Monday, May 16, 2011

YA: Where's the Line?

Well, hello there! How is everyone? Doing well, I hope?

I am approaching finals, and my brain is short-circuiting, thanks for asking. Here's hoping I start to make sense of the world again pretty soon.

As I'm sure most of you know by now, I have written in a lot of different genres. My current and last manuscripts, however, are YA novels, and though I feel like I read a lot of YA, writing it was something I didn't ever see myself doing. And yet, here I am.

And yet I'm not sure that's where I actually am.

I worry. A lot. About everything. But one of the things that I'm worrying about right now with regards to my most recent MS is whether or not it's actually a YA book. It's historical fiction, dealing with some pretty serious issues. Issues I'm almost not sure I want to be writing about for teenagers.

But my protag is a teen, and her hero is a teen, and they are dealing with (historical) teen issues. And I think that teens might be the right audience for it just because of the issues at hand-- someone's got to talk about them, right?

But BECAUSE I'm labeling it YA, I have toned down the ending a little. Maybe not made it as gritty and romantic as I could, because it's not an ending I want teens to romanticize.

But then I wonder-- am I just labeling it YA because YA is hot right now? Is it really a more adult book because of the issues at hand?

In other words, I don't know. I guess I won't know, until I have someone else who knows YA read it for me. But I need to get it into shape first!

So, Alliterati who write/ read YA (and those who don't, if you want to share!), tell me: are there any issues you WOULDN'T touch in a YA book? Is there a point where you would say a book is definitely an adult book instead of a YA one?


Unknown said...

It might depend on the subgenre. There are some YA books that do deal with pretty heavy issues and have miserable endings. What I usually associate with YA is the age of the protagonist and the pacing. They tend to have more stream-line straight forward plots and more direct action. But, as in any form of classification, there are bound to those who disagree. I don't know if agents and editors would use my definition or not. The only thing I really have to say is DON'T CENSOR YOURSELF. If your ending wants to be gritty let it. It might be better for teen agers to face that kind of stuff in controlled, less glorified way first or maybe it just isn't meant to be YA.

Unknown said...

Also, the most poignant, gritty book I've ever read was YA (Kestral by Lloyd Alexander). The innocent child's perspective brought out the gritty stuff in a way that still disturbs me sometimes.

Adam Heine said...

I've seen some pretty tough YA before. I know the protagonist's age is one of the key factors for determining the genre, but alone I don't think it's enough. I think there's a feel that YA has as well that adult doesn't.

I wish I could say what that feel was.

I'm not sure, but I think YA is where teens are struggling to be teens, struggling to make the transition from being learners/receivers (i.e. kids) into changers and givers (i.e. adults). I think.

K. Marie Criddle said...

I've always felt that the draw (and sometimes revulsion) to YA stems from the fact that the emotions are so raw and uncomplicated (still complicated of course, but teenagers tend to see thing in single facets rather than multiple. Does that make sense?). A grisly death in a YA style can be much more disturbing than an adult's view because, like Taryn says, it's through the eyes of a younger person. That said, I totally agree with Taryn. Don't censor it! That's an editor's job if they so choose. :) Can't wait to read more of it!!

Keriann Greaney Martin said...

I agree - don't censor yourself. I'll bet if you have a toned-down ending, an agent might think it wasn't strong enough. Or there's something missing.

Also, have you read the Hunger Games? There's so much death in those books and it's YA. I think seeing the story through a young protagonist is more of a reason to label it YA. How would a person that age deal with these issues? Maybe it doesn't matter as much how gritty those issues are, it's how the young character handles them and changes because of them.