A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
The theme of this week’s Allsorts posts are centring on the (ever) topical question of whether YA is just for girls. Whenever a question like this crops up, I think it’s a bit weird. It implies that there’s some kind of Book Police determining who should be reading a particular type of book. And if that’s the case, well, who exactly are the officers of this Book Police?
I didn’t. I only ever write for one reader and that’s fourteen-year-old Non (I may have mentioned her before). Admittedly, fourteen-year-old Non is a girl, but whatever you do, don’t draw her attention to that fact or she’ll tell you in no uncertain terms that she is a person, she doesn’t really like being categorised by her lady parts. So… I certainly don’t think I wrote for my YA book for girls…
They’re the ones who put covers on books, after all and the point of the cover is to attract the right reader. It’s hard to argue the facts – two years ago I went to the Bookseller conference where Bowker presented figures on the reading habits of young people and in the category of 14-17, girls were reading about vampires and boys were reading about amazing facts. Publishers sell to markets because they are in the business of making money (and books). But those first Twilight jackets… are you seriously telling me that an apple on a black background is especially girl-enticing? Publishers aim to appeal to widest possible audience and if you look closer, you’ll see a lot of YA jackets go to great lengths not to exclude potential readers.
I’ve yet to walk into a proper bookshop and see the YA section labelled ‘girls this way’. So in short, no. Not booksellers.
There’s no Book Police at all, actually. No one can tell you what to read.
The truth of the matter is that YA isn’t a category the same way that sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, historical are – books fall into these genres according to what’s written on the page. Books fall into the category of YA because of the people who read it. Actual young adults. Some of them are boys and if they’re not reading a particular type of book, it’s because they don’t want to. Likewise girls. It’s as simple as that: people read whatever it is they want to read.
People – the ‘I’ pronoun doesn’t have a gender because when you talk about yourself, when you think, when you feel, you only think of yourself as a person and not a set of genitals. Just like I did when I was fourteen.
YA books are like any other – they are for readers, not genders.
After playing with glitter, stickers and short sentences in the non-fiction side of Usborne Publishing (where they insisted on using her real name ‘Leonie’) Non Pratt moved to fiction as Commissioning Editor at Catnip Publishing, still playing with sentences, but not so much with the glitter and stickers.
She’s written a book called TROUBLE published by Walker Books in the UK, and later in the year by Simon and Schuster in the US. Non is currently enjoying having someone else tell her what to do with her sentences.