Posted in Book Memes, Discussions

Should readers read books outside their own age range?

“Your Noise reveals you, Todd Hewitt.”

First line in The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Welcome fellow readers. I hope you’re having a great day and thank you for stopping by. Today’s post is for the weekly meme Let’s Talk Bookish, which is hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books. Each week we dicuss a different book related topic, and this week the topic is: Should readers read books that aren’t for their target age?

It’s a heavily debated topic we’re diving into today. Therefore, I’ll start with providing a light definition of these age ranges.

Middle Grade

  • Written for ages 8 to 12
  • No profanity or graphic violence
  • Romance is limited to crushes and innocent first kisses.
  • Themes often revolve around friendship, bullying and family.
  • The characters don’t do much self-reflection, but instead react to their immediate surroundings.

Young Adult

  • Written for ages 13 to 18
  • Romance and sexuality are prevalent themes although no graphic sexual content is allowed.
  • The characters are often put in new and difficult situations and the books deal with the struggles to find one’s place in the world.
  • Relies more on self-reflection than middle grade books.

Adult

  • Written for ages 18 and older
  • Anything goes.
  • A more complex story and setting is allowed although not required.

Disclaimer: these aren’t definitive explanations because those don’t really exist. They are just to give you an idea of what I’m referring to when I mention the age ranges.

Now, when discussing the topic of reading outside of one’s age range there are two sides: to read books meant for someone older and to read books meant for someone younger. Let’s start with the first one.

Reading books written for older readers

In my opinion, this is where we run into most problems. As you might have noticed when reading the definitions above, MG and YA are mainly defined by what isn’t allowed in those books. These restrictions are there for a reason, and that is mainly to protect children and teens from content they aren’t mature enough for. I’m not an expert on the minds of children, so I’m going to go much more into that here.

However, I’m also all for breaking the rules. For a middle grade reader that means the parents can allow a book meant for someone older, if they deem it appropriate for their child. They know the child best, and in such cases I don’t think age ranges should be looked at too rigidly.

With teens, I’m fairly certain they can make these decisions themselves. Also, if you tell a 15-year-old they aren’t allowed to do something, you can be certain that’s exactly what they’ll do. Instead, I think it’s more important that teens figure out their own reading tastes and that include reading something they don’t like. I highly doubt they’ll be scarred for life.

To sum up, I don’t think anyone should feel forced to read books meant for someone older, but I do believe it can very educational in terms of figuring out what one likes as a reader.

Reading books written for younger readers

As you can probably tell, I have far less issues with ‘reading down’. There’s no more worrying about not being emotionally ready for certain topics. You can just read what you want.

To more specifically answer the question of the week: should readers read books that are written for younger readers? I think you should at least give it a shot. Reading books meant for children or teens can give you a great insight into the mind workings of these age groups. We’ve all been that age, but we tend to forget what actually mattered at that point in our life. Reading MG and YA can therefore be quite benefitial if you in your day to day life surround yourself with children or teens.

However, if you’ve tried MG and YA and didn’t like it, then of course, you shouldn’t read it. Just don’t look down on other readers who do enjoy it. We’re past that, aren’t we?

To just elaborate on that – I think it’s perfectly fine for adults to read MG and YA as long as you review the book with that in mind. What is deemed great in an adult novel, isn’t necessarily deemed great in a YA novel and vice versa. The result can be a too low rating for a MG or YA novel and that might discourage someone from the target age from reading it.

This section summed up: read what you want but be aware of what you’re reading.

That was a bit of a long one, so thank you if you read all of it. I hope it made you think just a little bit. What are your thoughts on these age ranges? Do you read books that technically aren’t meant for you? Let me know in the comments.