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The Problem With “Young Adult”

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am really frustrated by the category Young Adult, aka YA, in fiction. I swear, if you ask ten different people to define “young adult” you get ten different answers.

The basis is usually the same and the actual definition is that the story must appeal to a teenage audience and be marketed towards them. But then things diverge quickly from there. Some people claim that the main characters themselves must been teenagers (i.e. Young Adults). Some people claim that the characters don’t need to teenagers, but that they must deal with the problems teens face. Some claim that it is ONLY a distinction in how the book is marketed, i.e. to Young Adults as previously stated. Some people even claim that a story being written in cinema style third person omniscient POV makes a story YA.

With all these varying, and highly personal, definitions floating around, what’s a writer to do? Especially when hunting for a literary agent or a publisher and we see that they want “YA” fiction? Already I have been warned by some author friends of mine that agents have very differening views of what “YA” means, and even though they put it in their profiles it doesn’t mean that they have the same definition as you or anyone else.

Well, first of all, we can research their recent works they have published to figure out what they think YA means. Even that however is not a fool proof way of determining such however.

Look, when I was a teenager I was reading the original Dragonlance trilogy. Would that be considered Young Adult today? I also read stories like The Misenchanted Sword. Again YA today by industry standards? I would say they are both YA for boys, but not likely for the vast majority of girls. So, do they count?

Honestly, I think any sort of fantasy or sci-fi that is not heavy fantasy or heavy sci-fi (think Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or Lord of the Rings) is young adult by nature. Or, at least, young adult when it comes to boys. That’s the stuff we guys like from a young age.

I think that my novel Under the Darkened Moon appeals to young adults (again, probably most YA boys), but some have warned against making that leap. I think the naysayers are wrong. But they are still valuable opinions to collect. I know if I were a teenager again it would certainly interest in it. But, then again, what do I know?

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