Pet Peeve of a Heavy Library User

First thing to establish: I am a huge library user. If I’ve read a book, I’ve probably gotten it from the library. I’ve been extremely lucky the last year or so to have access to some of the biggest and best public libraries in the country, and this peeve doesn’t really apply to them. However, I’m back around, and utilizing, small town libraries this summer.

Which brings me to my peeve: YA literature shelved in the adult section.

Books I’ve found erroneously shelved in the YA section:

  • The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
  • the Eragon series
  •  The Amulet of Samarkand trilogy
  • John Green (like what?)
  • I’m sure there’s more but I was trying to prevent reader rage

This peeves me for many reasons. For one, it’s not likely to get as much circulation. Many adult readers go looking for YA if they want it, but aren’t as likely to read it when they come across it on a shelf as say, a YA reader. So these books get read less. And a teen reader is less likely to discover it shelf browsing. Also, it seems incredibly condescending to YA readers. Like, yes this book is above you thematically, so we’re going to put it in with the adult books despite you being the exact  market for which it was published. One of the things I love best about YA is its ability to introduce and grapple with some of these big ideas in incredibly honest ways.

But there aren’t enough YA books erroneously placed in the adult section for it to be a thematic or content banning. And there are plenty of books that are just as deep, if not more, including:

  • Postcards from No Man’s Land
  •  How I Live Now
  •  Between Shades of Grey
  • Crank
  •  V.C. Andrews
  •  Laurie Halse Anderson

I had an inadvertent chat with the librarian (who I’m on good terms with. We chat about book things all the time. Also I used to work there. I don’t just wander in and say, look at this. This bugs me. Why are you doing this?). Alas, this didn’t really offer me any more insight. Something about being on the verge of young adult and adult? Frankly, it was way to close to inadvertently being condescending to YA for my tastes, and I happily let the topic switch to the burgeoning genre of New Adult. Mainly, how we don’t really even know what that means yet.

So okay, there is nothing malicious about this. It’s not even talking down to readers. Basically, it’s most likely a misunderstanding about what the target age for a book actually is. And books like The Book Thief, or John Green have a large crossover audience. Eragon is just built to look like something that would be published by TOR, and with not all that many large fantasy novels in the library’s YA collection maybe the mix-up makes sense. I’ve got no explanation for the Amulet of Samarkand. But, not a shocker, I’ve never seen it circulate.

Maybe it’s just the small staff of the small library. They’ve got other interest areas as readers. Like the time I was reorganizing the fantasy/ sci-fi section and fixed a lot of genre stickers. I may not have read the book, but based on the cover art and the flap summary I can guarantee this story in which unicorns and magic seem to factor heavily is not sci-fi.

None of this is to say I don’t love and appreciate my smaller library. Just that it has some quirks, and one of those quirks means I have to keep my mouth shut about my YA opinions. Also note that this is in no way a commentary about how adult readers shouldn’t be reading YA. That is ridiculous. I am an adult. I love YA. This is about YA readers having as much access as possible to the books targeted to them.

Any thoughts on YA creep into the adult section? Any pet peeves of your own?


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