shadows on the wall writers discussion

what makes a book YA?

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message 1: by Kari (new)

Kari | 9 comments Mod
hey there,
I just finished reading a book called Saving Francesca. Debbie loaned it to me (thanks Debbie). Her comment was that she didn't think it should be classified at YA just because it has a teenaged protagonist. I do think this one should be, because not only the characters and issues, but also the locations, events and themes are teenage related. But this made me think about what makes a book a YA book. Any thoughts?

message 2: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Gascoyne (intertext) | 4 comments Just want to jump in here, Kari, and say that you're misquoting me :) I didn't say that Saving Francesca shouldn't be classified as YA - I actually agree with you about that one. I was talking about The Piper's Son, which I think is arbitrarily marketed as a YA because it's vaguely a sequel to Saving Francesca. Looking at why I differentiate the two might help answer your question, though.

SF has teenaged protagonists, is mostly set at a high school and in family homes and although the main underlying topic - depression - could be one that applied to anyone, it's really the way that it affects a girl of that age that is the focus of the book.

However, PS, although the title character is university aged (and does YA end with graduation from high school? or university?), has two viewpoint characters - the other is a woman in her mid to late thirties pregnant after a "fling" with an ex-lover. The circle of friends that we saw in high school in SF, is all now at or heading to Uni. The characters indulge in casual sex and drug taking, and there's no "message" attached - it's not that these activities are shown to have no consequences, but the consequences are incidental. These behaviors are part of life, not "lessons" to be learned. The novel is "about" family and relationships, but primarily "about" grief and the way that it can tear apart even the closest families and best friendships. Marchetta shows this through every member of the family, not just the young-ish protagonist, Tom, though he is the focus.

I think my main point in our conversation is that these dividing lines are blurry and arbitrary and really more marketing tools than anything. I read YA novels, but a lot of people my age do not, and that's unfortunate. I know you said that having something labelled YA could be "good" for it in terms of marketing ... but. I think of Jonathan Frantzen not wanting his novel to be one of Oprah's Choices...

message 3: by Alex (new)

Alex Tol (alexvantol) | 4 comments I think YA extends to and includes university aged kids. Not a lot of adults will read that unless it's "Can Lit" or literature vs pulp fiction. Like Lullabies for Little Criminals, right?

I do agree that a lot of YA is labelled as such for the purposes of making more sales.

This Piper's Son sounds like a good read.

message 4: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Gascoyne (intertext) | 4 comments It is excellent - highly recommended.

message 5: by Laurie (new)

Laurie (laurieelmquist) | 2 comments Hi Everyone,

Good question and I've enjoyed the discussion so far. I'm very new to it and have not read widely but my simple definition so far is that YA novels focus on the life of the YA protagonist/narrator, whereas adult novels focus on adults. So even though Lives of Girls and Women has a young narrator and there are many things about Del as she's growing into womanhood, often the camera is focused on the adults around her, especially in the early part of the novel when she's a child. Then when it starts being more about her, it's because she's facing adult situations like falling in love. So, it falls into adult literature, for me.


message 6: by Kari (new)

Kari | 9 comments Mod
Sorry for misquoting you Debbie--I misunderstood.
I'm asking this question because I've written a MS and I'm not sure if it falls under YA. I think it does-but I wanted to get some perspectives on that. I think I agree with what everyone's saying about what makes it YA--the camera lens focuses on the young person and their life.

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