CSFF Blog Tour: Someone’s Got to Label

There’s been a lot of variation in how The Wolf of Tebron is classified. I’ve seen it labeled Children’s, Adult, and Youth; I’ve read reviewers say it was above children and even above teens. I’ve read that it’s good for some teens, good for young adults and up, and good for everyone.

Who is responsible for all this confusion? The publisher, first of all. If they had just told us who the book was good for – if they had printed “Adult’ or “Youth” or “Children” on the cover – we’d have repeated it. Instead, they checked “All of the above.” The book’s back cover assures us that it “will delight readers of any age”.

Obviously, they don’t want to be stuck marketing The Wolf of Tebron to one age group. Some people did agree – and say – that the book is for everyone. But the cumulative effect of the publisher giving it no label was to scatter everyone to the four winds, trying to label it themselves.

I said that the confusion is due first to the publisher. It’s due second to the book itself. If The Wolf of Tebron were made definitively for any age group – think Sesame Street or John Grisham – no one would try to sell it to all of them.

That being said, The Wolf of Tebron is plainly not for children. It has themes of marital jealousy and betrayal, of uncontrolled rage and nearly suicidal despair. Intellectually, it’s also rather heavy for children. All the quotations from Nietzsche, Lewis, and Chesterton are meant for an older crowd.

Nor does the novel bear many of the hallmarks of YA fiction. It is not a coming-of-age story, it does not feature the problems of youth, and its protagonist is not an adolescent. Joran is a young man, but he is a man, with a wife, a house, and a career. (Also, at one point, an impressive beard.) The one trait it does share with YA books is its length: only 272 pages.

The Wolf of Tebron is written above children, and it does not have the most distinguishing features of YA novels. Still, those who label it as a young adult book, and even a children’s book, have their reasons. The book is short, has a limited cast of characters, and a relatively straightforward plot. It’s sold as a fairytale – a term most commonly used for Disney movies. And it is written – and advertised – as continuing in the tradition of a children’s classic.

Finally, there is the publisher’s decision to market The Wolf of Tebron to all ages, but that brings us back to the beginning.