One of the things we get asked the most is how to define YA. What makes a novel YA and not adult?
So we tried to come up with some of the factors via our editor’s Twitter stream as to what drives the term YA. Since a few people commented that it was a useful resource, we present it here, in list form.
- YA is NOT a genre.
- YA is NOT published just because of cynical marketing types.
- YA is NOT just paranormal romance.
- YA IS written deliberately by MANY authors – they are not shoehorned into it.
- YA IS an attempt to document the issues that face many teens – from skin colour to bullying to sexuality to conformity.
- YA doesn’t HAVE to have teen protagonists, but it is the NORM.
- YA is ENGAGING with teen readers who have different issues and feelings from adult readers.
- YA can and does feature MANY genres – sci fi, fantasy, horror, contemporary, historical, thriller.
- YA has an emotional INTENSITY that differs from adult fiction.
- YA fiction – often through settings -shows a world in flux. It uses settings as a metaphor for the journey and exploration that a teen faces
- YA asks questions like ‘Who am I?’ ‘Who do I want to become?’ ‘Where do I fit in?’
- The true YA protagonist will often have a blinkered view of the world. A naivety. A freshness.
- Young characters in adult novels often have a more knowing approach – an adult’s ability to reason and suppose.
- YA novels are not a NEW concept-think of Treasure Island, Black Beauty, Alice in Wonderland. If these were published today, they would be YA
- In YA novels the culture that surrounds and absorbs young adults plays a huge role in their lives.
- YA novels’ issues and characters are treated in a way that does not invalidate, minimize, or devalue them. They are deemed important.
- YA literature can be advantageous to reluctant student readers by addressing their needs
- YA fiction portrays teens confronting situations and social issues that push the edge of acceptable content and boundaries.
- A YA novel will generally be 70k-90k words – the slighter format ensures the narrative is pacier and punchier.
- This might be controversial, but YA novels have more simplistic language – the plot and characters are more important than complex words.
- YA is not easy to generalise. YA is not easy to compartmentalise.
- One of the BEST things about YA fiction is that it is so INCLUSIVE. When I say inclusive, I think I need to define it better. It shows outsiders, sure, but also implies through hope that being an outsider is acceptable. It shows that you can be gay, POC, transgender, into fantasy etc and that’s okay.
Those were our immediate thoughts – we would LOVE you to debate these and suggest your own!