Is Abbi Glines Pushing the Boundaries of YA Fiction?

For those of you who don’t know, Abbi Glines is a self-publisher who has been appearing all over different bestseller lists in the last few months. I will admit that I’ve read a few of her books – when something is priced under a dollar its hard to not check it out. Her books make 50 Shades look well written, but I understand the appeal. They include interesting characters, abrupt cliffhanger endings, and plenty of scenes that would make Nora Roberts blush. It is those scenes that have made me pretty surprised this week to see her name on the YA Bestseller list for her book While It Lasts. I considered her solidly a Romance (and not light romance), even though her characters are often between ages 17 and 21. Which makes me wonder – should something so sexually explicit and so obviously designed to titillate be considered young adult fiction?

abbi glines replacement pic

When you look at the Amazon reviews of these books, I’m not the only one asking this question. I feel a little funny writing about this, because I haven’t read While It Lasts – but the Amazon reviews are full of middle-aged women saying they loved it but it definitely shouldn’t be considered YA. I did read Just For Now, which was marketed at YA, and let me tell you it was as full of explicit sex scenes as any other romance novel I’ve picked up.

foreverI’m not by any means saying that I should be the one who decides what books belong in what genres or that YA fiction can’t contain sex. Teenagers have sex. It makes sense that books about teenagers and for teenagers sometimes have sex in them. I don’t think that censoring what teens read makes sense and to be fair her books contain the label age 17 and up. But for some reason I feel different about these books, than I feel about Forever, by Judy Bloom, which I read as a teen and is basically an exploration of teenage sexuality. I don’t know why I find the similarities in Glines’ books to the romance genre off putting. But I do.

In interviews Glines seems to define herself more as a NA (new adult) fiction writer. I think this classification makes more sense, but this is a relatively new and growing genre. I’ve only recently become aware of it as a specific genre, one that as a self identified emerging adult I’m pretty excited about. Her first book, Breath, fits nicely into traditional YA fiction – but when she started writing sequels about older characters in the story she decided the stories would have to be more adult. In fact, she’s listed her desire to write sexy scenes with 17 and 18 year olds as a reason she self publishes.

I don’t have an answer to this question. I still have a hard time giving an answer when people ask me what Young Adult fiction is. Is it books about teenagers? Books marketed for teenagers? Books written for people aged 14 to 17? I’m not sure, but I was fascinated to read Wikipedia’s attempt to define this genre.

I think it will be interesting to see how genres like YA change and shift as a self-publishing becomes more prevalent and authors don’t have to fit into the previously agreed upon traditions and categories. Please let me know what you think in the comments!

46 thoughts on “Is Abbi Glines Pushing the Boundaries of YA Fiction?

  1. Oh my gosh. So I just went to Goodreads and read some quotes from The Vincent Brothers, and WHOA, yeah, what I read was borderline erotica. I’m TOTALLY okay with sex scenes in YA, but erotica? No.

  2. I thought she was a new adult writer. I think Amazon has been slow to change some of the categories. People are just getting used to the category. I’ve read YA books where sex was mentioned. But it is never explicit. That to me marks an adult category.

    1. Yeah, I agree more with the new adult label … but I think it is confusing when she appears on the new york times young adult bestseller list or amazon puts her books in the young adult section.

  3. I don’t know what New Adult means. But I will say this, erotica is acceptable for adults to read. The question is “how do you define adult?”

    People are adults when they become sexually mature. Simple biology. For girls that’s generally 15, boys 16. The problem is society doesn’t recognize this anymore, so parents no longer understand they need to be preparing their child (age 3 to 14) to be a fully functionally adult by the time they become adults (age 15 or 16).

    This is why the teenage years can be difficult and why so many individuals are still developing into adults in their late twenties and early thirties. They were never taught to be adults. They have to DIY it, for years. It’s tragic.

    Glines’ work, to me, should be marketed to 14 – 17 year olds. Young Adults are Adults. They have a right to read adult material. In fact, it’s appropriate for them. It may be the only validation of their adulthood they get .

    What I find disturbing is middle age women who read erotic YA novels.

    1. Lots of interesting points here. Could not agree more that children and teens should be prepared to enter adulthood and be given good sexual education. I also don’t think teens should really be told what to read and what not to read (which is another whole conversation). I do think putting Glines books in the YA section of stores and book lists could be confusing when erotica is not something that is usually included in the genre … I also don’t think in our society 15 or 16 year olds are considered adults. Even from a biological lens, people’s brains aren’t fully developed until they are in their early twenties – but it is an interesting point.

  4. It’s funny because this is totally going to come from the publicist in me but I can’t help but feel like she is trying to set the widest net possible to catch as many age-groups of readers as possible. I haven’t read any of her books (although now I’m intrigued as I do love a good steamy romance novel) so maybe I’m not in a place to judge but the first thing that came to mind was “keywords.” You made a great point when you said she defines herself as a New Adult author but that this is a newer, less common genre. It’s also less searchable than the famous Young Adult. From a positioning POV, it makes sense that she’s trying to go for both – since she knows fully well that there are plenty of adults reading YA anyway. Just my two cents. I’m curious to check out her books though now! Thanks for the recommendation! 🙂

    1. Thanks for commenting. I hadn’t really thought of that perspective, but it makes a lot of sense to me. Especially as she is a self publisher so has to be creative and self motivated with her publicity.

  5. I’ve read two different Abbi Glines’ (one contemp and one paranormal) and they are really not well written (I’m not sure how I finished them). I have to admit I’m a bit prudish myself and I like them in the NA specification than YA because it doesn’t seem to be about exploring sexuality (like your mention of Judy Blume) but a glorification and fantasy (which I waver on as appropriate or not) of sex when I’m pretty sure that the heroines (most inexperienced) would not be that competent their first time around.

    So, yeah, I’m definitely constantly wondering what I’m getting myself into when I pick up some of these books.

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