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Cross – what?

Gretchen, Stop Trying To Make Fetch Happen.

The beauty of that quote is it can apply to so many things.

Kelly at Stacked has a longish post with Some thoughts on “new adult” and also “cross-unders”. As Kelly explains, the Atlantic really, really likes the term “cross unders”; they themselves say it’s the term they prefer for when an adult reads young adult books. Here is the post where the Atlantic explains the term they really, really like.

Kelly, talking about the term, says “Because “cross-unders” is the precise term for an idea that exists but it is being used as a way of being different when it’s actually a way of talking about an idea that already does exist. In other words, “cross unders” is a way to describe books that have cross over appeal to readers. Is this semantics? You bet. But there is a huge difference in what a cross over sounds like than what a cross under sounds like. The first sounds like a bridge, whereas the second necessarily places a judgment on the literature. Cross over appeal is a phrase used to describe books that are published for one market but will appeal to readers in another. Cross under, on the other hand, is being framed by The Atlantic (and yes, they are the only source using this term) as a way to describe books published for the teen market but that appeal to adult readers. In other words, these are books that grown ups have permission to read, even though they’re not meant for grown ups.”

I really, really don’t like the term “cross under.” I agree with Kelly that the term has judgment; if I cross “over” to a book, there is equality. If I go “under,” I’m going beneath myself.

So, what do you think?

When adults are reading young adult books, is it:

a. cross over?

b. cross under?

c. just reading, what’s with the labels?

To make it even more simple, I set up a Survey Monkey so either leave your response here in the comments or click here to answer the survey.

About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is


  1. Almost as if in direct conversation with my post, the same day they write about Twilight and in that article, say that “cross under” is the term THEY prefer. Because THEY ARE the only ones using it.

    I’m curious what the results will look like to this survey.

  2. I would like to say right now that I’m tired of labels. Books is books is books. And a good story is good no matter what age it was “meant” for. Period.

    That is all.

  3. I answered the survey but I will admit my answer to pretty much everything is “what’s with the labels?” We spend so much time trying to put everything in pretty little neatly labeled boxes. Just enjoy it all. Read what you want to read, watch what you want to watch, do you what you want to do and call it something if you feel like it but it is up to you.

  4. While I get that talking down about what people are reading is bad all around, I guess I just see this term being only discussed by the Atlantic and then fading away. To me, people who aren’t really involved in an online environment surrounding books rarely if ever know of these terms to begin with. I know as a librarian or a general reader discussing books with my friends, would never use this term. The Atlantic likes to make a “big” deal about nothing just to get people’s goat it seems like.

  5. “Mr Earbrass can only assume that the apathy of the lower figures is due to their having been deprived of novels.”

    I have always kinda thought that “grownup” readers who “discover” teen fiction (or children’s fiction) didn’t read these books as teens (or children). Otherwise it would not come as a big revelation that they’re great books, or when less than great literature, supremely readable. Some of us never STOPPED reading them.

    The Once & Future King – The Lord of the Rings – To Kill a Mockingbird – Crossover? Cross under? discuss. Just kidding.

  6. Kelly, it’ll be interesting to see if they keep using if, even if they are the only one.

    Melissa, true that.

    Stephanie, yes, just enjoy it.

    Sarah, most people in the survey say (so far) just call it reading, no labels or shorthand. I tend to agree / hope that this won’t go beyond one publication, but we’ll see.

    e wein, yes! cross over, above, under, back, forth — uhg.

  7. so far, the results of the poll: 23.1% say cross over; none say cross under; and 79.5 % say just reading.

  8. It’s just reading. :) Crossover is fine – that applies to any book/movie/story/song/anything that reaches more than just its target market/audience/genre.

    Cross under sounds condescending.


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