Who Is a ‘Crossover’ Book For?

From Publishers Weekly:

It’s been a while since I set a book in high school. By the time I finished my fifth young adult novel, I could feel my interest in that particular place waning. When I started my sixth, I made the protagonist a dropout (like me), gave her the keys to a car, and let her drive herself into a vicious unknown: her little sister was dead. She was going to kill the man responsible. A few months later, she’s gone missing and a radio host starts a podcast dedicated to finding out what happened to her. That book is Sadie, released in paperback last month.

Sadie is a relentless, brutal, and gritty testament to a sister’s love that takes its protagonist to the darkest corners humanity has to offer without flinching. With Sadie, my work has become less clearly prescriptive—if it ever was—making it even more at odds with that strange expectation a certain type of reader holds: that YA novels should take on the responsibilities of an authority figure and deal in hopeful, aspirational endings while being devoid of all delicious and interesting four-letter words.

Because of this, some readers feel Sadie should be categorized as an adult novel. Others can’t envision it in any section but YA. Most have settled on calling it a “crossover.” That didn’t feel like a bad thing then—and it doesn’t now—though, at the time, I didn’t realize this designation that easily serves as a point of entry for two audiences can just as easily be used as a tool, by some gatekeepers, to deny its primary target. If a book is seemingly too much of one thing or not enough of the other, who, ultimately, is it for? This response has fascinated me, having spent more than 10 years working in YA fiction, and freely and proudly identifying myself as an author of such. I suspect my February 2021 release, The Project, about an aspiring teen journalist who forgoes the high school experience to investigate a cult, has the potential to yield a similar response.

. . . .

I don’t think the high school setting is a prerequisite in a YA novel, by the way—I’m more versed in my industry than that. But I often think of the cues and tropes we use to define the category when asked. According to Wikipedia, “The subject matter and genres of YA correlate with the age and experience of the protagonist,” and, for many of us, the metal-tinged scent of locker-lined halls is one of the first things that calls to mind. It’s the blush of first love. It’s that specific kind of friendship drama you desperately hope won’t follow you into your 40s. It’s a sense of immediacy, a pace—fast. Or any number of first times. These are the hallmarks of many YA novels, and there’s nothing wrong with them. Teens are growing up in that world, and they deserve to see it reflected.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

1 thought on “Who Is a ‘Crossover’ Book For?”

  1. Ah, yes. “Categorization” performed almost entirely by people who have not read the book. Another of publishing’s outlier stupid practices that’s even more extreme than anywhere else in the entertainment industry.

    Let’s think for a moment about the way that those who really do read books — librarians — categorize them. Sure, there are lots of problems; one outstandingly stupid example, in the Dewey Decimal System, is that books about “navies” and “naval issues” and “naval science” are almost randomly divided between the 350 series and the 620 series, based so far as I can tell on whether there are any actual diagrammatic ship plans in the book (and similarly for “aerospace” and “air power” and “aeronautics”); and a few that are confined to specific nations or regions end up in the 900s. Does any established, widely accepted library cataloging system, though, distinguish among:
    * “literary” fiction
    * mystery fiction
    * nonillustrated children’s fiction
    * science fiction
    (Hint: No. Individual libraries, even some quite large library systems, do; sometimes, they even share labels and cheapo stickers to put on the spine that often obscure either the title or the author’s name; but there’s no systematic meme.)

    Which should tell you all that you need to know about for whom “categorization” is employed, and in whose interests it is. Pardon me while I go to the Black Americana section in order to find Toni Morrison… a Nobel laureate…

Comments are closed.