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?
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.
I’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!