Distinction between Young Adult and Children's Chapter Books

For April 2018 we will be reading Young Adult books.
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Heidi M Simone
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Distinction between Young Adult and Children's Chapter Books

Post by Heidi M Simone »

This is the line I usually struggle with defining. How do we distinguish what's appropriate for children vs. young adult?

For example, I recently finished The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins, the author who wrote The Hunger Game. I have a tough time deciding if The Underland Chronicles is really appropriate for children, but at the same time, I feel it's too juvenile to be considered young adult.

Reasons The Underland Chronicles is for children:
- language/sentence structure is simple
- vocabulary isn't challenging
- plot is extremely easy to follow and is fairly linear
- the protagonist is a twelve-year-old boy

Reasons The Underland Chronicles is more young adult:
- so many bloody/violent scenes, including an eventual war
- frequent deaths - even a mass murder scene where one particular "race" is gassed to death
- a romance builds and happens over the course of the novels (nothing more than hand holding and one kiss, but there is talk about love)

What are thoughts? What makes a chapter book young adult and what makes it a children's book? Is there a general rule of thumb, or is this a case-by-case scenario?
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Post by lbhatters »

There are a lot of young adults out there that have low vocabulary and grammar but it's intended for young adults. Basically in this case I judge by the content. For most books there are no fine lines. You just have to use your own discernment. If the content isn't too mature I think it is ok for kids. You just have to base it on the individual child's / teen's language abilities and the content. From what you described about the content of The Underland Chronicles I would not give to a kid. I would say that description is too mature for kids.
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Post by KRay93 »

I would agree more with a case-by-case scenario. For example, in the mentioned case, we talk about a 12-year-old protagonist. Those of IT by Stephen King have similar ages, and nevertheless, it is not a suitable book for children. Violent scenes, the inappropriate use of language, and love scenes are the ones that make the difference between a YA book and a Children one. If the vocabulary and the plot are not complex enough, it has to do with readers looking for something quick and simple to catch and read, not with their age.
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Post by P0tt3ry »

I agree with the case by case approach. American institutions, such as museums and libraries, write their public announcements, newsletters, labels, etc. at a 6th grade level. Some aim even lower and write at a 4th grade level. Using the complexity of the writing and size of the vocabulary as the criteria for categorizing a book as young adult or children's is flawed because many Americans actually read at 6th grade level or below. I look at content to decide if a book is better suited for teenagers or children.

An observation: I read the 1st Harry Potter book released in the UK and the edition released in the U.S. The UK edition was several grade levels above the U.S. edition. Both were aimed at the same age demographic.
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Post by Libs_Books »

I agree it's very difficult to draw an exact line. When I was a child - long, long time ago now - most of the recommended books from age 11 upwards were probably originally intended for adults - Black Beauty, for example, or Oliver Twist.
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Post by meadhbh »

A good rule of thumb to distinguish between young adult and children's books in general I think is probably actually to look at the age of the protagonist. I think it can be very easily to look at something as an adult and be like oh no, there's no way that's suitable for children. When I was young, personally, I loved horror books like the Darren Shan series even if they did freak me out a bit, and while those books probably weren't aimed at young kids they were definitely aimed towards kinda 13/14. I think kids and young teenagers are much more able to deal with those kinds of themes than we often imagine.
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