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Authors helping writers > Define Young Adult

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message 1: by R. (new)

R. (rholland) | 18 comments Define Young Adult in your opinion. What crosses the line and what is just enough? I've found myself reading some excellent Young Adult books, but I would label them as New Adult. My neices are in middle school and high school and love to read. Their favorite is mystery. I would like to write for them one day but I'm struggling with the concept of what a young adult book really consists of. They tell me the books they read in the library have cursing but I still wouldn't recommend them a book with strong language, nor would I write one as such and give it to them. If anyone could clarify the definition of Young Adult, I would greatly appreciate it.


message 2: by Shay (new)

Shay Fowler | 27 comments My personal opinion is that YA is ages 16-19, but be aware that all teens will read it. I have noticed some strong language, but it should be limited to what's allowed on TV (damn, b*tch - personally, I wouldn't even use the second one). The sexuality needs to be discrete, if anything at all. If it's romantic YA and the characters do have relations, keep it behind closed doors (no details) and make sure that anyone doing 'it' are in a committed relationship.

Say what you will about the Twilight series, but the author was very aware of these things and worked hard to keep it appropriate for her younger audience. The main characters didn't have sex until they were married and she went into just enough detail to satisfy the reader without being obscene.

A good example of toned-down swearing is "The Christmas Story". It does have cursing, but it's not overdone. It flows so well with the story that many people don't even realize that there's any cursing in the movie at all. So only use it when necessary and aim to use the word that's least offensive when you do.

Hope this helps!


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

It's difficult to define. The New Adult genre has officially (from what I've read, anyway) become termed as college/romance -- as in it's heavy in the romance, and the characters are college aged, so mostly realistic fiction and romance sub-genres. That makes it hard to put, say, Science-Fiction in that category. Not that authors won't or haven't, but I think it fits a little better in Adult fiction, which has plenty of books with young protagonists, too, especially around that age.

I define Young Adult both by age, and by content. Age is less defining for me, because as I said, there are young protagonists in some Adult fiction, too, particularly the Speculative Fiction realm. But usually, a YA protagonist will be, as Shay said, 16-19, sometimes a little younger or older, depending. At the bookstores the ages seem to range like this: 9-12 = Middle Grade fiction, 12-15 = Teen fiction, 16-19 = YA, 19 and up = Adult (all New Adult, at the bookstore, is stocked in either YA or Adult Romance, from what I have seen). The adult books that have young protagonists often have content that is not suitable for YA or below. Such as a book I read for a book club about a 12-year-old who was quite perverse and sexual; partially because of how he was raised, and other factors. Interesting, but not appropriate for someone the age of 12.

Content would be the biggest judge, I think. I have seen some YA books with a bit risky sexual content and quite a bit of language (even the F word), but I personally think that's a little overboard. It's interesting to note that quite a few of these were written by authors who normally pen Adult PR. I think language should be kept to a realistic minimum, and shouldn't be overly crude. You don't want too much violence, of course, which is something people don't think about as much as the other two. And of course, you want sexual content to be very brief and non-descriptive, if you include it at all (I personally think if you're going to have your characters "together", it should be a cut-off scene for YA, but that's me; I'm a fan of more romantic romance, myself).

The biggest thing to keep in mind is your audience. Older teens are about to graduate and become adults, and they are well informed, but they're still kids in many ways, and are impressionable. You can make a story exciting and romantic, but think back to when you were a teen, because a teenager won't think like an adult will. Teenagers do stupid things, because they don't really know any better; it's that awkward stage, even for a protagonist who is smart and mature for their age. There are a lot of bad romances in YA books because they haven't discovered adult love yet, psychologically, and that can be either harmful reading or helpful (thus why Twilight looks completely different to me now that I'm older, verses when I first read it). So, I think it's very important to think about what you're presenting to your audience, so far as content, because you might be the only guidance this teen is getting. Authors shouldn't be parents, of course, but I believe if you write anything that is below adult fiction, you have a certain moral responsibility. I have to give the Twilight series props in that regard, so far as the settling down and waiting for marriage, to at least pose the idea that sex should be more than a pastime; what they do with it when they are older is up to them, but getting the wheels turning is good. I think it's good to read up on teen psychology if you're going to write YA, but then I love psychology.

Anyway, YA can be very fun to write. I've been penning it under the name Alexandra Lanc for about three years now. The most important thing to me is to keep writing interesting stories that say something, both to get my teen readers to think, and to challenge them. YA doesn't have to be filled with romance, and it doesn't have to be at high school, and there doesn't have to be cursing. Look at Harry Potter. The latter books can be considered YA, and sure there was some romance, but it wasn't the main plot. She pulled in things to get the teens to think, and I think it turned out fantastically, presenting them with moral dilemmas and pressing upon the importance of family.

If you want some good YA books to read, try these. They are some of my favorites, and may help you: Beastly, Impossible, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.

Oh, and if your nieces like mystery, can I suggest: A Study in Scarlet. :)

Don't be afraid to write YA! It's a journey, and it's fun, and it can inspire teens to read, and that is of course good. The main thing is: have fun with your story. Plus, if you have YA-aged people around who can read it, ask them to give you their input.


message 4: by D. (new)

D. Thrush My book "The Daughter Claus" would seem to fall into the YA genre in that the main character is a college age adult, there's a bit of romance but nothing more than a kiss, no cursing or violence and she's contemplating her future. But I don't want to market it as YA because there are a few scenes in which she and/or other characters drink and get a bit drunk. I don't necessarily portray this as bad behavior and actually use it for some humor. Otherwise, it'd fall into that category as one of the themes is empowerment and especially girl power. ~


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