I’ve noticed a tendency for novels to be divided and then subdivided and then further fragmented into smaller and smaller categories, either by anticipated reader age groups or by some other demographic or other subgroup.
I can understand dividing books into children’s books and even novels for teens (together these were called juvenile fiction, although picture books were separated from chapter books), but now we have middle grade, young adult, and new adult—and then within these new categories, like LGBT and Multi-Cultural, or Women’s fiction, or fiction written by narrowly-defined demographic groups, etc. I see this trend “progressing”. Apparently literature can only be compared with literature from ever narrowing categories, and people are being encouraged to further isolate their reading experiences. I’ve noticed this trend (good or bad) when reviewing writing awards especially, as ever more awards are spawned for very narrow bandwidth writing.
Yes, it helps to know if the book I am looking for is science fiction or supernatural or just about plain human experiences. But from my perspective good literature is good literature. I don’t remember Jules Verne, or Jane Austen being parsed only for specific readers, and I think we’re all the better for it. Of course we have seen an explosion of books published, and it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, but good stories—good novels—still share common things:
• Credible characters—sympathetic protagonists and believable antagonists
• A strong plot with a consistent voice that carries the reader forward
• Good narrative writing and non-stilted dialog
A good book is still a good book and creating a tiny category of fiction will not turn a poorly written book with a weak plot and cardboard characters into a good book.