On The Poppy War and Adult SFF

I’m going to be on vacation for a week so I don’t think I’ll be able to post or reply to comments then.

So the author of The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang, recently said on twitter that her book is not YA and should not be categorized as such. I personally haven’t read the book but looking at content warnings will immediately tell you how it should be classified. It is clearly an Adult book.

Unfortunately, this also ignited drama on twitter about authors “looking down” on YA. Honestly? The author never said anything to that effect. She was very clear that she means no disrespect to YA and that the reason it should be categorized as Adult is because of the content.

Some might talk about how YA is so dark nowadays and how readers read anything. I agree, to an extent. I have no trouble reading books with disturbing content even though I’m 18. Never had any trouble before then either. However, that cannot be said for every reader. I have a 17 year old sister who’s very sensitive for example.

Just because a book has an MC of a certain age does not mean readers of that age can read it. Red Sister features a 9 yo protagonist. Am I going to let my 8 yo little sister read it? Of course not.

Why is it that because the author is young and female, her book should be considered YA? Adult SFF needs more diverse books. I’ve been looking at the Adult SFF I’ve been reading and I noticed most of them are by male authors. I’m seeking to rectify this by reading more female authors like Nnedi Okorafor and N.K. Jemisin- which my local bookstores don’t often stock.

Adult SFF is full of white male authors. An Asian author wrote an Adult SFF book that’s been very highly praised and you gripe about looking down on YA? Grimdark fantasy is NOT for everybody. I often wonder if the reason I never finished A Game of Thrones is because I was 15 when I started it and wasn’t ready for it. I may be now, but I wasn’t then. Maybe the same is the case for a lot of readers? I’ve seen the content warnings and well, 12-14 yos read a lot of YA. A book with that kind of content isn’t for them.

In a genre dominated by white male authors, diverse books by POC authors is a breath of fresh air. If an author says their book is not recommended for younger readers, then it’s not. Male authors write teenage protagonists all the time and they still get classified as Adult. It’s not fair to the author that she gets told her book is “not complex enough” to be adult. The author knows her target audience more.

Because of this debacle, I’m definitely looking forward to reading The Poppy War. I might still be classified as a YA reader (although I am a legal adult) but I’m going to read it knowing about the warnings. The author had made herself clear it’s not for everybody and I respect that.

I don’t want to look down on YA either. There’s a lot of good YA SFF out there. There’s also a lot of diverse authors writing for the genre. However, we should respect the author’s feelings on the matter. We should respect her for breaking into a traditionally white male dominated genre. As an aside, I do enjoy books by those authors. However, it’s a very glaring fact that they dominate the top lists for adult sff.

Please share your thoughts in the comments down below.

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