Editorial: Is Ender’s Game a YA novel?

Earlier today the news reached me that NPR had cut Ender’s Game from the Best YA (Young Adult) Fiction Poll. The reason given on the NPR website reads:

“The judges cut Ender’s Game for the same reason — Ender himself is young, but the book’s violence isn’t appropriate for young readers.” The same reason cited was in reference to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and reads “Though the language was relatively simple, the themes were entirely adult.”

Although I have personally never considered Ender’s Game a YA (young adult) novel, having read many of the books on the list, it’s interesting that The Hunger Games (series), The Lord of The Rings and Twilight (series) make the list after this exclusion. Make of this what you will.

This news got me thinking, what is a YA novel and does Ender’s Game qualify as one? So I suppose we need to define what a YA novel is. I tried to find a definition from NPR and this is as close as I got:

“By general agreement, the YA years are 12 to 18. Our panel drew a very clear line between YA books and those they considered “mid-grade;” targeted to readers aged 10 to 12 […] There is, after all, no objective test for teen fiction…The judges looked at qualities such as a book’s themes, the age of its main characters, its reading level. But in the end, the most important test was often whether a given book is one that teens themselves have claimed — whether they do, in fact, voluntarily read it.”

So with no objective test they employed judges to cast the specter of their (less than objective) opinion on the matter. I kept looking and you wouldn’t believe it but I think I found an objective definition of what YA fiction is. I know it isn’t really the kind of place anyone looks for such definitions but it’s good old Wikipedia to the rescue, read the full entry here but I’ll just quote the first line. “Young-adult fiction or young adult literature (often abbreviated as YA), also juvenile fiction, is fiction written, published, or marketed to adolescents and young adults.” I’m not sure how hard NPR looked, but I’d suggest next time they try Wikipedia.

So using the above definition of YA fiction, does Ender’s Game qualify? The criteria are – written for, published, or marketed to young adults. Ender’s Game was not written for young adults, in the Introduction to Ender’s Shadow, Orson Scott Card writes ” For many years, I have gratefully watched as Ender’s Game has grown in popularity, especially among school-age readers. Though it was never intended as a young-adult novel, it has been embraced by many in that age group…” As Mr. Card says it wasn’t written as a YA novel so we can say no on the first  criteria. We can take the second and third criteria and look at them together. At the top of this post is the current cover on copies of Ender’s Game for sale in the UK, and it looks a lot like a YA cover to me. Also it is tagged as YA on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com, so that is a yes on the last criteria.

The point being, Ender’s Game wasn’t written as YA fiction, but it can be categorized as such, and I think that considering the books that make the grade, it is plain wrong for NPR to claim Ender’s Game is too violent to be placed in the poll. Have you read The Hunger Games? What do you think?


Editorial: Is Ender’s Game a YA novel? — 9 Comments

  1. Enders game reads more like a computer game that has consequences than the Hunger Games which is blantently children killing each other as entertainment. Not all books written about young people are for young people but when I read Ender’s Game I wish I’d discovered it 15 years earlier as I identified so much with Ender when I was the age he is in the book as an adult reader of YA fiction I would concider Ender’s Game a YA book.

  2. I think NPR was wrong to drop Ender’s Game. 
    They say that “in the end, the most important test was often whether a given book is one that teens themselves have claimed – whether, they do, in fact, voluntarily read it.” Does the past 27 years of being favored amongst many of the YA age group not prove how favored it is? Though, it not having meant to be written for YA it attracted them either way. By it’s story, characters, even its marketing (i.e. the many covers it has adapted through out the years). 
    Also, I think comparing EG with The Hunger Games is the most precise in this debate. What made NPR choose to drop EG and not THG? Personally, I believe, in the way NPR judges have considered, that THG should have been dropped as well. Now don’t get me wrong I am a HUGE fan of THG. Me saying this is to make a point. THG is at the same level as EG. Maybe even higher. Both books share a universal message. Both are unanimously favored in the YA age group (maybe one more than the other, but they stand in the top). They both consist of children under the age of 18. The main characters are children taking on roles that force them into a labor of adults and are stripped from their rights. THG has more violent and descriptive scenes in the arena than the battle room and the deaths of Stilson and Bonzo. I could go on but all this is already news.
    NPR claiming EG is too violent is a matter of an excuse. I don’t think EG should have been dropped. It is amongst the popular titles for YA Science Fiction, along with THG. It shares the same or less percentage of violence as does THG. NPR judges need to get a handle on their criteria because the disqualification of some novels don’t make sense. 

  3. Don’t get me wrong, I love the hunger games, but it is ten times more violent than Ender’s game. In ender’s game, 2 kids die (ok, and a few million buggers), but even though they describe th fight, they don’t get into detail about the way the body looked and  Ender NEVER actually contemplates killing a human being beforehand. There are also some other fights but no one is seriously injured. In the first book of the hunger games trilogy alone, twenty two children are killed, some of the deaths are described in detail. One of these is when a girl gets stung by genetically mutated wasps, her body is described as bloated and oozing green slime, the main character breaks thid girl’s fingers in order to get a bow, and her ribs to get an arrow. Later we find out that the girl didn’t look quite as bad, it was a terror induced hallucination. I’m not going to even begin with mockingjay, so many characters died that it was hard to keep track. Th point I’m trying to make is that compared to the hunger games Ender’s game is not violent at all. The Lord of the ring is also MUCH more scary and violent than all of the EG books together. |There is no way that Ender’s game is more violent than any of these books. It is an amazing story with an interesting plot, strong characters, great moral lessons and it inspires you to use your talent’s, to develop them and to be the best person you can be. I would recommend this to anyone who has the ability to read and understand, whether that person is twelve or thirty. I was fourteen when I first read it. I am now fifteen and I have reread it more times than I have cared to count. Ender’s game deserves this award and many more.

  4. The first time I read Ender’s game was when I was 15 or so and later found out some friends of mine were going to read it for their English class because it was part of the curriculum.. Sorry but that screams YA to me.

  5. I personally feel that enders game can be considered YA (as it will appeal to the younger ages, (school boy, battle school etc) the same as say harry potter appeals to the youger people), athough i would say the whole ender saga isnt YA as it tackles some difficult topics (genecide etc). I read them all when i was 13-15 and again more recently when i was younger i found EG was my favourite. Now i like the later ones. I think different age groups will get different things from it which makes it great becasue every time i reread the saga i get something different from it.

  6. In my opinion, Ender’s game as a stand alone book could be considered a young adult novel. However, the series as a whole is more mature than the first book. For example, a few years ago when I was in middle school, I read EG and was looking for the sequels, but the librarian told me that the books were too mature for the middle school level (I ended up getting the majority of them elsewhere). The Ender/Shadow series is an incredible collection of books, but they are, as Mr. Card himself puts it, “It was never intended to be a young adult novel”.

  7. I agree that the violence aspect is equal to many other books under the YA category, my only problem with the book being read by 12 and 13 year olds is the bad language and several racial references. My son was recommended the book (11 going on 12) by a friend of mine who is a huge fan. I always read my son’s books first, however juvenile they are, so I know what he’s reading and we can discuss it after he is finished any book. During this entire book (which I personally, as an adult, thoroughly enjoyed) I had to keep asking myself who was the intended target audience. Yes the main character is 6 starting out but would it be ok for a 6 year old to read this? No. So it was confusing to me as to whom the author was trying to reach. Adults? Teens? Or kids the same age as the characters.
    It is a good book, but Hunger Games, Twilight, etc do not seem to have as much harsh language and I was surprised that the N word was used at all. My son has no idea what the word means. I guess eventually he will hear it and ask about it but I’m on the fence of whether it would be ok for him to read this book. If I do allow him to read, our discussions about it will be much more in depth than any other book he’s read.
    I think every kid is different and it’s just up to the parents to decide if their kid is mature enough to understand the moral of the story. But I absolutely recommend parents to read first before making the decision. This goes for the other books like Hunger Games and the Twilight series as well. I wish my parents had read Lord of the Flies along with me when I was younger so as to get their thoughts and guidance. That book is as disturbing as any of these other controversial books in today’s media.

  8. I never thought of Ender’s Game as anything but a Science Fiction novel. Of course, I didn’t read it until I was an adult, but I did read a lot of Science Fiction novels oriented toward teenagers when (and before) I was one (Heinlein in particular), and Ender’s Game is simply in a different category, in my opinion.
    As to violence, yes, The Hunger Games is more violent. However, the reason cited is “adult themes”, not “violence”. Part of this may be the political situation and Ender’s siblings’ actions. Part of this is the moral issue of Ender being deceived into committing xenocide by being told he is just playing a training game.
    The film focuses on Ender and ignores the politics (thus, his parents got permission for a third child in the film; perhaps I haven’t read the book for too long, but I seem to recall that Ender was, in fact, illegal but tolerated because the Fleet wanted to see if he could be useful), but not the moral issue, so it looks a lot more like a YA story than the book does.

  9. So the author of this article is using the fact that the most recent version of the cover “looks” YA as evidence that the book qualifies as YA? *sigh* and people get paid for this?

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