The Appropriate “Grade Level” For Your Novel Is…

The other day Kindle sent out a note suggesting we authors optionally “age rate” our books. I thought I’d share it. I’ve removed the superfluous and “personal” parts and screen captured the core of it:

Edited message from Kindle.
Edited message from Kindle.

Kindle sends out lots of stuff – some useful, some not. But this just seems a sloppy tech issue from their end. There’s a straightforward reason I haven’t chosen an under-18s level for my novels and Kindle knows it already.

Surely I’m not going to pick even an optional grade range considering I listed the books within Kindle as for 18 and older?

My “Frontiers” Kindle age range settings.

I wouldn’t even go for “Grade 12.” That’s the last year of U.S. high school, and therefore includes mostly 17 year olds. I am very uncomfortable with even that age as a minimum for my books.

The main characters are adults. (Yes, there are some under-18s, most notably Aurélie; but they have only bit parts and are treated as “the kids.”) The overall story is not fantasy-based. The books contain occasional foul language (including the “F” word), plenty of alcohol consumption (and some drunken behavior), smoking, sex, and hints at violence (although no actual brutality is presented in the texts). All in all this is an adult world, seen through the eyes of adults, and not a “coming of age” exercise.

I believe all of that places the novels on a maturity level adults are much better equipped to understand and appreciate. I am aware I have previously noted I believe as Americans we overly “shield” our older teens. Yet I do feel that there has to be a line – albeit an arbitrary one because that’s all we’ve got. As authors, we should know where our work sits either side of it.

My desk, with my books to the side. [Photo by me, 2015]
My desk, with my books to the side. [Photo by me, 2015]
I am no expert on Young Adult books. What I glimpse is said of various massive sellers is they are often termed “dystopian” and “dark.” Ironically, while my books don’t seem to fall into those “categories” they are in my opinion definitely not Young Adult reading.

In the end, my final rule of thumb is my English niece. She’s 17. I would not want anyone her age reading my novels.

Have a good day. It’s Friday! 🙂

UPDATE: April 25: It’s worth scrolling down as well to read especially the first couple of comments. The second is more from me.

3 thoughts on “The Appropriate “Grade Level” For Your Novel Is…

  1. OK, and while I agree lines ought to be drawn, by parents, by authority, by society in general, I think they ought to be crossed, demolished, disregarded whenever. That’s how young people ‘grow up’, when they are given that option.

    There didn’t use to be YA books in my time, and glad I am for this. At 12 I was reading Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, and DH Lawrence at 13. What could be more ‘bad’ for YA of my age than Bonjour Tristesse and Lolita but I crossed that line when I was 14.

    But the reason I’m writing this is because of the duty we have to future generations of writers, otherwise there is no future for writing. How can they develop if they aren’t exposed to more mature, adult authors?

    I have two teens, 15 and 17. They already went YA on me, and I don’t blame them, because they are influenced by the very pervasiveness of our multi layered media, television and internet that wasn’t around in MY time (Television came to Pakistan when I was 18 🙂

    They already watch The Game Of Thrones and Outlander, and I just make sure they read the books, dammit, because you need to get the source instead of the hyperactive over stimuli of the visual process. Some of the stuff they watch on internet is a lot more ‘dark’ than the cartoons I used to love, but again, I make sure there is balance.. I monitor instead of ban, because that doesn’t work. But now, I’m introducing them to the books that affected me and my writing, and, they love them.

    I haven’t read your books yet, but made a note they are what I would like to read. And have my teens read them too. From what I gather, they’re about friendship, relationships, living abroad, the rites of passage of people as they experience that.

    Something that interests me, and already, my “older teens”. And I am sure there are others mature enough to understand your work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely right in that we have to stretch boundaries. No argument from me there. Reading that challenges is vital in the maturation process. We shouldn’t mollycoddle.

      As a parent, you know what your kids could take. I suppose if a parent believes books like mine are acceptable for their sons or daughters who are younger than 18, that’s the parents’ decision. In that case, I would not say “No.” Like yourself, they know their kids better than anyone.

      Maybe I shouldn’t have been so absolute in my phrasing above. But I suggest they not be read by under-18s because I haven’t pitched the novels at pre-18s in any sense. They are written for adults, and in some senses under-18s might “miss” quite a bit (or be puzzled by some of it) because they lack an adult’s perspective.

      That said, I’m sure there are 15/16/17 year olds who could read them, but I would never presume to “go beyond” parents and suggest that my books are for those younger than 18. So I “err” on the side of making it clear that they are for 18+. If certain parents think they are okay for their under-18s, that’s fine and I wouldn’t contradict them because they would know best.

      Thanks for your thoughts as always. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good point. No one can know their children better than parents, and we are the ones responsible for them. I feel too much is taken away from parents by ‘societal’ mores and exigencies.

        Liked by 1 person

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