The Weekly Debate (8): What Exactly Does "Young Adult" Entail?

This week's debate: What age group are young adult books intended for? Should there be an age requirement for a "young adult" book?

I remember starting to read young adult books back in sixth grade, when I thought I was exceedingly mature and sophisticated to - gasp! - be found in the Young Adult section of the library. Though what surprised me were some of the books I found there. The It Girl series was definitely akin to xxx material at that time, and I remember my friends and I checking out a book to giggle and feel so daring for doing so. What, no - naked?! Oh 'em gee, are they kissing?! Is that... a c-c-condo...?!!! Yes, we were mature back then.

But I know that there are a lot of girls that age now that actually read those type of books (not saying they're bad, just perhaps intended for an older audience) and think it's normal. Should this type of book be truly regarded as "young adult," while others, such as the Clique series by Lisi Harrison, be categorized as childrens?

My stance: I feel that young adult is truly diverse; there are books that I deem appropriate for sixth-seventh graders and ones that I definitely feel should only be read by eighth graders and above. But as for actually setting a restriction on young adult books, I think it should be left to the reader or parent's discretion. I don't necessarily approve of all decisions, but I don't feel it's not my decision to make.

That being said, I think it might be beneficial to include little but easily visible labels on the spines of books in the Young Adult section saying this book is for "age _-_" or "grades _-_." (Obviously, I'm not an educator or any sort, so I'm not speaking from experience but rather from personal preference. Librarians out there...?) Overall, I feel the Young Adult section is perhaps a bit too broad - should sixth graders be labeled as young adults? - but perhaps it reflects our changing times, with the younger children being exposed to more and more media at an earlier and earlier age.