Literary YA--What is it?

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Literary YA--What is it?

Postby jmcooper » 02 Feb 2010, 15:20

I can Google with the best of them, but I'm curious: What do you consider Literary YA Fiction? And how does one go about writing it?
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Re: Literary YA--What is it?

Postby christi » 02 Feb 2010, 15:29

To me, YA varies drastically. There's the good fantasy stuff like Potter, the Lightning Thief, and the like. But there's also a certain draw to real life stuff about girls going on vacation and meeting a boy, or just dealing with high school. YA is usually just the pacing and length of story (although fantasy allows for more words). They are usually shorter, faster, easier reads.
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Re: Literary YA--What is it?

Postby jmcooper » 02 Feb 2010, 15:43

I agree...but would Literary YA be a category of it's own? In the way that adult Literary fiction is sort of it's own thing? For instance, something like McEwan's Atonement would be considered Literary--I think--while something by Grafton is not. I wonder what YA falls into the Literary category? The Book Thief? Speak? Anything with a gold seal on the front cover?
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Re: Literary YA--What is it?

Postby Emily White » 02 Feb 2010, 15:54

I would think that it would be a category of its own, though I'll admit that I haven't really kept up with YA fiction since I ceased to be a young adult. And I certainly don't know what modern YA would necessarily be considered Literary, however The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Little House on the Prairie are all considered Literary YA, aren't they? It seems logical to me that this category would still exist. Have you checked around for agents that represent YA? Do they say anything in particular about this?
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Re: Literary YA--What is it?

Postby jmcooper » 02 Feb 2010, 19:16

I'm not sure why YA appeals to me--I am 34--maybe because I was a voracious young reader and now I have children who I want to follow in my footsteps. There is something about a great YA book that keeps truth simple, yet deep. I've not found all that many that fit that category, to be honest. Most are just fun reads--which are also wonderful. I am not a book snob. :-) But I am curious as to what might be considered Literary YA today. Perhaps something like The Book Thief? Just thinking out loud...
Thanks for the links! I'll check them out and keep researching...
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Re: Literary YA--What is it?

Postby Krista G. » 03 Feb 2010, 00:27

Literary YA is definitely a genre, although I think I see it called contemporary YA most of the time.

A few great books you might check out to get you started: STARGIRL by Jerry Spinelli, THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX by Mary E. Pearson, and WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead (the 2010 Newbery Medal winner, by the way). Those last two also have a healthy dose of science fiction, but they definitely have the quieter plots and more internal action/conflict I associate with literary fiction.
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Re: Literary YA--What is it?

Postby jmcooper » 03 Feb 2010, 08:01

Thanks for the suggestions! I have a running book list for the library and I'm adding these.
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Re: Literary YA--What is it?

Postby polymath » 03 Feb 2010, 09:22

Similar to all things in the literary genres, I find that young adult literary fiction, or nonfiction for that matter, emphasizes sociological premises and themes. Where character transformations in outcomes are internally oriented, dynamic characters who experience a change of personal traits, ie., Mommy and Daddy were right, as hard as that is to admit, adult life is all about choices and the consequences of those choices. More life-defining transformation than just initiation into a later life-stage transformation, though, like in the coming of age and loss of innocence paradigms. Say, the antagonisms and resulting outcomes are social influences, noteably social pressures, peer pressures, cohort pressures, even technology driven pressures, and resistance to the obligations and/or eagerness to enter into the privileges of the later life-stage initiation.
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Re: Literary YA--What is it?

Postby maybegenius » 03 Feb 2010, 16:52

In my opinion, literary YA is on a different level than commercial YA. I don't mean that in the sense that it's "better" or more intellectual, just that it approaches storytelling in a different way. There's still action and plot momentum, but it tends to be more... contemplative and lyrical, I want to say.

The Book Thief absolutely qualifies, and I'd say that Markus Zusak's earlier book I Am The Messenger is in there, as well. He has a beautifully lyrical way of writing, and his novels are full of metaphor and style. His work is gritty and lovely at the same time.

Another book that gave me the sense of a literary novel was If I Stay by Gayle Foreman. The plot is centered around a big action event, but the majority of the book focuses on the narrator and her relationships with the people she loves. It's poignant and sad.

Speak is a contender for me, too. I suppose the novels I think of as "literary YA" are those that are more interested in the characters than the world they live in, if that makes sense. It's about their struggles and triumphs, not the action. Those I consider literary don't necessarily have to be lush with language, but they do need to set the bar a little higher as far as writing level.
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Re: Literary YA--What is it?

Postby beacon22 » 03 Feb 2010, 17:43

I think literary YA has a lot to do with the language and a slower pace so the writer is able to linger on the language and complexity of theme.

I would classify the following contemporary books as literary YA:

Jellicoe Road (Melinda Marchetta)
A Certain Slant of Light (Laura Whitcomb)
As Simple as Snow (Gregory Galloway)
Wintergirls (Laurie Halse Anderson)
Looking for Alaska (John Green)

It may just be me, but I believe a lot of classics that are shelved in adult would be looked at as literary YA:
To Kill a Mocking Bird (Lee)
Catcher in the Rye (Salinger)
Oliver Twist (Dickens)
Huckleberry Finn (Twain)
Lord of the Flies (Golding)
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Re: Literary YA--What is it?

Postby HaydnsGabe » 03 Feb 2010, 22:33

I agree with this, Beacon. I love Laurie Halse Anderson, and would definitely put both Speak and Wintergirls (and even her novel Catalyst) in the literary YA category. I think complexity is the key distinction, and also possibly the lyricism or poetic nature of the voice. Not all literary novels (YA or adult) have that lyricism, but many do. Another distinction is that these novels are more character and voice driven, whereas more commercial novels are plot and world driven.
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Re: Literary YA--What is it?

Postby @jmartinlibrary » 05 Feb 2010, 20:54

Literary YA is anything that gets nominated for a major award such as the Newbery. Bonus points are added for books in which the protagonist grapples with an After School Special-esque "Issue," has a mile wide quirky, plucky streak, or lives in a war torn country.

Literary YA is quiet, beautiful, and appeals to middle aged librarians.

Just kidding. I'm a card carrying, ALA (not quite) middle aged librarian.

I think Literary YA is a nebulous, subjective term. Kinda like New Adult.

Hmm...good question.
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Re: Literary YA--What is it?

Postby beacon22 » 06 Feb 2010, 08:24

@jmartinlibrary wrote:Literary YA is quiet, beautiful


I love this, because I feel like it often is very quiet but in a way that you don't want it to get loud. I'm an English teacher, it also appeals to me too! Ha!
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Re: Literary YA--What is it?

Postby Ronni » 06 Feb 2010, 13:44

I think Literary YA is the type of book a teacher would assign students to read and do a report on. So basically, anything by Laurie Halse Anderson falls into that category for me. Also, books such as The Giver, or The Hunger Games. Books that have some meat and some healthy grounds for good discussion and debate.
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Re: Literary YA--What is it?

Postby FawnNeun » 06 Feb 2010, 19:15

Working from the premise that "literary" fiction is fiction that addresses the inner life and growth of characters as the plot, rather than events, "Literary YA" would novels for young people that address their inner life and growth. Literary fiction also addresses questions of philosophy and society, usually through the eyes of the characters and how this affects them. Literary fiction is plotted around the changes in characters as opposed to being plotted around events.

"Smack", "The Outsiders", "Julie of the Wolves", "Number Four", "Huckleberry Finn", "Are You There God..." and "Island of the Blue Dolphins" are all literary YA.

"New Adult" are novels plotted around characters that are 20-28, where as YA novels are plotted around people aged 14-19. For New Adult, think "St. Elmo's Fire", "Less Than Zero", etc. The difference between New Adult and Young Adult isn't style, volume or even vocabulary, it's the age of the characters and the typical stage of development at that age. Changes in society might affect them differently, war breaking out for example, or a serious recession or an epidemic of an STD. Neither a 16 year old nor a thirty-four year old would be as affected by those things as that 24 year old might be. So they have a different set of problems and react differently to life than either of the other two. New Adult isn't Young Adult with an extended vocabulary.
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