Deflating my flu

When I stood up I fainted. So I stayed in bed with my flu symptoms until I could manage some semblance of uprightness. (Don’t worry, this was about twenty years ago.) The Resident IT Consultant was absent with work, in Guildford of all places. I managed to persuade a neighbour and fellow parent to take mercy on Offspring and convey them to where they needed to be and hang on to them until Guildford Man returned. Since she was doing me a great favour, I know it was churlish of me to mind when she said that she had also felt ‘a bit fluey’ earlier in the week.

I believe she meant she’d had some cold symptoms. What I minded was the feeling that she was under the impression I asked for help because I coughed a little, or my nose required the services of a handkerchief.

This came back to me as I was ruminating on what constitutes YA literature. To my mind it’s for readers who are at least teenagers, and maybe even upper teens, before they move on to so-called ‘real’ books.

I don’t feel YA is a suitable label for Middle Grade fiction, but the way things are going, it seems YA is being used to mean children’s books, excluding early readers and picture books. I wonder why, as surely the whole idea with an older label was to remove some of the childishness from the genre?

Making books for ten-year-olds YA, is like calling the common cold flu. It’s obviously a rough indication as to what we are talking about, but we lose the ability to differentiate in those instances when it actually does matter.

And then I came across Tanya Landman’s blog post for The History Girls last week. Her issue is the opposite way round; that proper adults don’t feel they can read childish books like YA. They need ‘real’ books, intended for their own age group.

I fully agree with Tanya, and I have also done what she does, which is to give friends YA books, even when the recipient is a real, proper grown-up. I believe I’ve been luckier than she has, as I’ve not come across too many objections. Or maybe they have simply been polite.

But if we use the YA label for teen books, the more mature or gritty novels, that are perfectly suited to OA (Old Adults), then we end up with books that cover every age from ten-ish to 99. Nothing wrong with that, as a really well written children’s book can be read and enjoyed by anyone.

If we’re going down that route, though, we might as well just call them books.


4 responses to “Deflating my flu

  1. I agree that a well written children’s book can be enjoyed by all – Andrew Norriss’ books are a case in point! It is a subject we have been considering lately as Andrew’s new book Jessica’s Ghost is possibly YA. I say possibly as YA bloggers have enjoyed it but until it is out (March 5th) then we shall not really know how wide the age range might be. The American edition with the title Friends for Life is being marketed as Middle Grade.
    I do believe a good well written story can be enjoyed by any age group and I am currently really enjoying reading Arthur Ransome again 50 years on and they are still wonderful!

    At least publishers stopped putting age ranges on the back of books, YA for young readers seems a bit weird!

  2. I was about to address you as Mrs Norriss, but realised that would almost make you a cat. But nice to see you, anyway!

    And then there was this in the Guardian,
    so it seems we are forever going on about this.

  3. Ha ha! Jane will do – we met in Stockport long ago when Ctrl-Z won the Stockport Book Award. Lovely Rachel Ward was there too.

  4. I know, Jane. Just couldn’t remember your name, other than as a cat. I still have the photos of you all in your finery.

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