Why Adult?

This morning, I answered a question on Tumblr about what factors contributed to The Bone Season being classified as Adult, rather than Young Adult (YA), which I thought I'd answer here as well as there. I often get asked about the target audience for The Bone Season. Is it YA or Adult? Who did I have in mind when I wrote it? It's officially classified as Adult by Bloomsbury, although many of its translations are labelled as YA, as was decided by the publishing houses in foreign territories. In a time when "crossover" books are becoming more and more common, how is an age range decided? 

There were a number of reasons for The Bone Season being classified as Adult. The primary reason is that when my agent was first sending out the manuscript, he sent it to the commissioning editor of the Adult division of Bloomsbury, who fell in love with the book and made an offer on it almost immediately therefore, it was always dealt with by that editor and the Adult division. There was never much discussion of it going to the YA section of the house.

Secondly, Paige is nineteen and is only going to get older, which pushes her out of the traditional age range of YA protagonists, who tend to be between 15 and 18. The vast majority of the characters  Liss, Julian, Nick, Jaxon, Eliza, literally almost everyone (except for a few secondary characters like Seb and Carl)  are well out of their teens in the first book, and, like Paige, will only get older as the series progresses. So it seems to fit better in Adult than YA. There’s more of a focus on the problems encountered by adults than there is on problems encountered by teenagers.

Finally, I wasn’t personally comfortable with the book being labelled as a “children’s book”. YA tends to be seen as a part of the Children’s division of most publishing houses  for example, Bloomsbury has Adult, then “YA and Kids”, which covers YA, MG and picture books. Although the first book is reasonably tame, the Bone Season series is likely to get more violent and sexual as it progresses, and I didn’t want to have to dial down the essential character of the series to squeeze it into the parameters of YA. I especially didn’t want to tone down Paige’s natural voice, which tends to be littered with swearing. The world of The Bone Season is dark and brutal, period. YA is much grittier nowadays, and few subjects are taboo, but I felt it would be inappropriate and misleading for the book to be labelled as a kids’ book.

At the end of the day, YA, Adult, MG and so on are just words. I have spoken before about my belief that nobody should be judged for reading books they enjoy, whatever the category. I know that many readers of The Bone Season are either young adults themselves or keen fans of YA, and that’s fine I love that it doesn’t fit neatly into one genre or age range, and I’m proud when it’s described as a book with crossover appeal but I feel the Adult label is the one that reflects its content best.