I Don’t Know Genres

This post may sound sort of silly, I guess, but genres have always seemed weird to me. I’ll focus on books here, but it’s the same for music (where the only genres I can somewhat confidently identify are country and rock). I know a dystopian novel when I see one, and I can tell if something has elements of certain genres, but I fail to understand the actual distinctions between most.

It doesn’t help that loads of books are really in multiple genres – what category would you put Harry Potter in? Some would say fantasy, others children, others something else. Personally, though, I don’t really see much of a point to using genres unless you’re trying to organise a library.

Some people have preferred genres, and I get that. I completely get that. There are certain features of books that I look out for, or don’t want to see. For example, I usually look for books that have something distinctly other to our everyday world because it adds to the feeling of escapism, and because – as I’ve mentioned before – I feel it’s harder to find the value in the ordinary than the extraordinary.

But I also feel like there are problems with book genres. YA literature (Young Adult, in case you may not know) being called ‘YA’ gives the impression that it’s only for people ages roughly 18-25. The same goes for teen literature, or adult literature. I don’t understand the concept of suggesting age constraints for books that aren’t children’s. Again using the example of Harry Potter, it’s frequently listed in the children’s section but deals with extremely adult themes.

I never used to consider anything that would be labelled ‘adult’ literature because when I was younger, I thought that everything ‘adult’ meant ‘boring’. The two were somewhat synonymous. And if I’m honest, though I have come to the realisation that we’re all just people who are really trying our best not to burn the house down, adult literature still seems remarkably tame to me.

It seems, from my experience, that anything with magic in it, anything with supernatural creatures or happenings, is automatically deemed either YA or teen, if unsuitable for children. And that seems incredibly narrow-minded. The world of adult life needs more magic, to be honest.

The themes of all these different genres seem remarkably similar to me, anyway. Fantasy often includes murder. Murder almost always includes detective-work. It’s also a strong feature in most sci-fi things. Dystopia is arguably a subsection of sci-fi. History, or elements of it, penetrate most things. Mythology serves as a basis for a huge amount of things.

But, that’s just me. If anyone else feels the same about genres, please let me know… it’s always great when someone says “so what genre are you writing/reading?” and I just stand there with a blank expression on my face.

Katy x

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2 thoughts on “I Don’t Know Genres

  1. I get what you mean when you say that books usually have elements of more than one genre. I don’t see the point in following genre classifications as though they are hard and fast rules (‘I’m not reading that book if it’s not 100% fantasy!’). In my mind it’s just useful to have a rough guide of the sort of themes and content to expect: if it’s in the fantasy section of the bookshop then there’s a chance I’ll like it; if it’s in the romance section, it’s highly unlikely. Does that mean I’d stop reading a fantasy novel if it had romantic elements? Not at all.

    Liked by 1 person

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