Borderline YA

This has been bothering me quite a lot lately: who will read my work? The usual answer was 'me', but that sounded rather selfish. But who are those other guys then?

What I am working on is clearly not a children's book, but I find it hard to pinpoint if this is adult fiction or YA...

Let's turn to Wikipedia first for some definitions, shall we?

YA: Young adult fiction or young adult literature, often abbreviated as YA, is fiction written, published, or marketed to adolescents and young adults. The Young Adult Library Services Association (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 teen (YA) novels often define the category as literature traditionally written for ages ranging from sixteen years to the early twenties, while Teen Adult Fiction is written for the ages of ten to fifteen. 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 YA literature spans the spectrum of fiction genres. YA stories that focus on the specific challenges of youth are sometimes referred to as problem novels or coming-of-age novels.

After reading this, I got confused by the name. 'Young adult' sounds to me like someone who already is an adult - just a young one (so age roughly between 18 and 25), so why some guys put much younger people into this category is not clear to me. Oh well.

I guess adult fiction speaks for itself: that's for adults. But what is the difference between stuff written for an adolescent and for an adult? Does the writing style change? The subject? Something else?

I bumped into numerous blog posts discussing this. A short summary of my findings:

  • YA tends to be shorter (50 to 90k, as opposed to 100+k for adults).

  • Pacing is quicker.

  • plots are not that complex or numerous.

  • the main character is usually someone who is an adolescent too.

  • It's often written from a first person perspective, or third person that gets really close to the main character.

The thing that popped up the most was this: adolescents see the world differently than adults. It's much more of an adventure, since they'll have to do things for the first time, discover who they are and what their place is in the world. The wonderful coming-of-age story, basically. That comes with a lot of self-doubt and a great focus on personal emotions. Things are more extreme: what feels unimportant for an adult might mean the world for someone suffering from this thing called puberty. YA is written from such a mindset and therefore often follows the main character very closely. You are not reading about a teenager, but it is written in such a way you feel like you are one!

Oh, and then there is this last thing: 'nasty stuff' like cursing and sexuality. Sure, teenagers might look at that in a different way than adults, but there are also some parents who just do not like it if their kid reads graphic descriptions or adds some obscene stuff to his vocabulary. I'm glad my parents were not like that: I was happily reading adult stuff in my teenage years. I don't know how far you can go with the nasty stuff before you fall off the 'YA only' bookshelves. I thought 'the Hunger Games' went pretty far, but apparently that still counts as YA. If someone knows the answer: feel free to inform me!

Anyway, still sounds like a rather clear difference, right?

Ehh... Not always, which is where my problem emerges. My story is intended for adults. It's long, it takes time for things to unfold, some themes are really meant for adults only and there are a lot of plots. Complicated and 'nasty stuff', so therefore adult fiction. However, there are some things that makes me doubt it. Let's start with the POV I use: I like to dig into the minds of my characters as much as possible. That's something that is used a lot in YA, but is not reserved to it. It starts to become more YA when I add the mindset of the POV character to it. What if the adult is going through some serious self-doubt, not knowing who he is and what he wants to be? That's a YA theme. My characters go through such moments often. It makes my writing look like it was meant for a younger group of people.

Then there is the problem of having multiple main characters. Not all of them are adults. Lienne is a girl who wants to grow up, but is not doing that very well and therefore has some serious problems with her self-esteem. Khorrek is grown up on paper, but yeah, that's pretty much it. Both of them will tell a coming-of-age story and I think younger readers will like that a lot. However, the other characters (even though they might have the insecure moments mentioned above) deal with adult problems. In what category does that put me? Should I focus more on one?

Maybe I should just go for the thing in between: readers that are grown up, but still young enough to act childish (and probably get away with it too). Students, basically. Or real-life Khorreks.

Further reading:

#YA #adultfiction #youngadult #literature #questions #targetaudience #age #reader

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