Category Schmategory

I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen for a while. Paul Kincaid reviewed The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy:

Given the increasingly complex games with authorship that her most recent novels have played, and given how much non-fiction she has written for children, it was perhaps inevitable that Pat Murphy would write a young adult novel about writing. Which is precisely what The Wild Girls is, though if you expect anything of the subtlety or complexity of those novels you are going to be disappointed. This is writing reduced to a simple lesson in life, light, appealing and entertaining but very definitely aimed at a younger audience by removing any doubts, hesitations or darker aspects.

And literaticat responded:

* young adult novel about writing…: It isn’t a YA novel. It is very clearly a middle grade novel. And yes, there’s a difference. Consider how prickly many in the SF/F community get about people who are ignorant and dismissive about SF/F. Well, that’s how children’s book people feel when people are idiots about children’s books. GRR. I don’t understand why you would want to review a mainstream children’s book when that is so clearly NOT your forte, or why you would post it on an SF site… But moving on.

* …very definitely aimed at a younger audience by removing any doubts, hesitations or darker aspects: Imagine, a children’s book aimed at children? Bust my buttons. As for doubts, hesitations or darker aspects: The dissolution of two families. The children’s struggle to cope with the emotional fallout of their parent’s disastrous marriages. Their finding their own voices in challenging times. Not doubty and dark enough? You were expecting the apocolypse, maybe?

I have issues with both these comments. To take the second comment first, I think literaticat has simply misread Paul. I do not think Paul was expressing surprise or disappointment at the fact that The Wild Girls is aimed at children, because I don’t see how you can unyoke that statement from the rest of the sentence. Paul may or may not be right that the book removes “any doubts, hesitations or darker aspects” (I haven’t read it), but it seems clear to me that it’s the concept of doing that as an approach to writing for children that he’s commenting on. And in fact, that’s the thrust of his judgement on the book — that it is “clearly written and very readable”, but that it is limited by its need to provide a lesson.

Having got that off my chest, I’m going to briefly return to my opening comment: I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen for a while. YA isn’t new, and YA sf isn’t new, but the visibility of and emphasis on YA as a category certainly seems to be greater now than it was only a few years ago; and hand in hand with a more clearly defined category come the readers with allegiance to that category, and comes a more clearly defined set of expectations for what is in that category. At the same time, over the last few years there have been a number of fairly high-profile examples of YA writers getting serious props from the main stream of genre criticism (Margo Lanagan, Ysabeau Wilce, Philip Reeve), and a number of well-regarded established sf writers turning their hand to YA (China Mieville, Stephen Baxter, Ellen Klages). All of which means that it’s not a surprise that a new YA novel by a writer who has previously committed sf picks up a review on a website devoted to sf (even though it is not, apparently, sf). At some point, given that despite what I said above most sf readers are not yet habitual YA readers, friction was probably inevitable.

But I’m not completely convinced that the situation is, as literaticat would have it, analagous to a non-sf writer reviewing an sf novel. In some ways, it is. If you’re reviewing something, you should try to be aware of that thing’s context — though I note that the definitions of YA in the US (where literaticat is) and UK (where Paul is and I am) seem to be somewhat different, to the point where I’m not even sure that “middle grade” exists as a separate shelf. (And I note that on her website, Pat Murphy merely describes the book as a children’s novel.) In a very interesting discussion at Gwenda’s place, Colleen Mondor says:

What I find sometimes reading so many MG and YA books is that there are those that seem to appeal regardless of the reader’s age (Cecil Castellucci’s work would fit in here or the KIki Strike book), some that seem to appeal more to adults that kids (I think “King Dork” is an example of this to a certain degree) and then those that adults might think are okay, but kids really go nuts over. But all of them are books for kids and for reviewers not used to wading around in these waters, it can get easy to mislabel or misread something.

This is surely true, and the inherent paradox of all reviews of children’s books, but I doubt Paul is unware of it, and I don’t think it makes sense of this specific case. Literaticat isn’t (or doesn’t seem to be) saying that The Wild Girls is good because it appeals to its target audience, she’s saying that The Wild Girls is good, full stop — that it is not the simplified, reductive story that Paul paints it as. The problem is this: how can advocates of YA (or, in this case, middle grade) fiction claim, as they frequently do and implicitly do here, that YA is an arbitrary label, that YA does everything non-YA does, and that the books that bear the label are as worthwhile on their own merits as books that do not (see, for example, the reactions to Octavian Nothing last year), and yet also object to Paul’s review on the grounds that he isn’t sufficiently familiar with “middle grade” fiction?

It looks like trying to have your cake and eat it, too. If a book isn’t making concessions to its audience, or operating in category-specific ways, then I can’t see why you’d need to be familiar with the market for books aimed at that audience to review it fairly. (There is, of course, also the argument that any reader reaction is a fair reader reaction.) And I’d argue that this is different to the equivalent sf neurosis because “sf” as a marketing category not an arbitrary label; it is a description of content. Sf novels don’t do everything that mimetic novels do, just as mimetic novels don’t do everything that sf novels do, so when a reviewer approaches an sf novel expecting it to reward her in the ways a mimetic novel will (or vice versa), a disjunction can, and often does, result.

UPDATE, 21/10: Paul Kincaid has provided his own response, in the comments below and on his journal.

33 Responses to “Category Schmategory”

  1. Gwenda Says:

    I dunno. I think that a critic should at least have some idea of the intended/likely audience for a book when they review it — and perhaps even acknowledge explicitly or implicitly whether their critique is about how the book will work for that audience. I say this because we’re talking about reviews, not about some sort of in-depth criticism, and reviews are for readers and so readers should get some sense of who a book is for (or isn’t for) by reading a review of it.

    I, for one, have never maintained that YA and children’s lit is exactly the same as adult lit. Sure, there are isolated examples that could be published as either, but I find there are key differences. These differences do not prohibit the books from being enjoyable to people of all ages, or mean they necessarily have to be read a certain way. Yes, it’s a marketing category, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t criteria that serve as markers. (I would submit that SF’s criteria aren’t so easily identifiable all the time either.) I wouldn’t, for example, expect to find Joyce’s Dubliners shelved there anytime soon and if I did, it wouldn’t be a children’s title. (Children’s, btw, is a pretty good indicator that it’s pitched younger than YA.)

    I trust Literaticat’s taste in books wholeheartedly (and now a copy of the book is on the way so I can see for myself), which leads me to believe the point being made by Kincaid that the book is message-heavy and overly simplistic isn’t true. I base this on knowing that kind of thing drives her crazy too. Justine’s comments about expectations get at the real issue to me and it’s whether these reviewers — Kincaid, the guy in EW who reviewed Jenny Downham’s book, whoever did Flora Segunda at SH — are bringing their own agendas/readings to these texts because they are published for a younger market, perhaps unconsciously but seemingly unfairly as well.

  2. sdn Says:

    ::cracking up::

  3. SMD Says:

    In my opinion, you shouldn’t read something you know is not your forte. If you don’t read YA fiction because you’ve never liked YA fiction, then don’t read a book you know you’re not going to like and then give it a poor review. That’s idiocy. If, however, you’ve read a couple YA books that you really liked, then you might consider yourself qualified to review a YA book, even if you consider it not to your tastes in general.
    The same is for SF/F. If you hate science fiction, then why are you reading it? The same for fantasy. This is the same reason why I haven’t sent any requests to publishers for review copies when the publisher doesn’t print anything I’m interested in. I don’t generally like regular fiction–there are several that I have loved to death, but basically I’m not a regular fiction person–so I don’t intentionally go out to find a book that is regular fiction to review. I review books that are more to my tastes on purpose. That way I can adequately grade the books based on what I find to be good. I read just about anything that is SF or F, and sometimes I get stuff that is horrible, and sometimes I get stuff that is in the middle, and sometimes stuff that is brilliant, and sometimes stuff that should be entered into the imaginary SF/F Canon–I hope one exists one day. But I guess that makes too much sense…

  4. james Says:

    Feels like a party political broadcast on behalf of Paul Kincaid.

    I also wonder what a younger reader would make of the original review.
    or is it not a review for the readers of the market the book is aimed at?
    or just not for them young wrascals at all…
    just for SF fans who like Pat Murphy perhaps.
    Its not clear in any of this.

    Is this like reviewing reviews, or reviewing criticism of a review?
    I would have thought if you read the book first,you would be better placed I think.

    James

    Who has just commented on a review, of a criticism. of a review of a book, which I may now read.

  5. Niall Says:

    Gwenda:

    I, for one, have never maintained that YA and children’s lit is exactly the same as adult lit.

    Do you agree that there are people saying it, or do you feel I’ve put up a strawman there?

    I am having a hard time imagining what markers of YA-ness there could be that wouldn’t in some way affect how the book would be read. Any chance you could pin that down a bit more?

  6. Niall Says:

    James:

    Feels like a party political broadcast on behalf of Paul Kincaid.

    Well, I don’t think it’s Paul’s absolute best review. But neither do I think it is grossly unfair. (Even if I’d read the book and disagreed with him about its merits, I wouldn’t think it was an unfair review.)

    or is it not a review for the readers of the market the book is aimed at?

    I don’t think many reviews of children’s books are read by actual children. That said, you’re right in that Paul explicitly assumes that the people reading his review are going to be readers familiar with Murphy’s adult novels, not readers familiar with other YA/middle grade fiction who are new to Murphy.

  7. Gwenda Says:

    p.s. I think a good reader — and, imo, critics should be good readers — should be able to read just about any text and engage with it, and should also have a pretty good sense of the texts they can’t fairly do this with, for whatever reason.

  8. Nick Says:

    I note that the definitions of YA in the US (where literaticat is) and UK (where Paul is and I am) seem to be somewhat different, to the point where I’m not even sure that “middle grade” exists as a separate shelf.

    There are most certainly different levels of YA fiction. Or to put it another way, a child of five, and a child of ten, and a child of fifteen are all young adults, but they’re not going to read the same books.

    If you go into a branch of Waterstone’s and look at the books, you’ll see roughly three categories – under seven; seven to twelve; teenagers. Compare books from each section, and you’ll find they get more complex – or, for want of a better word, adult – as you go up the scale.

    Oh, and for the record, it seems to me that Paul Kincaid has read the book wrong, you have read his review wrong, and in a minute someone will be along to tell me that I’ve read your comments wrong. :)

  9. Niall Says:

    Nick:

    If you go into a branch of Waterstone’s and look at the books, you’ll see roughly three categories – under seven; seven to twelve; teenagers.

    OK. And I’m assuming that “teenagers” is equivalent to what Gwenda is calling “YA”, while “seven to twelve” is “middle grade”? I think I might be getting a handle on things!

    The question of complexity seems to be the crux of the issue. Are we just talking about changes in narrative/linguistic complexity, or are the issues being dealt with also more complex in the older ranges? My impression, actually, is that it’s mostly the former. Or at least that people more widely read in this area than I am feel that it’s mostly the former.

    in a minute someone will be along to tell me that I’ve read your comments wrong. :)

    Well, it won’t be me. :)

  10. Gwenda Says:

    Whoopsie, missed your response in there, Niall. I actually can’t think of anyone I’ve seen say there’s no difference between adult books and children’s/YA, so maybe it is a bit of a strawman. Mostly, I hear people complaining that because books are or are published as children’s/YA, they are not treated as literature, even though they should be. But I don’t think all types of literature (god, I hate that word, but it’s the best I can do after a long day) are exactly the same, obviously. But see above, good readers, etc.

    I’ll do some thinking and define what I see as the major differences either here or in a post at my site. Mostly, they flow from the _primary_ (note, I say primary and not only) audience being different. Honestly, there’s less of a difference between true YA and adult books, but the key difference is one of a sense of immediacy that is nigh ubiquitous in YA (which, of course, flows from the way teenagers experience things). I think there are some pretty big differences between children’s books and adult books, such that almost any reader picking up an example of each could spot which was which immediately.

  11. Niall Says:

    Thanks. It may be Saturday before I get a chance to see your response anyway — going to bed now, and both your blog and this blog are blocked by my office’s firewall — so there’s no rush. :)

  12. Hannah Says:

    I just wrote out my reply and realized that I’d just restated what Niall said. Again. Le sigh. I’m agreeing with this:

    “To take the second comment first, I think literaticat has simply misread Paul. I do not think Paul was expressing surprise or disappointment at the fact that The Wild Girls is aimed at children, because I don’t see how you can unyoke that statement from the rest of the sentence.”

    Or maybe going a step further? It’s not at all clear to me that when Paul says

    “This is writing reduced to a simple lesson in life, light, appealing and entertaining but very definitely aimed at a younger audience by removing any doubts, hesitations or darker aspects.”

    he means this to refer to children’s fiction in general. I don’t see any claim in the review that the category on the whole is simplistic or surface-y; seems to me that sentence could make every bit as much sense applied to Murphy’s particular approach in this particular book.

    Which doesn’t mean that he might not be wrong about the overall quality of the book, and that Literaticat might not be right about same. But would mean that Literaticat’s specific criticism might be a bit off-base. I’d be interested to know what Paul meant.

    I’m also a bit puzzled by the part o’ the response that goes like this:

    “As for doubts, hesitations or darker aspects: The dissolution of two families. The children’s struggle to cope with the emotional fallout of their parent’s disastrous marriages. Their finding their own voices in challenging times. Not doubty and dark enough? You were expecting the apocolypse, maybe?”

    And I guess my thought here is, there’s darkness and then there’s darkness. It’s possible to handle the most mild of subjects in a really upsetting, unsettling way. It’s equally possible to handle the bleakest stuff in a way that flattens it out. And so–again, I wonder if there’s a misreading of Kincaid here. Does he mean that the content is insufficiently dark, or does he mean its handling makes it all too simple?

    I do think that as far as this goes

    “The problem is this: how can advocates of YA (or, in this case, middle grade) fiction claim, as they frequently do and implicitly do here, that YA is an arbitrary label, that YA does everything non-YA does, and that the books that bear the label are as worthwhile on their own merits as books that do not (see, for example, the reactions to Octavian Nothing last year), and yet also object to Paul’s review on the grounds that he isn’t sufficiently familiar with “middle grade” fiction?”

    that it is possible for a book to be a good and successful example of its type without being a truly spectacular piece of literature, full stop. So I don’t think it’s necessarily inconsistent to say, “This book is YA, and it’s excellent–good enough to hold up to any scrutiny,” and also, “That book is YA, and it’s an excellent YA book, but needs to be examined as such.” Which is to say, I think you can claim that YA _can_ do everything non-YA does and that _some_ books that bear the label are as worthwhile on their own merits as books that do not while also claiming that _some_ YA needs to be looked at in its context in order to be properly/fairly considered.

    But I do agree that you run into a problem when you try for the first claim without making any distinction at all.

  13. jennifer, aka literaticat Says:

    You wrote: how can advocates of YA (or, in this case, middle grade) fiction claim, as they frequently do and implicitly do here, that YA is an arbitrary label, that YA does everything non-YA does, and that the books that bear the label are as worthwhile on their own merits as books that do not…

    * I can’t speak for anyone else, but I personally don’t think it IS an arbitrary label. It means something. No, it can’t be just randomly applied to any old book.

    * I don’t think YA (or in this case, MG, which in the US means books for 8-12 year olds) does everything non-YA does. I DON’T think that books for children are like books for adults, or books for teens. That’s why they have their own categories.

    Sure there are some “crossover” books, but not as many as the publishers wish for — most are pretty tied to their category. Think of something that is more obvious. Like “Where the Wild Things Are.” It’s a picture book, meant for the youngest children. Yes, it is good by pretty much anyone’s standards, is enjoyed by young and old alike, and hell, some grown-ups even get tattoos of the images. Still, it is inextricably a children’s book, and I think that any review that didn’t understand what that meant would be wrongheaded from the start.

    * I DO think that the books that bear the label of “YA” or “Childrens” are as worthwhile on their own merits as books that do not.

    * In other words, YES, Wild Girls IS good, full stop. I just think it helps to go into a review with a clear idea of what the it is you are reviewing. For example, I love to read and I sometimes write book reviews for Children’s books because that is my area of expertise, but I don’t think that I would make a good reviewer of SF/F. I don’t read much of it and I don’t know enough about it to make an informed judgement. Sort of like how if I was a wheelwright, that wouldn’t automatically make me an authority on bicycle repair.

    I do think it is funny that people get so wound up about this stuff, though.

    And now I am officially tired of thinking about this.

  14. Hannah Says:

    Oh, good grief. That’ll teach me to stop and eat dinner between writing a comment and posting it. There were only comments from Gwenda and sdn when I started that; now I’ll have to read through and see who beat me to what I was trying to say and did it more eloquently!

  15. james Says:

    It may not be an ‘unfair’ review but is it an appropriate review for this book, is the book being reviewed with a particular readership in mind, and is the reviewer appropriate for the book. These are not questions you pose or consider. I am afraid I sense a lack of objectivity, perhaps unintentionally but even so.

    I didn’t see the ‘explicit assumption’, which is a bit of a paradox, isnt it. Like explicit means clear and detailed and assumption is ass out of you and me?

    anyhow, where is that caveat in the review as I cannot see it. Is it that ‘YOU’ infers the readers of the website, and is it assumed they are not children then. No kids on SF site then?

    Like what age were you when you were reading SF?

    such a patronising attitude and we wonder why young people don’t get involved.

    I have just checked what yanks think YA is and its 12+
    Now ye brits would normally say that YA is teenagers yeah
    so its the same agegroup give or take.
    MG would be the shelves that Waterstones identity as 9-11
    waterstones have 12+ sections which I think is YA.

    meanwhile, I have yet to see a Young adult section in a waterstones, so I find it a bit patronising that we discuss a category of book that doesn’t even get a sign over the shelves.

    Young Adult. It sounds so lame anyhow, only an adult could have invented the term. Its cause when we grow up we forget.

    I do think there is a difference between the shelves which say 9-11 and 12+ though. But from there it gets very blurry.

    J

  16. jennifer, aka literaticat Says:

    Ack – everyone else in the world posted. Ah, well.

  17. Jonathan M Says:

    What is this “reviewing with a particular readership in mind” nonsense? It sounds a lot like special pleading to me… as does the “you shouldn’t read a book you know you won’t like” line of argument.

    Paul’s giving his opinion on a particular work and he’s making his line of argument clear. You either accept the reasoning and his conclusions or you don’t but there are no grounds whatsoever for suggesting that Paul’s review is somehow conceptually flawed.

  18. Rose Fox Says:

    I think you mean “eat your cake and have it too”.

    (I have taken this as my personal Sisyphean peeve.)

  19. sdn Says:

    i edited this book.

    who is its audience? 8-12 year-olds. it is what we here call a “middle grade” novel. it is not a sff novel. it is realistic fiction, set in the early 1970s.

    i was baffled when sfsite reviewed the book, but figured that they did so because pat murphy’s other books are genre, and her readers would be interested in all of her work.

    paul posted a comment about the book in his blog before the review went live, making it clear that he was lukewarm at best. now that i’ve read the review, i understand a bit more. he reviewed the book as an adult sf reviewer. he’s not a children’s book reviewer. it isn’t his context, and i don’t know how conversant he is in realistic children’s fiction.

    i will reserve comment on the review itself.

  20. Farah Says:

    This would have been more convincing if you hadn’t listed a bunch of fantasy writers as writing YA sf. Of the list, only Stephen Baxter and Philip Reeve have written YA sf (for the younger end of that market). There really aren’t very many and there are still very few writing for the older end of YA.

    You should be referencing Ann Halam, Oisin McGann, Conor Kostick and the like.

  21. Niall Says:

    Very quick comment before I head out the door. Farah:

    This would have been more convincing if you hadn’t listed a bunch of fantasy writers as writing YA sf.

    My sf here, as in most cases, is “speculative fiction”. In this case, I don’t think it makes any difference whether I’m talking about science fiction or fantasy.

    James:

    anyhow, where is that caveat in the review as I cannot see it. Is it that ‘YOU’ infers the readers of the website, and is it assumed they are not children then.

    That is what I meant, yes.

    Like what age were you when you were reading SF? such a patronising attitude and we wonder why young people don’t get involved.

    Eh? If anything, Paul’s review is saying that The Wild Girls is patronising, in that it talks down to its readers. But he doesn’t assume that the people reading the review are adults, he assumes that the people reading the review are familiar with Pat Murphy and in particular her adult novels — an important difference. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for him to review the book, given the interest in crossover titles over the past few years. This could have been another.

  22. Paul Kincaid Says:

    A number of things spring to mind, given that I have only just seen these comments on my review.

    1: I am conversant with YA fiction and have reiewed quite a bit of it. I note that I have never received a comment suggesting I am unqualified to review a YA book when I have given them unqualified favourable reviews (as I have frequently).

    2: I have never heard of middle grade fiction as a distinct category, nor have I ever seen anything marketed as such. (The term is, by the way, meaningless in the UK since we don’t have that concept.)

    3: I did write for my audience. Since the review was for SF Site my audience was primarily adult, primarily sf reading. I was somewhat surprised to be asked to review a book that was clearly not sf, but assumed that it was because the audience would be familiar with Pat Murphy’s work. But I kept the review shorter than usual for that reason.

    4: I do not demand that YA fiction should be dark and threatening, nor do I demand that it should avoid this. I do not see this as in any way defining of YA literature, since I have read many that are threatening. But in this book there was, as someone points out, the break up of two families, just about the worst thing that could have happened to the two girls. And yet it comes across in a way that is remarkably unthreatening.

    5: It is not a bad novel, and Pat is a very good writer. But she could have done a great deal better than this.

  23. bigdumbobject Says:

    The idea of categorising fiction by age always seems like a futile concept to me. I’m probably stating the obvious or going over plenty trodden ground here, but anyway… (argh it’s a categorisation debate!). The Puffin Book Club now sort their leaflets / catalogs by groups of ages eg. 5 – 7. Given the variation in reading skills that seems a bit weird. To say a book is for 8 – 12 year olds seems equally strange. Good for marketing maybe. Not so good for younger readers. Personally I was reading Lord Of The Rings at ten years old.

  24. sdn Says:

    thanks for weighing in, paul. this is a very american book, and it falls under an american age category (middle grade — a lot of people think that everything that isn’t a picture book is YA); it’s not your country/market, so you’re not conversant with this particular age categorization and thus saw the audience as YA, which it isn’t.

    i also would definitely not call this a crossover title the way that, say, un lun dun is (which the sfsite also just reviewed). i publish a lot of adult authors whose books do cross over — nina kiriki hoffman, charles de lint, sharon shinn, et cetera. i do not think of this particular pat murphy as a crossover in the least. it is a children’s book, pure and simple.

    i would like to know which non-adult authors and books you like, paul, to satisfy my curiosity and get a better idea of your context.

  25. Paul Kincaid Says:

    Well you might start by checking out my review of Naomi Mitchison’s Travel Light.

  26. sdn Says:

    thanks; and it is a terrific book. however, travel light is not a realistic american children’s book; it is a genre novel that crosses over to adults.

    i am not trying to be difficult, i should add.

  27. Jonathan M Says:

    ‘course not!

    You’re just trying to explain away a tepid review via some of the most tortuous special pleading I’ve ever seen. Paul might well be a respected genre critic who has written loads of review at loads of venues and about loads of different kinds of books but because he isn’t American and, seemingly, a “middle grade” child his opinions on the book are close to worthless.

  28. sdn Says:

    i didn’t say that, jonathan. i respect him as a reviewer, and i am not pleading in the least. the review stands on its own merits.

    what i am trying to ascertain is if he has any familiarity with other books like this one — i.e, context. it is akin to asking a mainstream adult reviewer (who has reviewed a genre fiction novel) what other genre fiction they have read.

  29. imani Says:

    This is curious. Is there really a prominent enough distinction between American middle-grade and YA novels, beyond reading level issues? Are there themes or narrative features or…anything that makes it a separate enough genre that if one only read YA books the leap to “middle-grade” would be big enough to leave the reviewer at a disadvantage, and he would be missing some kind of context? That it deserves to be even called or compared to a “genre”?

    (I’m not sure I get the nationality issues either. I mean, even if the UK doesn’t recognise “middle-grade” levels, the kids are all the same age, right? I typically get a better idea of the audience or age a writer is going for from actually reading the story, rather than seeing what’s written on the back of the book.)

  30. Peter Wilkinson Says:

    I’ve not read anything about this except what I have read here – but if I see a book review by Paul Kincaid on SFSite, I rather expect him to be writing a review aimed at SF readers. That’s what Paul Kincaid is known for, that’s what SFSite is known for.

    If he effectively remarks that the readers of his review are likely to find the book unsatisfactory because of the way it is aimed at a different group of readers, that’s reasonable comment in that context. On a site with a more general group of intended readers, I’d concede that his remarks should at least require qualification.

    And I suspect that part of the background here is that there are quite a few works that are both excellent SF for adults and also (so far as I can judge) excellent YA and/or “middle grade” – to the extent that SF readers can be missing out on worthwhile experiences if they don’t look at these sections in bookshops. So there is some purpose in SFSite reviewing non-SF YA (or middle-grade) books by authors also known for their SF – if only to let readers know that this is a book that, whatever its other strengths, will not read well if read with an adult SF reader’s usual expectations.

  31. Nick Hubble Says:

    Er, aren’t these, like, marketing categories? (i.e. a capitalist plot to control reading practices)

    For example, when I go into waterstones, it always takes ages to find any specific children’s author because they are invariably in the age-range section which I look in last. The divisions look arbitrary to me and certainly not worth arguing about.

    Furthermore, the stuff which lasts is going to be readable across all ages (which is not to say that ephemeral stuff doesn’t have its place)

  32. Jonathan M Says:

    There’s also the danger that if you hang around the YA section of Waterstones you’ll end up with your face on the cover of the News of the World.

  33. Monday links « The Books of My Numberless Dreams Says:

    […] children’s literature and young adult? Besides reading levels maybe. Niall of Torque Control posted last week about the reactions to a review by Paul Kincaide: he is accused of not knowing the […]


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