance, though Gen appears to be an adult mentally to you, to a fifteen-year-old reader he might appear younger. And it's not that either one of you would be right or wrong, just that a fifteen-year old might identify with Gen's insecurity in parts of QoA, whereas you might take more notice of his mental sureness or his emotional maturity (I just picked that number at random --I'm, er, assuming you're not fifteen! I'll be embarassed if you are ;-p). (Personally, I don't see Gen as an adult at all in The Thief --he's brilliant, yes, but he's very immature too. By KoA he's far more emotionally mature --the way he understands and forigves Relius was impressive to me --but I still see him as very young.

Anyway, sorry for the essay!

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Mordena Babich

(no subject)

from: philia_fan
date: Aug. 1st, 2010 12:59 pm (UTC)
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Loved your essay. I agree, and you're very articulate.

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Mordena Babich

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from: philia_fan
date: Aug. 6th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC)
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This might be of interest: http://thebooksmugglers.com/2010/08/ya-appreciation-month-guest-author-sarah-rees-brennan-on-why-ya.html

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all is always now

(no subject)

from: beth_shulman
date: Aug. 6th, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC)
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Just saw it! Thanks! (She's a riot. And she loves MWT. And - most importantly - she writes good books :)

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tiegirl

(no subject)

from: tiegirl
date: Aug. 7th, 2010 12:23 am (UTC)
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Ya know...I went past this post one last time and it hit me...GENre.

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all is always now

(no subject)

from: beth_shulman
date: Aug. 8th, 2010 05:27 pm (UTC)
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Ha! As if the world doesn't already revolve around him :)

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checkers

my two cents

from: checkers65477
date: Aug. 9th, 2010 12:28 am (UTC)
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I'm coming super-late to the discussion, but what the heck. I agree with lots of what's been said, and disagree with lots, too.

I had this whole huge comment thing about *my* opinion about King of Attolia, but deleted it because what's most important to me is that so much of what has been said here is limiting, in some way. Definitions that limit YA and children's lit. Opinions that limit who the books are for. And especially limiting access to books in general, whether it's children's access to classics/adult books, or limiting adults by keeping classics in the children's section so they have to be motivated to seek out those books. Forget about browsing patrons ever finding them. And all this distresses me.

But, there's no perfect way to categorize books in a library or bookstore.

Several people have commented about how they found and loved the Thief books as children or teens. I could tell all kinds of stories about dozens of kids at my middle school library who read the books, understood them, and liked them. Did they get every little nuance? Did they read them the way a school librarian would? No. But that doesn't mean the books aren't completely accessible to children or that "lower range of YA." And it seems like whenever someone commented that they read the Thief books as kids, someone else said they must have been mature, good readers. Alluding that they are different, somehow. I don't think they are different, and I don't think that does the Thief books justice. The books can be read on so many different levels.

There are plenty of kid readers out there who can handle complex books, who won't be traumatized by reading mature content, and who are perfectly capable of choosing their own reading material without others telling them they can't read something.

YA books are those that are written for, or appeal to, young adults. Or, more accurately, as Philia says, are marketed for young adults. Nothing says they *have* to contain anything, whether it is teen characters, a coming-of-age story, certain themes or subjects, or a message. Books that are up for awards, now that's another story. Best left to another post.

Gosh, what a great discussion.

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opportunity to RSS

from: anonymous
date: Aug. 27th, 2011 03:19 pm (UTC)
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Yes there should realize the opportunity to RSS commentary, quite simply, CMS is another on the blog.

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