Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What makes a novel YA?

With the relocation of the Young Adult section from the back to the front of many bookstores, I find myself wondering what exactly it is that makes a book YA. I have been told by not a few people to not be surprised if a publisher wants to turn my novel YA. What does that mean exactly? Yes, my two main protagonists are under 18, but I wrote my book for adults. In researching the meaning of YA, I came across this on Wikipedia:

Young-adult fiction or young adult literature (often abbreviated as YA),[1][2] also juvenile fiction, is fiction written, published, or marketed to adolescents and young adults. The Young Adult Library Services (YALSA) of the American Library Association (ALA) defines a young adult as someone between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Authors and readers of young adult (YA) novels often define the genre as literature as traditionally written for ages ranging from twelve years up to the age of eighteen, while some publishers may market young adult literature to as low as age ten or as high as age twenty-five[3]. The terms young-adult novel, juvenile novel, young-adult book, etc. refer to the works in the YA category.

The subject matter and story lines of YA literature are typically consistent with the age and experience of the main character, but, beyond that, YA stories span the spectrum of fiction genres. Themes in YA stories often focus on the challenges of youth, sometimes referred to as problem novels or coming-of-age novels.[4] Writing styles of YA stories range widely, from the richness of literary style to the clarity and speed of the unobtrusive and free verse.


I can honestly say that this didn't tell me a whole lot. So is YA simply having young characters? Though the protagonists are under 18, the antagonist in my novel is very much an adult and rules by fear and domination, be it sexual, physical, or mental. Am I the only one that feels like this is inappropriate for young adult readers? I know I have many bloggy friends who write for the YA genre specifically and I would love to get your opinion. 

Is any topic appropriate for YA as long as the characters are young? Are you hurting yourself by insisting on publishing adult? Are morals really this lost in today's culture?

12 comments:

  1. I'm in the same boat. My characters are 17 and 18. And while I wrote it for adults, I have PG sex scenes and violence, I have a feeling it will get into the hands of 16 and 17 year olds. I think YA is just really popular right now because of Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games. It's a fad that I think will fade.

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  2. I think it'd be a HARD sell to try and convince an agent/publisher that your book wasn't YA with a teenage protagonist... and as far as edginess goes, I'd think you'd be surprised what is okay... I know *I* wouldn't be okay with teens reading certain things, but the world is different. This is a pickle! <---Did I just say that? LOL. My advice would be to make the protagonist 20 and just have it be adult--but it sounds like there's a big purpose to having them be teens... or keep things as is and to just not go off into the details of things. The harsh story line can still be told and things can still be understood without spelling everything out. Also, I've read loads of adult books where the MC starts out in their teens to bring a certain story line across, only to jump a couple years later. Not knowing your story, none of these options might not work!

    Oh man!

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    1. One of them will be 20 by the time the 3rd book is written. I have made sure to only give as little specific details about the moments in question without losing the trauma of them. I try to focus more on what my MC's are experiencing than on what they are doing. Unfortunately, their childhoods and the fact that they survive them is a major part of the story!

      What can I say...I love pickles!!! *wink*

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  3. I feel the same way. On the one hand, my characters are under 18. But on the other hand, the content would probably be better suited for people over twenty. So I just don't know...

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  4. So true. I have a book that I've gone back and forth on because the MC is a teen but faces really adult situations that I wouldn't want teens to read about BUT they are situations teens deal with. It's a conflict btwn my mother and author selves!

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  5. Ah... defining YA is such a slippery slope. The beauty of YA is that it is so flexible, as a genre. You know what your characters go through and what you're willing to let go of to get to a publishable manuscript... If you're pitching the situations/plot and not the age of your MC, you may be able to convince an agent that your manuscript IS adult, and not YA. But like @Morgan says... the "appropriate" line is not a good gauge... what you deem appropriate may not be what the market deems appropriate.

    When it comes down to it, as a published author you want to market your book where it will sell...

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  6. Love your blog and I’m passing my Versatile Blogger Award on to you. You can find more details on my website at http://whenkateblogs.blogspot.com/
    Congratulations and don’t forget to pass the award on to 15 more versatile bloggers!

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    1. You are too fabulous! This is my very first bloggy award!

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