Book Genres: Know Your Audience (Controversy)

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Photo by Klaudia Ekert on

Recently, I decided to say goodbye to reading books in the Young Adult genre, so I thought I would visit the topic I’ve been debating on talking about for a while. What is that topic? The audience for different genres. Specifically the age ranges and certain discussion or marketing should not be happening regarding certain genres. Not that there is anything wrong with the genres themselves but they do need to be treated differently from one another.

So, to start with what are the age ranges (attended audience for readers) for various genres:

  • Middle Grade: between ages of 8 and 12 years old. Protagonist is between the ages of 10 and 12.
  • Young Adult: between ages of 12 and 18 year old. Protagonist is usually between the ages of 14 and 18 (more commonly 16 and 18).
  • New Adult: between ages of 18 and 30 years old. Protagonist is usually between the ages of 18 and 25 years old, but there is no industry standard for this genre.
  • Adult: Readers in their late twenties and older. Protagonist can be any age.

The age is not the only thing that separates these genres.

How graphic the depiction of gore, abuse, suicidal thoughts or actions, and sex also determines what range a book should fall into. New adult and adult has the same themes as young adult, but they go more in-depth. Specifically with romance and sex, in young adult it’s a fade to black or something that isn’t explicit. Not that New Adult or Adult books have to be explicit in their romance, but it’s a key difference between the genres. Another is that Young Adult covers topics around making friends, coming of age, attending high school, and navigating an unfamiliar world. While New Adult might also explore similar topics,

Now, technically speaking, New Adult isn’t a formal genre so books get mislabeled all the time as young adult, when really they are adult fiction. Example: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas was originally within the Young Adult (YA) space before publishers finally moved it to Adult. And honestly they never should have been due to the explicit nature of the romance in that series.

Okay, so into the controversy regarding genres— marketing and discussion around the books.

Recently, I’ve been noticing a trend, especially on BookTok (TikTok) where anyone recommending a book is almost always asked within the comments what the spice level is at. Specifically on books that are marketed as young adult. There should be no spice (explicit, full-on sex) within those pages as children the age of 12 are going to see that. I’m not saying that when you were 12, or even when I was, that I wasn’t exposed to that type of content at that age. But as a general rule, it should not be within young adult books.

Also, some artists are creating explicit (NSFW) art where the characters of the book are under the age of eighteen. These characters are minors. Stop it. I don’t care if you age up characters in your head while reading the book to be closer to your age, the character is not that age.

This leads me to something that happened semi-recently, a publisher called Sourcebooks Fire, when promoting a preorder incentive print of the new YA book by Sara Raasch and Beth Revis called Night of the Witch used a NSFW art of the characters. They have since taken the post down, but they were clearly marketing towards adults rather than the age range this book belongs in. But you can see the original in @emmaskies original TikTok discussing this topic. Honestly, her opinion is very similar to how I view this topic. So, please watch her TikTok that I included in this post. As this TikTok also shares how the publisher of that YA book was marketing it, which is what originally promoted me to want to write about this topic.


If you’re going to get mad in my comments you’re legally obligated to watch the whole video first. This is obviously a very nuanced conversation to be had but honestly at a base level adult women demanding that YA change for their preferences instead of reading adult books for the content they want is weird. 📚 #booktok #emmaskiesreads #yabooks #youngadultbooks #spicybooks #smuttybooks #adultbooktok #yafantasy #newadult #nafantasy #romantasy #fantasyromance

♬ original sound – emmaskies

Overall, the young adult genre needs to be preserved for children ages 12 to 18, and should not be marketed towards adults. Sure, adults can still read YA books, but they need to be aware they are not the target market. They are guests in that reading space just as they are guests in middle grade or children books if they are reading those on their own. So, they shouldn’t be asking publishers and authors in this place to bend to their interests. Nor demanding spice in those books. It’s not for adults, go look to a genre where that’s being offered. This is the one of the main reasons I decided to stop reading young adult books. I’m not that target market anymore. But I am the target audience for New Adult and Adult books. So, in the future I’m going to be reading books from there and only read Young Adult books of series that I haven’t finished yet but am still interested in seeing through to the end.

Love ya,

Mae Polzine

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