Thoughts #21: Teen Fiction and Young Adult Fiction


Recently, whilst organising my Goodreads shelves, I noticed I had both shelves for ‘teen’ and ‘young adult’. I was tempted to merge the two, but actually upon looking at the books in question I realised I do actually distinguish between them. I wondered if anyone else did this, or whether a lot of people lump all books for teens into young adult.

By ‘teen’ I don’t mean middle grade OR young adult, but in fact somewhere in between. Here’s how I distinguish between the two:

‘Teen’ fiction:

  • Generally for a younger audience than young adult fiction, perhaps ages 11-14 so just a little older than middle grade (which to me is 9-12, so there is some overlap).
  • I see it as a transition from middle grade books, but not quite reaching the content of young adult fiction.
  • It’s often focused on lighter elements, for example friendships, first crushes, shopping etc!
  • Tends to be more realistic or contemporary.
  • I’ve noticed that it’s more often gender specific.

Examples of ‘teen’ fiction:
Dancing in my Nuddy-pants by Louise Rennison The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Anne Brashares

Young Adult fiction

  • In my eyes these books are aimed at 15 year olds and upwards. Yes, even adults.
  • Contain ‘heavier’ issues such as relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol, family problems, abuse etc.
  • It’s moved on from first crushes to first kisses and first loves.
  • Less of a gender focus.
  • Spans all sorts of genres: contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, paranormal etc.
  • Generally a lot more emotional, typically a darker feel.
  • That’s not to say that all YA books are full of these sorts of issues. I just feel that they’re much more likely to address them.

Examples of young adult fiction:
Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Do you tend to split up teen fiction and young adult fiction, or do you see them as one and the same?

34 thoughts on “Thoughts #21: Teen Fiction and Young Adult Fiction”

  1. I read mostly adult so I tend to thrown everything else into the YA label. I only recently became aware that some of the YA I have read others consider MG. I probably SHOULD divide mine out further as I learn these nuances.

    1. I guess I essentially view teen fiction as the lighter stuff, though that is not in anyway a bad thing. But like I said, I don’t think everyone does this – and it’s totally up to you how you divide your books ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. I do! I do the same thing but I think it stems from the fact that I work in a library. I often come across “tweens” and younger teens that are looking for a good book but myself and their parents may feel that certain items that fall under the YA umbrella may not be appropriate for them yet. In other words, I want to avoid that awkward moment where I recommend a YA book that may have something inappropriate in it and then have to face an angry parent later! 0__0

    1. Oooh I never thought of it from that point of view – that’s certainly true!

      I remember reading Forever by Judy Blume at aged 11, and telling all my friends about it (lots of sexual content, it’s about a young girl losing her virginity with her first boyfriend). Then another friend got it from the library and we were giggling at bits in class. The teacher took a look and it was instantly put in the 16+ only section in the school library ๐Ÿ˜›

  3. I completely agree with your breakdown though I haven’t really thought of it before! I do tend to think of YA very specifically though, so books like Princess Diaries I don’t really lump into YA in my mind (I’m glad I don’t have to organize these books in a bookstore!) I think this is another way to think of YA as more than just an age range – because there are specific aspects to it that make it a genre in my opinion. Great post!

    1. Haha when I worked in a bookshop it was sometimes SO hard to work out what goes where, especially if something encompassed several genres.

      What are the specific aspects? I guess it’s referred to as an age range AND a genre, but it’s much more widely read by people who are no longer young adults than the younger age ranges. I hope I’ll still be reading YA books in my 90s ๐Ÿ˜›

  4. I read more adult books than YA, so I lump all YA together, to simplify things. I have my reviews categorized on my blog Adult, Adult Non-fiction, NA, and YA ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I see them the same way; when I’m recommending books to my sister, I always go for the teen books like Sarah Dessen (the fluffier ones) instead of a YA like Fangirl or even To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. There’s just a bit of a difference between the two that when I say YA I always have to clarify between “young YA” and “older YA.” But Teen Lit vs. YA Lit makes it much easier ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. Hehe, young young adult ๐Ÿ™‚ But yeah, I really see a difference there – ‘fluffier’ is definitely the right word!

  6. This is such a good point! I definitely distinguish the two genres in my mind, but I never really thought about it before. There’s a clear distinction there, but a lot of people (especially those not familiar with YA) would probably not even realize the difference. I would have to say that I think Fangirl is actually New Adult, but other than that I completely agree with your post ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. As I mentioned above, I never even think about NA as a genre, it’s funny ๐Ÿ˜› I guess it’s a more recent one? Although to be honest, when I think NA I think romance novels which is totally not my kind of thing :/ Don’t know why that’s all it reminds me of…

  7. I completely agree with you! But I just don’t read any teen novels to actually think about it. They are definitely distinguishable with their “pink” and girly covers, which is a good and bad thing. Because 1) I can avoid them, but then 2) it’s so gender specific.

    Though I do have a hard time differentiating between Middle Grade and Teen. The middle grade age range is from 12 to 15 for actual middle schoolers, and then everything below that I just count as children’s. And then Young Adult is 16+? If I were to make a category for teen, it would probably be around 14 to 15 years old, but I don’t know. I hate using the word “teen”, because it just sounds so, immature.

    1. Yes, I often think those sorts of covers must put some people off. I definitely judge a book by its cover, and I was very much not a girly girl in my early teens, so I wouldn’t touch a book with a cover like that.

      I guess because here in the UK we don’t have a middle school system, I don’t feel like ‘middle grade’ has to stick to those years. But it seems we all interpret things differently! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. That’s a good question – you know I don’t read Teen fiction I don’t think. I read middle grade – sounds around about the same. But I don’t read very much of it. But yes I definitely split it up.

    1. I guess it just depends what your interpretation is of each one! Sometimes I find middle grade more appealing because it’s often all about adventure, than stuff like first crushes ๐Ÿ˜›

  9. I’ve never thought about this before, but I think the differentiation you set between teen and YA makes a lot of sense! Also, I have to comment on the Nuddy-pants… I assume this is underpants or underwear? “You’ll laugh your knickers off” was a pretty good indication it’s not an American book, ha ha. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Nuddy-pants is being naked ๐Ÿ˜€ And yeah I have to say it’s a series FULL of British colloquialisms! And also words that Georgia has made up… like she often says brillo pads instead of brilliant ๐Ÿ˜›

  10. I don’t have a shelf for teen fiction, but I do have one for titles like The Princess Diaries, and other books focused on “normal teenager” kind of things. I classify those under “Contemporary” and, depending on the age of the protagonist/target demographic, add “Young Adult” or “New Adult” to the label.

    1. I’ll always have a soft spot for The Princess Diaries… โค That seems like a good way of organising things too ๐Ÿ˜€

      I actually separate my books by genre, so YA and adult are mixed up e.g. YA and adult sci-fi together. I do have a separate bit for YA contemporary, teen and middle grade though.

  11. This is really interesting! I’ve never really given this much thought though because in my mined, teen fiction and YA are one and the same. Your explanations of both do make a lot of sense though! And I gave a little laugh when I saw Dancing in My Nuddy Pants up there! Georgia Nicholson books always have a spot in my heart and though it’s been a few years since I last read them, I do still drop a few of her phrases here and there. Nervy b is one I use quite a lot haha. It’s all part of my plan to become an honorary Brit!

    1. I got rid of mine, which I kind of regret, even though I probably wouldn’t re-read them now. They’re so hilarious ๐Ÿ˜€

  12. I definitely do the same! I wasn’t ever really sure what made me distinguish some books as teen and others as young adult, but I do find myself calling specific books teen (Twilight) and others young adult (Graceling). I’m not sure it’s age specific to me – I think I tend to put the lighter hearted books as teen, pretty much any book in a school setting, etc. So now that I’m actively thinking about it, I find that I can’t think of any teen fantasy off the top of my head…so maybe it’s partially a setting thing for me? Not sure. But now that you’ve brought it up I’m going to be thinking about the whys all week!

    1. I actually switched Twilight from teen to YA the other day, but I guess by my definitions the series might progress from teen to YA as it goes on? I don’t know, that’s definitely a tricky one! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ It’s certainly well loved by the younger teen age group.

      I think you’re right about the setting. Contemporary seems more teen, whereas a fantasy or sci-fi setting, or even historical, seem more YA. No idea why ๐Ÿ˜›

  13. Interesting idea. I tend to see both terms as the same thing. Especially with local conventions like the “teen book con” that focuses on YA books. That definitely keeps it in the same bucket. MG is like you said 9-12 years, and teen really starts at 13+, which is really close to YA books. I do agree with you that YA is a little more mature, and most books have a character that is 16 years of age. So those might not be as appropriate for a 13 year old to read. I do think the distinction needs to be there. But it doesn’t seem to really be used much.

    1. Haha, we just had a YA book con here ๐Ÿ˜€ Maybe I should scope out some local bookshops and see how they segregate things…

      I actually think the cover plays a big part in how the books might be separated. If it’s darker then I think it would normally end up as YA rather than teen.

    1. I guess that could work too, merging the two! I mean some children tend to read much older books anyway, and different people prefer different things. Plus girls tend to mature more quickly than boys so I guess there’s a gender difference there too.

  14. I used to be very confused about the Young Adult designation on the library shelves when I was 12/13, and felt so badass when I picked out a book from those shelves for the very first time because I wasn’t sure if I was even allowed to be in that section. Hahaha. But yeah, to this day, I too think of teen fiction as something targeted at younger readers and young adult as for readers ranging from 15 to maybe 25 or even 30 years of age. New adult somehow hasn’t managed to take over the 18 and up demographic…

    1. Hehe! ๐Ÿ˜€ Now though I kind of feel like I’m being judged when I go to the YA section – do you get that too? :/

      No – new adult is a pretty recent concept though, isn’t it?

  15. I never actually thought about this but now that I do, I’ve always done it subconsciously. I do it the same way as you do. Teen fiction has no content that people would classify as “PG” but young adult fiction has a little bit. It’s weird how so many bookstores put them together but I guess they’re not so far apart.

    1. Ooh, that’s true! Using film classifications is a good way to talk about it ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess that’s why I feel judged when I’m browsing the YA section sometimes, because it’s not just YA but also books for much younger teens.

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