#LetsDiscuss2020 #17 – Age Category vs. Genre – #DiscussionSunday.


There’s something that’s been bugging me for quite a while now, and I think it is time to clear the air, and I want to explain why I think people should…

Stop referring to books written for a specific age group as the genre of that book!

Discussion Sunday #letsdiscuss2020


These are my personal opinions. I do not expect anyone to agree with anything here, and in fact, I’m certain that many will disagree and/or even hate many of the things I’ve written below. Sorry about that, but you are always welcome to express your own opinions – be they contrary or comparable – in the comments section. So, with that out of the way… let the controversy begin!

An age group is a reading category. That is not the same as a genre!

There, I’ve said it! Why am I saying this? Because dammit, I’m sick and tired of everyone saying that the genre they read is “Young Adult” novels, for example. NO… YA isn’t a genre. YA books are books meant to be read by people in that age group (although we know many adults read them), just like children’s fiction books are books written for children, and so on and so fourth. This really isn’t an opinion, but an actual fact. But it seems to me that many bloggers are confusing things here, by thinking that YA is a genre, when it really isn’t.

Let me be more precise. There are two main, overarching types of fiction – literary, and genre. Literary fiction is, according to the Master Class website: “Literary fiction is not a rigidly defined term, but most works of literary fiction include one or more of these facets:

  • Character-focused narratives
  • Ample symbolism, metaphor, and allegory
  • Advanced vocabulary infused with imagery
  • Ambiguous plot points, including even the work’s conclusion
  • Exploration of larger philosophical themes regarding the human condition and the will of nature
  • Exploration of larger trends in history and culture
  • Lack of adherence to a fixed plot formula”

On the other hand, genre fiction “tends to be defined by the following characteristics:

  • Adheres to time-honored formulas for plot and character arcs
  • Typically more literal with fewer obscure symbols and allegories
  • Whatever symbolism might exist is typically clear and easily accessible to all readers
  • Often fits specific genres like mystery, horror, science fiction (sci-fi), romance, military thrillers, and spy novels”

Okay so… what are YA (children, Middle Grade, Adult, etc.) if they’re not genres?

Simple… these are categories of books, as stated through this article in The Atlantic, “One thing Y.A. is not is a genre; it’s a category, as with adult literature, containing all sorts of types of writing, from fiction to nonfiction. As Tracy van Straaten, VP at Scholastic, reminded us, “Something people tend to forget is that YA is a category not a genre, and within it is every possible genre: fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, non-fiction. There’s so much richness within the category.“”

This means that YA, or any other category of book for that matter, can be of any genre there is out there, but it is NOT a genre in and of itself. So next time you go to write your review of a YA book, and you have a little heading that says “Genre: ___” could you please not answer YA, or Adult, but rather answer that with the real genre, meaning fantasy or romance, for example. Then you can just add another heading that says “Category: ___” and there you can say YA, or Adult, or Children. What do you think? Wouldn’t that make things clearer for everyone?

Okay, rant over!

(Don’t get me started on what is or is not historical fiction… hm… maybe I should write discussion post about that!)

So… what do you say?

Can we all finally stop calling age group categories genres, or not?

This post is my 17th entry in the 2020 Discussion Challenge, hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight!


18 thoughts on “#LetsDiscuss2020 #17 – Age Category vs. Genre – #DiscussionSunday.

  1. I’ll admit that I have the age category listed under genre, but it’s just because I use the Ultimate Book Blogger plugin and that’s the only field to really put it in. So, for genres, it might say, “Young Adult, Fantasy” even though I know that Young Adult is actually an age category, not technically the genre. Sorry to torture you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, a 1000 times yes! I tag my reviews by the age group and then genres it can fit into. Since most are YA, I tend not to tag those that fit that category anymore, but I make sure to tag the others with the appropriate age group tag so that those that want just Adult or MG reviews can find them. And if they want Fantasy, it’s tagged Fantasy no matter what age group it is for.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so glad you brought this up. I’m fed up of people aka adults dismissing an entire range of amazing books because they read YA and decide it’s not a ‘genre’ they’ll like, because they’re adults. I’m glad I have the definitions you have provided now so I can explain to readers that this is like those movie ratings. Just because a movie is rated PG 13 doesn’t mean adults are not supposed to watch it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. If I don’t like fantasy, I’m not going to read it no matter what the age category. If I like historical fiction, it doesn’t really matter if it is YA or Adult. However, I do prefer adult books because the language is usually much richer and more subtle than YA or MG books.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You are so right. And I am going to change my blog post structure. I realize it says genre when I really mean category or age level. I do sometimes add the genre on the same line, but I’ll figure it out. Thanks for the reminder!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with the fact that age categories are no genres. You can have a fantasy YA, a historical YA, a contemporary YA and so on. But I still like the fact that a book gets an age category. Especially for younger teenagers, there is a difference between reading a YA and a NA. But as an adult reader I also like to know whether a book is targeted at adults or at young-adults. Cause I usually enjoy the latter less (I don’t always like to read from a teenager perspective). But it’s no genre.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I completely agree with you and feel just as strongly about it. I host a lot of blog tours and, unfortunately, the organizers and/or the authors routinely list YA or MG as a genre, something like Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult. Ugh!

    When left to my own devices, I list each of these separately as tags (keywords) and don’t refer to the word “genre”. Much cleaner.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Really a lot of these labels are for marketing purposes more than anything. By putting the label on it readers know what they should expect to be able to read and therefore where it is best to spend their money.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks very much for this clarification Davida. I sometimes mention books on my blog as a type of review but I’m not a professional reviewer and usually don’t offer much in the way of the nitty gritty of why I liked them or why not. Your post made sense to me and although I’ve not given it much thought before I get what you are saying. I have to say that your blog was recommended to me by Carol at Reading Ladies Blog for my Saturday Shout Out post. I’m now following along, thanks to Carol!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Spot on! To go along with this, I have difficulty with genres too. I write a book that has elements of mystery and adventure and a dramatic coup and a love story – Whispers Under the Baobab – set partially in West Africa. So what genre is it? Important question when it comes to marketing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When it comes to genre, there can be many that apply, so I don’t think you need to confine yourself to just one. For example, Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale is speculative fiction (according to her) and also dystopian fiction.


  10. I think calling a book YA, MG, etc… can be restrictive and send the wrong message about what to expect, a lot of times. Not all YA is angsty and not all MG is childish, etc… Great post!❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I appreciate the definitions and discussion Davida! Yes, I need to hear your thoughts on histfic! Especially romance (for example) disguised as histfic! I feel histfic has been hijacked but it could just be me! Just because a book is set in the past is it histfic? There are a couple of books I’ve read that I refuse to put on my GR histfic shelf! I’m off on a tangent already!

    Liked by 2 people

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