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What is the difference between  
YA  and Adult books?


It can be puzzling. Writers, librarians, and parents don't always agree. 

YA (Young adult) novels are marketed for children 12-18 years of age. They are written about teenage characters with story lines meant to appeal to this age group; the category has had crossover into the adult market over the last several years. There lies much of the difficulty. 

Young Adult books are  meant to be the next level of reading material after middle-grade fiction as teens transition to adult fiction. They are often coming of age stories. They are engaging and may have some level of romance between the characters, such as kissing but they should not contain actual sexual content. The readers and reviewers at the PEP are noticing more and more books labeled YA in middle and high schools with detailed sexual content, including bondage, violence and erotica. Parents must  be alert to these sexualized books. We have quite a few listed on our website. Many have received awards. One has to question how out of touch the judges are with what children want to read or would be appropriate for them to read.

How did that book win that award?

The American Library Association gives out many awards to authors and illustrators. One of the most notable is the Randolph Caldecott Award.  The Caldecott winners must have outstanding illustrations and appeal to children ages 5-14. In the past, Caldecott winners and honor books were mostly picture or juvenile books that were chosen by parents and teachers to read to younger students and children. They become favorites, not just because of the pictures but because the stories are entertaining, interesting, and age appropriate. According to the guidelines, in addition to the exceptional illustrations, the book should not be didactic in nature. If you have children, you are probably familiar with these books.

Past Caldecott Winners and Caldecott Honor Award Winners

This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Mamaki won a 2015 Caldecott Honor Award. Take a look at it and see if you would agree. (This One Summer) Other graphic novels targeting middle and high school are also receiving recognition.  My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf is another example. Backderf is a two time Eisner award nominee. His book My Friend Dahmer was recognized as a great graphic novel for teens by the ALA and won an Alex award in 2013.

Obviously some graphic novels are meant for older children and the content may not worthy of recognition.

The John Newbery Medal is another prestigious award given yearly by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. Two favorites from the past were Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (1992) and Maniac Magee  by Jerry Spinelli (1991). More recent winners have been challenged due to controversial content and language more than obscenities, but not always.

Several new awards have made an appearance on books in elementary and middle schools. Most students assume if a book won an award, it must be a good book. A closer look reveals books with agendas promoting values not necessary common within most communities.


Take a look at the three awards for George by Alex Gino: Children's Stonewall Award ( exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience), the Lambda Literary Award also for literary merit and content relevant to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer lives, and the Children's Choice Book Awards, among others.

Looking for Alaska by John Green won the Printz award, an award that recognizes the "best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit". While it was a quick easy read, It violated NC Statutes on Obscenity. It also contained a glorified suicide. Out of Darkness by Ashley Perez is another example of an award winning book not appropriate for minors. Children do not need to read graphic depictions of incestual rape.

The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, The winning titles are selected from the previous year's publishing. These books all received the award over the last several years: Lawn Boy; Gender Queer;  Red, White, and Royal Blue; and The Kite Runner. Take a look at excerpts under the book tab. We question whether these books are appropriate for young adults in a public school setting. They all violate NC Statutes regarding obscenity.

The Pavement Education Project encourages you to research the books your child selects for reading. We believe an award no longer ensures a book is fit for reading by a child, teen, or young adult. Furthermore, The American Library Association may no longer have the values and standards you and your family hold dear.

Resources: American Library Association.

                   Young Adult Library Services Association.

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