What The Hell Is YA?

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young-adult_fiction) defines YA as the following:

“Young-adult fiction or young adult literature (often abbreviated as YA),[1] also juvenile fiction, is fiction written, published, or marketed to adolescents and young adults, although recent studies show that 55% of young-adult fiction is purchased by readers over 18 years of age.[2] 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 adult (YA) novels often define the genre as literature as traditionally written for ages ranging from twelve years up to the age of eighteen, while some publishers may market young adult literature to as low as age ten or as high as age twenty-five.[3] The terms young-adult novel, juvenile novel, young-adult book, etc. refer to the works in the YA category”

 So what exactly is YA?   Should I be writing for this market, which seems to dominate many categories or other genres or is this just a marketing gimmick? What distinguishes this genre from other categories?  When I was in this age category I read grown up fiction to prove I was an adult.  Children’s books consisted of Enid Blyton and the classics of Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island and Kidnapped.  I also read The Hobbit.  I have of course read as an adult the Harry Potter series with my own children but also for myself.  Being from the Neolithic age pre-Internet, I regard all these stories as children’s books.  Classic books were what we studied at school in English classes, I love Shakespeare, I have read Jane Austin, some Dickens, are these YA?  Do I have to reclassify Romeo and Juliet as a YA targeted story?  So maybe it’s my upbringing and age that causes my confusion and I am back to what exactly is this genre.  I browsed the list of books on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/list/tag/young-adult and I am none the wiser.  There were 549 group discussions tagged as YA on Goodreads, but the definition still escapes me.  I certainly do not wish to offend any of the clearly millions of YA readers or the thousands of YA Authors.  So what is it that distinguishes this category?

Adult themes appear such as abuse, despair, and the struggles of modern or historical life.  There are fantasy and Sci Fi stories, YA Romance, thrillers, short and long books.  So is it the content I should look at or the language used.  There may be non-explicit sex and violence, but many traditional genre books hold back from one or more of these.  Relationships may not be consummated in YA, but Romance genre has lots of looking and gazing and very little actual sex.  Is it the literary complexity of the language that dictates a YA novel or just the absence of swearing?  One forum discussed the use of YA lead characters in the story as a guide, but that doesn’t seem to hold true for all the stories.  If I read a Sci Fi novel about teenagers fighting off werewolves is it YA, Sci-Fi, Horror, Fantasy, or a romance because one character dreams of kissing another?

My books tend to have fairly robust, some would say explicit, sex and violence and some swearing, does that mean they cannot be considered as YA?  My second book To The Survivors has several YA age group characters.  Is Lord of the Flies a YA novel?  Who decided that this category even exists?

I turn to the marketing industry for guidance, and I am even more lost by tweens, teens, YA.  They separate the three as individual target audiences.  As adulthood is a cultural and legal definition, is a sixteen year old, a YA, a teenager, or a child?  As a sixteen year old I positively avoided reading anything labelled as for a teenager, or a child.  I wanted to be treated and saw myself as an adult, I read newspapers and adult fiction.  I read Heinlein, Asimov, Silverberg and Clarke in Sci Fi.  I read Heller and Updike, but added Le Carre and Deighton, whilst at school we had more Shakespeare to name just a few.   I also read Lady Chatterley’s Lover and other D H Lawrence books and I sneaked in to watch the 18 rated films until they came on TV.  I craved adult content that dealt with sex and violence not some pastiche of a 1950’s Hollywood movie where Rock Hudson and Doris Day are married but sleep in separate beds wearing more clothes than the did in the day time for fear of falling foul of the censors.

So is YA another form of censorship?  The US TV market (excluding cable), gives us a guide, no sex, no swearing but endless violence is fine.  Twilight the books and movies have chaste kisses and dreamy looks whilst violence and death surround the protagonists.  Is this YA?  If it is, then no thanks.  If I ever write a children’s story it will not have sex, violence or swearing.  My other fiction will be written for…. Well I suppose I am writing for me.  I have blogged previously on this subject https://phenweb.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/how-far-should-i-go/ so I’ll try not to repeat myself.  For the YA market, I think if you are a YA then you will like my books because they feature adult themes, but they are not in YA.

I’m not in YA, I don’t understand the category maybe someone else can explain the definition of this alleged genre to me.

4 thoughts on “What The Hell Is YA?

  1. Pingback: YA | A Dreamer's Paradise

  2. Thanks for the link, I appreciate the age group definition and the perspective of your age group. Does this mean you do not read fiction unless it is labelled as YA?

  3. Pingback: The Green Hill Manor Mystery (a.k.a. Teen Rebels 2010) | Stories in 5 Minutes

  4. Pingback: 30 Day Book Challenge: Day 16 – My Favorite Genre | Shelf-Made Girl

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s