I know there is, or has been a whole, brouhaha about young adult, and new adult. Lots of smart people have opined. And what I can tell you is that for me, ignorance is pretty much bliss. Except that sometimes there are weird reading issues that make me think, "Huh. Should I read up on that distinction?"
I read a strange and funny book that had me thinking about the divisions between (among?) parents and teenagers and young adults etc etc. It is this:
It's the story of Joon, who leaves home at 13 and basically bumps along the bottom of the world for a few years before saving herself, or being saved, at 18. It is very funny, and completely terrifying to any parent, and you will start it and then be done three days later in the sort of hazy, blinking confusion that happens when you emerge from being fully immersed in something.
It's not a book for kids—or at least, it's not presented that way. (It's probably best described as literary fiction, except that genre names, including that one, have been making me want to throw up lately.) And I am perfectly happy to have my girls move happily along through life unaware that there are 13-year-old girls on the streets being abused and beaten, turning to drugs—all of that. Not that they are in the same position as the narrator. Just…I don't know, there is something about the simultaneous wish to identify with others, that is coupled with the desire to erase even the possibility of such identification. I suppose this is the same old knowledge that your kids are part of the world, and the unwillingness to accept that as they become ever more part of that world (which happens day by day from freaking birth) they are subject to its sadnesses and horrors.
All of this blathering is doing quite the huge disservice to the book, which doesn't attempt to say anything like, "But this could have happened to YOU!" and is instead a very funny (really) wry take on what happened to the narrator, the people, and the life she witnessed, a world that exists along with all the other ones we look at. Maybe Denis Johnson as a 13-year-old Korean runaway? Except that I stole the Denis Johnson idea from Strider, and there is surely a terrible fate waiting for all those who talk about authors as though you can recombine them foods.
Anyway, would I give this to a teenager who was not my kid? An older kid maybe? Sure, I might. I would probably preface it with, "This is pretty harsh, a lot of bad things happen to this girl," and then probably the kid would read it and ignore all of that and just say, "Wow, you know that book was pretty awesome."