Investigated – How do you define genres?

Posted September 29, 2014 by Emily in Investigated / 7 Comments


How do you define genres? This is a question I’ve been asking for a long time. To me, it’s complicated (and also why I tend not to state the genre of the book in its review…). To some other people, it’s as simple as the ABC’s. It’s just that are so many of them. There are the big genres and then the sub genres and then the sub genres of the sub genres. And surprisingly enough, even though there are “official definitions” for the genres, people tend to disagree whether a book falls in one genre or another. And then there are the times when the lines start to blur…

The Big Two

For the most part, these are really easy to tell apart. I mean, how hard can it be to see if a book is fiction or nonfiction? It’s either fact or made up… (Do you even count those as genres?)

Children, Middle School, Young Adult, New Adult, Adult

And here is where it starts to get tricky. To some people, in that list of five genres, only two of them belong – Children and Adult. But to other people, there are only three (the two just mentioned, plus YA). And then some other people think they all can be classified as sub genres! But wait, it gets even more complicated…

The Sub Genres of the Sub Genres

There are sooooo many sub genres that can fit into those five mentioned above, but because this is a YA blog, I’m going to focus on the sub genres of YA… Okay, there’s also the fact that I’ve only read one book that’s not YA this year so… Anyways, in YA we have Mystery, Thriller, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Contemporary, Historical, Steampunk, Romance, and I could probably go on and on. (There’s mythology and horror and blah, blah, blah and blah…)

More Sub Genres

Let’s see, in the genre for fantasy alone, there are tons of sub genres. There’s high fantasy, modern fantasy, dark fantasy, contemporary fantasy, science fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal… need I go on? And then there’s historical fiction which can be divided into sub genres by the era in which the book takes place. Is your head spinning yet?

Different & Similar Words, Similar Genres

For me, this one is by far the worst. Forget all the genres and the sub genres and their sub genres and the sub genres’ sub genres. What I hate the most is when people use different words to describe the same genre (or a similar one). For instance some people call contemporary novels realistic fiction novels. Then there’s the people who call paranormal novels supernatural, and supernatural novels fantasy. It makes me want to bang my head on my laptop multiple times.


Remember when I said the different words, same genre, category was the worst. Yeah, well I lied. I hate crossovers the most. It is the most confusing. Take If I Stay for example. Theoretically, it can be classified as a contemporary novel. Only one problem – Mia, the main character, has an out-of-body experience, a trait that is not associated with contempories, but with supernatural / fantasy (yeah, I confused myself typing up that last paragraph). But technically, because it contains supernatural elements, If I Stay cannot be classified as a contemporary. I’m sooooooooo confused (if you guys haven’t noticed already).

Help me out here.
What do you think?
How do you define genres?
Do you care about all the sub genres?
Or do you only focus on the “main” genre like fantasy?



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7 responses to “Investigated – How do you define genres?

  1. I define my reviews first into three big categories-Adult, Adult Non-Fiction, and then YA/NA/Children’s are lumped together. After that I keep things simple, giving each book one or two further labels, based on how I felt the book should be classified (going by how the book read for me). So for example-an adult fiction book written by Stephen King would be categorized just Horror (because that’s all he writes lol). A dark YA story about ghosts would by categorized YA/horror. Etc etc 🙂

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  2. I like to go by the main sub-genre first, and then think about the sub-genres under that later. I would think If I Stay is YA fiction, contemporary with a paranormal feature maybe? It isn’t as much paranormal as it is contemporary, normal life type book. But yes, the crossovers and genre name use does get confusing.

  3. Defining genres while reading YA is next to impossible – as your post implies. I recently (by recently, I mean the past half year) added genres to my reviews. I label more than one because SO many books crossover in to different genres and subjects. It’s easy to get less crazy about labeling once you realize you can – and let yourself – multi-label.

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    • I really hate defining the genres of books – that’s why I don’t do it on reviews. It’s just so confusing. But you’re right, once you get over the fact that books can fall into multiple genres, it’s a lot less stressful to define them.

      Thanks for stopping by Kaniesha! 🙂