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Should there be a new book classification for young teens?

Ever since they started reading Spot and Grug, I’ve loved helping my kids choose their next read.

As the kids have reached their tween years, we have continued to share book talk and I still love recommending new books, or ones that I loved at their age.

However, as my eldest turns 13 years old, I’m having a bit of trouble determining which books are suitable for his age group, whether at the library or bookshop or on the kindle.

While children’s books are obvious with their big, bright colours, and size, there is little guidance on the age at which the book is aimed once they move on from picture books.

Now that my son is in that space between many middle grade books and Young Adult novels, it is a minefield to determine what books would suit him, and which include concepts more suitable for older teens.

I’ve taken to Googling to determine the appropriate age, but that isn’t an ideal option because most information represents an individual’s opinion, and to be honest, I’m not sure I want to be Googling at the library or bookshop.

These thoughts come after I mistakenly chose some ‘middle grade’ looking books that appeared to be along the same lines as Rick Riordan’s novels, or Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series.

My son came back to me looking a little pale and said he didn’t think they were right for him.

A quick search revealed that while the books were aimed at a teen audience, there were some concepts that might be a little challenging for young readers.

As much as I would like to be able to read books before he does, or at least look up a book before he reads it, in reality this is unrealistic, given his voracious reading habits.

I wouldn’t want to curtail his reading while he waits on me to give a book the green light.

It has left me wondering whether there should be a classification for this age group that is teetering on YA, but not quite ready for some of the themes explored in this category of books.

The classification wouldn’t aim to restrict anyone’s reading, but instead help parents and tweens or young teens choose books without content that is disturbing or worrying to them.

I know that not everyone will see the value. There is the perspective that any books are appropriate for any age, and the important thing is that parents or other trusted adults are available to discuss any confronting concepts.

But I can’t help but feel that there are some concepts that teens really aren’t ready to encounter, no matter how thoroughly and thoughtfully they are discussed.

I personally love to read a highly-emotive, even harrowing, book that leaves me feeling wrung out and changed. I thought A Little Life was extraordinary and it opened my eyes to other lives and the impact of trauma. I hope that eventually my children read it, but certainly not for a long time, until they have the maturity to understand and deal with some of the issues that arise in the book.

Even Young Adult books can require quite a high degree of maturity, with their themes of relationships, conflict and trauma.

So, what exactly would I like? Perhaps there could be a section in libraries or bookshops for the age group between Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the Treehouse series and Young Adult.

I would also love the introduction of a kindle search specifically for ages between Middle Grade and Young Adult – I’ve never been able to find a way to differentiate between children’s and adult books on my eReader, especially Kindle Unlimited and the daily or monthly deals.

In this way I don’t mean to restrict the books that anyone reads (I can’t wait to share all of the incredible adult books that are available with my kids!), but to make it easier for young teens and their parents and friends to find the right books for them.

It might even help ensure this notoriously tricky age group can see that there is a place for them in the world of books.

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