Should YA be a Rating System, Like PG-13?

I was talking to a smart, sarcastic comedy writer last night and he said he couldn’t believe how much YA had taken off lately. He said he was even reading YA without realizing it – Hunger Games. He said it was embarrassing at first to realize he was reading a book for teenagers, over though he’s over 40. I told him that YA is not just for teenagers, it’s for teenagers and up.

We need to think of the YA category as a rating system, similar to PG 13. It’s good for anybody who’s 13 and up and not really appropriate for little kids. PG movies are not just for teenagers. Can you imagine? The movie studios would make no money. In the same way, YA is not just for teens.

So many books nowadays have proven this to be true. Of course, everyone knows about Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Twilight, but the audience for so many other YA books extends into the adult audience as well. Right now I’m reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which I highly recommend for teens and adults. I think we need to shift how we think about YA, not that it’s for young adults, but that it’s good for young adults and up.

When some people hear that my novel, TRAFFICKED, is YA, they immediately start to think of teenagers they know. My friend’s sister emailed me and said that she was going to buy it for her eleven year old. It depends on the kid, but it certainly seems young for TRAFFICKED. It deals with a very serious topic and I think it’s appropriate for teens and up, like so many other YA books. I told her it might actually be better for her than her eleven year old.

What makes books YA? They have a young adult protagonist, they deal with teen issues and they often have a teen voice, just like a lot of those PG and PG 13 movies. It’s a rating system. Good for your teenaged cousin and good for your grandpa. It’s just not so good for your seven-year-old nephew. So, go ahead, if you’re an adult, read YA, guilt-free!

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