How we classify books is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. When I walk into a bookstore, I head straight for the young adult section because that is the genre that I enjoy reading most. Within that young adult section there are action books, romance books, fantasy books, sci-fi books and those books are sorted into their own sections. So if a James Bond buff wanted a thrilling spy novel, they could bypass the romance and the historical fiction. If a contemporary reader wanted a coming-of-age story, they could bypass the action thrillers and the high fantasy. This at first seems to be a simple method of arranging books so that consumers can find their preferred genre quicker.
But is every book defined by just one genre? Take The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – a worldwide bestseller. In this book there is the famous love triangle between Katniss, Gale and Peeta. Therefore, this book should be romance, right? However, this book also contains enormous amounts of action. So is it an action book? But then take the setting – a dangerous future which mankind is shifting towards. That would make it a dystopian book. Yet it also contains real-life issues, adventure, family relationships and political intrigue. What do we classify it as? Is it fair just to classify it just by one genre? Are these genre stereotypes misleading?
Now take Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – the second book from this widely acclaimed author. This book appears to be your standard contemporary and yes, it is a contemporary. That means it should be a contemporary? But it is also a romance novel, with a really realistic romance. So is it a romance novel? But it is also a coming-of-age story and a family drama novel. So what do we really classify this book as? Can we classify books as just one genre?
The genres which we classify books by are pretty straight and simple: action, romance, historical fiction, contemporary, fantasy. But is a book ever just one genre? I think that the answer is no. No book can be defined by just one thing. No book is ever just a romance book. Or a fantasy. Or a historical fiction. There are historical fiction-fantasy books and contemporary-action books. And sci-fi-contemporary books. I also think that most of these genres can be very misleading. The genre almost defines the book. So if you don’t like romance, you CAN’T read Anna and the French Kiss. If you don’t like fantasy then STAY AWAY from Throne of Glass. And this isn’t fair. This is wrong.
Throne of Glass is defined as a fantasy book and I don’t read all that much fantasy – I’m more a historical fiction or romance type of girl. But I’d heard such great reviews that I had to pick it up. I expected to dislike it because of the main fantasy aspect. I adore it – I love the fantasy aspect that is the main genre but I also love the romance which is a sub genre. The fantasy genre falsely represents the book. Yes it is a very well done fantasy, but it also contains amazing action and romance. The genre of fantasy could put off a consumer who usually reads romance, but are then missing out on the romance because of the fantasy genre.
In short, I believe that genres need to be broader and not so off-putting to buyers. Readers aren’t discovering these books which they’ll love because of misleading genre categories and a false representation. What are your thoughts? What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this 🙂