At least once a week, I turn to my partner and ask, “Do you want to hear the latest YA Twitter drama?” It seems like there’s always something happening, always someone to be righteously angry at. This week’s edition was a proposed rating system for YA that categorizes books based on whether the vape use is “excessive” or reasonable, whether kissing includes “light travel of hands,” and whether it uses profanity like “h*ll” or includes a main character taking a “sip” of alcohol — among other things.
And there is definitely room to be angry about this, especially when they have been reaching out to literary agencies to ask them to categorize all their books using this system. Not for nothing, it’s also a system put together by four white women from Utah, and it seems to be more concerned with how books conform to Mormon values than a more general set of criteria — despite being marketed as a one size fits all system.
These kinds of classifications — which the founders want to be indicated by a sticker on the covers of books — can be really damaging for teen readers. They’re weaponized against queer people and people of color. They tell many kids that their personal experiences are obscene, inappropriate. They deny teens safe ways to explore difficult subjects.
At the same time, this has received a unilateral rejection from the YA community, both readers and authors. I can’t imagine it’s going to become a reality in any sort of overarching way. In fact, at the time I’m writing this, the site is already down — likely crashed from people curious what all these joke tweets are referring to.
So instead of outrage, let’s take a minute to admire the ways YA Twitter absolutely roasted this categorization system.
Rebecca Mix, author of the upcoming YA fantasy The Ones We Burn, invented an alternate system, including the big questions, like, “Is there a cat?” and “Could someone write Shrek fanfiction about this?”
I mean, this one from the author of Counting Down With You is legitimately useful, though.
There’s only room for one categorization scheme in my secret heart, though, and it’s this one.
Of course, as soon as a meme or joke gets started on Twitter, it gets remixed. Here’s an Avatar: The Last Airbender take.
And a Met Gala version from the author of Never Saw You Coming.
Some authors scoff at the YA-4 categorization, like the author of These Violent Delights.
Other writers just took the guidelines as a writing prompt.
Despite all the big talk on YA Twitter, most of them are living that YA-1 life.
Sometimes you need to call out your friends when they’re not living up to the standards of your YA category.
And finally, let’s not forget the real star of these categories: “Light Travel of Hands.”
Want even more book Twitter shenanigans? Check these posts out: