The age range for the YA group is 12-18 according to the YALSA (http://www.ala.org/yalsa/aboutyalsa). Of course we all know that there are people younger and much older than that loving books in this category.
I reached out to a few bloggers about their opinion on this topic.
Hi there! YA...I went through high school 84-88. Teen books of that time were Judy Blume and that style. The books geared for teens were geared to help teens know that what they are feeling and the things they were dealing with were normal.
Flash forward to 2012. YA has evolved as has society. Teens deal with a whole lot more than before. Growing up, most moms did work, I'm a mom of 3 adult/teen daughters and have been working pretty much since they were born. Teens don't want books telling them about things they already know, YA nowadays lets the reader leave reality behind and treats the readers as if they have brain to understand life as it is.
YA was once just teen reading. It is now a genre read by just as many adults as teens. In fact, I'm usually the one suggesting books to my 18 yo. People like to smirk about Twilight, but that series has gotten more people reading YA than ever. The Uglies series is actually what brought me back to YA. Yes, I tore through the Twilight series and wanted my own Edward, but I started the series to see what the big deal was when the first movie came out. By the time I saw the movie, I had the entire series read.
What is acceptable? For the teens, light sex and light language. Why? Teens have sex and teens curse. It's also no longer a hush hush subject. While not every teen has had sex, they know that some of their friends have. Cursing may not be allowed in my household, but working in the judicial field, I've heard some coming in saying things that would make a truck driver blush. For the older teens, and actual YA's, there seems to be a new genre being created. I think it's called New Adult. The romance is a little harsher, language a bit more in use, and sex a little more graphic. Again, the targeted reader is dealing with these things in their own life, but don't want something patting them, telling them it's ok, but a story to dive in to.
YA is great for the young and old alike. Different worlds are created for the reader, not twenty pages on how one place looks when someone walks through the door, etc. It goes straight into the story, allows a certain liberty in how the reader visions the characters and surroundings, and just ropes you in.
Coming back into YA. There is one continuing item that I find very annoying. So many series! Trilogies, fine, but so many just keep going and going and going. But I must say, YA is the playground for the self published author. So many Asreaders, who are just looking for a good book, not worried about the authors credentials. I've found myself reading more indie authors than published and the authors are so generous with their time. They love hearing from their readers and return emails, messages, etc. How many can say their favorite published author took the time to respond back to them?
There's going to be kissing, because teenagers kiss. There's going to romance because we all want it. In some cases, there is even going to be sexual intercourse. What separates YA from Adult Fiction is this topic. How an author handles the topic of sex is what makes a book suitable or non-suitable for the category. If a scene is too descriptive or too graphic then it shouldn't be in a YA book. There's a delicate balance, and it's the reason why so many YA books that we think are amazing are on banned book lists.
I don't like banned book lists because everyone should be able to decide what they read, and I haven't come across a book that I've thought was too explicit in the YA category (though the Nora/Patch scenes in Hush, Hush made me blush profusely). There's a reason however why YA and Teen books are still sold in many children's aisles. It's because we 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and even 20, and 21 year olds are still transitioning. What is appropriate for those 16 and above may not be appropriate for a younger YA audience, which is why I always call a book lower YA or upper YA in reviews. I specify the difference between children's, YA, and New Adult books because even though they are usually grouped together, how certain topics are handled are completely different in these different categories.
A special thank you to Marni and Mera for getting back to me with your thoughts on this topic and for your time reading and reviewing books to help others make choices on what will fit their reading needs.