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What is genre?

January 12, 2012

You’ve just read a novel with a 17 year-old heroine, characters that transform into coyotes, and a dreamy, forbidden love interest for the leading lady.

What genre is it? Young Adult? No.  Romance? Yes  Paranormal? Yes >> It’s a paranormal romance, written for a young adult audience.

Definition of GENRE (from Merriam-Webster)


\ˈzhän-rə, ˈzhäⁿ-; ˈzhäⁿr; ˈjän-rə\


: a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content

It’s common to see Young Adult listed as a genre, but YA is actually a category describing a book’s target audience.

Young Adult (YA), Middle-Grade (MG), Picture Book (PB) = Categories used to describe target audience

The key to understanding what genre means is remembering that books in the same genre have a common thread in setting or plot. In book stores and libraries, books for teens and younger are sometimes grouped only by target audience/age range, but think of it this way: if that YA novel was written for adults, in what section of the book store would it be found? That’s the genre.

Romance, Sci-fi, Mystery, Fantasy, Horror, Dystopian, Western, Realistic, Christian, Historical, Humorous = examples of genre

There are also many sub-genres within genres (for example, “steampunk” and “cyberpunk”are two of the sub-genres of sci-fi).

Books with intersecting genres and/or more descriptive sub-genres are common:  Paranormal Romance, Historical Fantasy, Christian Sci-fi, Contemporary Realistic, Steampunk, Western Romance…

Examples of MG/YA books in popular genres/sub-genres:

MG Contemporary Realistic: The Lemonade Wars by Jacqueline Davies, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer, Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

MG Fantasy: Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer

YA Contemporary Realistic: The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney, Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

YA Dystopian: Matched trilogy by Ally Condie, XVI by Julia Karr, Divergent by Veronica Roth

YA Paranormal Romance: Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, The Hollow trilogy by Jessica Verday

YA Steampunk: The Clockwork Giant by Brooke Johnson

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at this great YouTube video of books dancing after the shop is closed up for the night: The Joy of Books

Happy reading/writing, book lovers!

From → On Writing

  1. And then there’s that rarest of all, a book that transcends all genres.
    It’s a picture book, art book, fantasy magical realism for all ages.

    Enjoyed your post.

  2. Your personal posting, “What is genre? Jessica Shaw” was
    worth writing a comment here! Basically needed to state u did a great job.
    Many thanks -Gita

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  1. Genres made easy! I think… « Forgotten Realms Queen

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