I have a few questions about YA. Of course, I am talking “Young Adult Fiction”, not Yearly Allotment or Yesterday’s Anger.
But just what is meant by “Young Adult”?
I remember a college student being angry because they enjoyed YA but most of the books they had read recently seemed to be aimed squarely at 12 year olds. What in the world is adult about a 12 year old? Not a thing. Technically, if we look at the world and society, a 21 year old IS a young adult, a 12 year old isn’t!
But the definition I see is “Fiction written for ages between 12 and 18”. If you have ever talked to a 12 year old and an 18 year old, they are very, very different beasts.
I did see one definition that called it between 13 and 18 (in the US that is 7th grade through graduating high school), which I like better, but I am going to say high school age. We can stretch it to Jr. High, but the difference between what a 7th grader reads and a sophomore in high school reads is much much larger than between a high school freshman and a high school senior. Same number of years between, but what a difference those two years makes!
Just as an example – as a 7th grader I was reading The Hobbit, Ursula Le Guin’s Earth Sea trilogy and such. By my freshman year in high school I was reading The Lord of the Rings, Le Morte d’Arthur and Dune. By my senior, it was Stephan King, Shakespeare and The Silmarillion.
As you can see, to me Tolkien is the perfect YA…
I have read books marketed as YA and felt they were too simplified. I think they were going directly towards that 12 year old end of the market, not the 18 year old. Even there, The Chronicles of Prydain, aimed at 9 to 11 year olds, is much more mature than a huge amount of the YA I’ve read.
The style of so many of these books seems, “I am writing for kids and need to write in a style kids can identify with! It isn’t really me, but I am 100% sure it is them!” With so many YA books I can tell it is YA by the third paragraph because the author seems to be writing in YA mode. OK, maybe I just don’t get it and the kids do love everything super simplified and spoon-fed with easy words and such. As I kid I hated that stuff with a passion and I still do.
And what is with the stupid cliches in about every modern YA book I read? Oh poor misunderstood rich, talented, good looking, super intelligent, magical protagonist! Give me a freakin’ break! I hated that stuff when I was a kid. Maybe a little, sure, all kids feel misunderstood, but piled on so high feels idiotic to me.
OK, so to me YA is a book that has a teen as the protagonist. There should be some element of self-discovery in it. There should not be graphic sex (or really any sex at all), but exploring the awakening of sexuality and personal sexual feelings is OK as that is a normal part of being a teen. Just don’t talk body parts or actions. Graphic violence should be scaled back as well. There should be some of the feelings and things kids feel, but not piled on too thick.
And there should be growth.
Sounds right, right? Or correct, right? Hmm…
Anyway, I have an idea for a book with a teen protagonist. It is a journey of self discovery. There is a lot of growth in that protagonist. There will be no sex and the violence will not be too graphic. There is no alcohol. A “witch” gives a drug that heals, but no modern drug use (it is a fantasy).
So I can write a YA book, right?
Well, I want to write this exactly as I would write an adult book. I want to use the same words, the same style, the same everything. There will be complex sentences, hard words, complex ideas, etc. But simple places as well. I do not want to write to kids, I want to write to me.
So, can I call such a book “YA”? Do I have to write YA in “YA-mode”?
What do you think? Can I write a book that by content is 100% YA but by style is an adult book? Can I call that book YA?