A few thoughts on the YA/RITA debacle…

…because it annoys me, and probably not for the reason you might think.

For the past few years, ever since Young Adult fiction became the juggernaut that it is, the RITA awards – the annual awards belonging to the RWA; the Romance Writers of America – have had a YA category.

This year, there won’t be a YA category, because there haven’t been enough entries received, and so not enough competition to continue that category of the contest. At least 5% of the entries overall have to be YA entries, or so I understand, and this year they’re not.

Naturally, a lot of people – the ones who entered the YA category – are upset.

I’m annoyed.

Here’s why: The RITAs are, by definition, romance novel awards. They’re given out by the Romance Writers of America. The Romance Writers of America require the books entered in the RITAs to be romances. I’ve never entered the RITAs, because I don’t – generally speaking – write romance. (The one book I tried to enter – Fortune’s Hero, last year – didn’t make it into the contest at all, because I hadn’t signed up to judge. But that’s a beef for another day.)

If a book isn’t a romance, it has no place in the RITAs.

If it is a romance – whether the protagonists are 16, 26, 36 or 46 – it qualifies. Or should.

I don’t see why YA should be its own genre. YA isn’t a genre. There are YA romances, YA mysteries, YA science fiction, YA thrillers… just as there are adult romances, mysteries, science fiction and thrillers.

And of those, only the romances belong in the RITA contest.

So I don’t see any reason why an author with a YA romance about vampires couldn’t enter that romance in the paranormal category, and an author with a contemporary YA romance couldn’t enter it in the contemporary category, and an author with a romance set during WWII featuring two teenagers couldn’t enter it in the historical category.

Because from where I’m sitting, that’s where it would belong.