Young Adult Fiction

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
bcomet
Posts: 588
Joined: January 23rd, 2010, 2:11 pm
Contact:

Young Adult Fiction

Post by bcomet » April 14th, 2010, 10:28 am

I have recently been noticing how adult young adult fiction has been getting.
In some respects, there are also plenty of examples in older literature as well.

But I would be interested in what others think about the range of serious
material showing up in YA, whether they agree or disagree with it, and why?

Are some subjects too edgy for publishers, for example?
Should some books, even with a teenage protagonist or antagonist, be shelved as adult books?

Recently, I read a number of articles about this trend and think it could be helpful and informative to hear from
writers and agents on this topic too.

tameson
Posts: 66
Joined: January 19th, 2010, 7:34 pm
Contact:

Re: Young Adult Fiction

Post by tameson » April 14th, 2010, 11:03 am

Have you hung out with young adults recently? They are so old at 16 now. Sex, drugs, jail, violence- for a lot of them that isn't edgy, that is life.

User avatar
JustineDell
Posts: 293
Joined: January 15th, 2010, 11:38 am
Location: Indiana
Contact:

Re: Young Adult Fiction

Post by JustineDell » April 14th, 2010, 11:11 am

I'm currently reading a book for my beta that I had concerns about. However, since I don't read YA, I had no idea that this particular topic is apparently covered in other YA books. Frankly, it shocked me. But then I thought back to when I was that age (16ish). There wasn't anything I hadn't seen/heard about/done regarding drugs, theft, sex, jail, even suicide.

I think kids are more grown-up than you think (even more so now than I was then) - darker than you can imagine and that's what draws them to certain books. They can relate in some shape/form to certain things.

~JD

http://www.justine-dell.blogspot.com/

"Three things in life that, once gone, never return; Time, Words, & Opportunity"

User avatar
gonzo2802
Posts: 105
Joined: March 8th, 2010, 5:33 pm
Contact:

Re: Young Adult Fiction

Post by gonzo2802 » April 14th, 2010, 9:43 pm

It can be tricky, because as adults we have a tendency to want to try to shelter the younger generation, but in general they like reading about characters who go through the same challenges they face in their lives.

I think the main difference between the two is you have to be a little more aware of your audience and be cognizant of how much detail you go into. A lot of YA books involve characters that have sex, but for the most part it's mentioned more in terms of feelings than in depth analysis of the act (like in adult romance books, for instance), not glorifying obsessive drinking or drug use, etc.

Now, if we're talking about books that are geared more toward middle school readers -- you can go a little more Sweet Valley on them. But the older YA readers (the ones who aren't far from being adult readers) want a little more meat to their stories.

Harper Karcz
Posts: 68
Joined: December 6th, 2009, 5:20 pm
Location: Atlanta
Contact:

Re: Young Adult Fiction

Post by Harper Karcz » April 14th, 2010, 11:12 pm

I love reading YA, and I'm so glad that it's come of age, so to speak, over the last ten years. I was strictly a lit fic reader for a long time, but about 5 - 6 years ago I discovered the current crop of YA fiction, with its thematic complexity and its economy of language, and I've been hooked ever since. I love that nearly all of the adult genres are now represented in YA, and how the genres are more fluid on the YA shelf than in the adult fiction section. How an epic fantasy can be shelved next to a chick lit next to a historical novel next to a contemporary literary novel. It's great. It's turned me into a genre fiction reader! And with so much great YA out there, for kids / teens of a variety of reading levels and maturity levels and genre interests, I feel like we're really upping our chances of raising a bigger generation of habitual readers.

Kids and teens have always tried to explore books with adult themes. I remember how the most popular books at our 6th grade book fair were the Stephen King novels, and how my best friends in middle school liked to smuggle their mothers' romance novels off the shelf. Me, I attempted to read things that were age-appropriate, but so much of the YA at that time (early 90s) was underwhelming. There were series romance and horror paperbacks, neither of which had much in the way of character development or subtlety or, you know, paragraphs lasting more than a line or two. There were a few contemporary authors I liked (Lois Duncan's suspense novels, for instance), but so much of the other hardbacks were terribly didactic. Teens can see through that. I wanted something with literary value, but I didn't want someone trying to pound a Lesson into my head.

Teens are already reading classics and other "adult" books at school, so why shouldn't their non-assigned reading have the potential to be just as thematically challenging?

And anyway, part of why I love YA is because the section is so diverse in terms of content. Plenty of squeaky-clean teen romances are still published. You can still find "message books," if that's what you're into. I've read plenty of urban fantasy and paranormal that's on the light and fluffy side -- though teens are also really drawn to the dark urban fantasy of Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. Fantasy is, of course, the biggest segment of YA right now.

If you ever get a chance to hear an author like Richard Peck or Ellen Hopkins or Laurie Halse Anderson speak (and you should -- they're all fab), you'll definitely hear some heartbreaking stories of their meeting kids / teens who are really on the brink, and who have experienced or witnessed drug abuse or suicidal thoughts / actions or bullying or other things along those lines... and who've been helped tremendously by gut-wrenchingly honest YA fiction. But for every kid who picks up an "edgy" YA book because it reflects something rough that's going on in his / her life, I'm sure you'll find another hundred more kids who pick up such books because they're a safe way to explore a different lifestyle or perspective ... or, more likely, just because they tell a great story. I mean, I love mobster movies and shows like THE WIRE that focus on the gritty side of life, but not because they reflect anything that's actually happened to me. I'm a terribly curious person, and I'm glad that I can use fiction to peek in on situations that I'd rather not get into myself. And I'm sure I'm not the only person -- teen or adult -- who uses fiction in that way. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that while "relatability" is a factor in some teens' reading, many others use their non-assigned reading as a (safe) way to step into a completely different life for a short time.

YA rocks. If anyone wants any specific YA recommendations, by subject or sub-genre or whatever else, let me know.
Having just the vision's no solution
Everything depends on execution.

-- Stephen Sondheim

Sommer Leigh
Moderator
Posts: 1624
Joined: April 2nd, 2010, 11:07 pm
Location: Omaha, NE
Contact:

Re: Young Adult Fiction

Post by Sommer Leigh » April 14th, 2010, 11:45 pm

I love the fact that YA is growing up, so to speak. Not just because there are certain subject matters authors are finally feeling comfortable enough to tackle in responsible, honest, and charming ways, but because YA fiction is just getting smarter. It feels a lot less about what adults think young adults should be and a lot more about who they really are. I think as we get older we go through a phase in our lives where we become static and we expect the rest of the world to freeze with us. We think that the way our world is shaped is the way that all worlds are shaped. It reminds me of the moment in The Breakfast Club where the principal and the janitor are in the records room talking about how teenagers have changed, except that they haven't.

Sometimes I think that the subjects adults get most upset about seeing in literature are the subjects adults are uncomfortable with teenagers knowing about, talking about, and reading about and not the things that teenagers are uncomfortable with. Not wanting to talk about these subjects doesn't make them go away though. I think that right now YA authors are doing better than they ever have at shouldering the responsibility of tackling these subjects, without sensationalizing but also without giving these tougher subjects the underground power of forced silence.

Take, for example, Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why. It's about a suicide, which isn't a new tough subject, but that it also tackles bullying and the very real and damaging descent from a normal girl to an empty, emotionless shell capable of not just killing herself, but doing it with such determination. Not a comfortable subject, but handled beautifully. And look at the Phoebe Prince situation that just happened recently. It might not be a pretty subject, but it is relevant.

John Green is another YA author that takes tough subjects, uncomfortable moments, and deals with them head on. He doesn't condescend to his teen readers by pretending that such moments don't happen, but he doesn't pretty them up with sensational prose either. I'm thinking particularly of Looking for Alaska, but all of his books deal, in some way, with uncomfortable yet very realistic subject matter. He's one of my heroes in that regard.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

User avatar
Ishta
Posts: 167
Joined: February 22nd, 2010, 3:31 am
Contact:

Re: Young Adult Fiction

Post by Ishta » April 15th, 2010, 2:40 am

More on this when I've had some sleep, but: what really bothers me about YA today is that a lot of 12 and 13 year old kids are reading it. 15, 16, fine. 12?!?!? No.

Harper Karcz
Posts: 68
Joined: December 6th, 2009, 5:20 pm
Location: Atlanta
Contact:

Re: Young Adult Fiction

Post by Harper Karcz » April 15th, 2010, 9:38 am

Harper Karcz wrote:I love reading YA, and I'm so glad that it's come of age, so to speak, over the last ten years.
Sommer Leigh wrote:I love the fact that YA is growing up, so to speak.
Sommer Leigh, I think we wrote those very similar sentences within just a few minutes of each other! Same wavelength!
Having just the vision's no solution
Everything depends on execution.

-- Stephen Sondheim

Harper Karcz
Posts: 68
Joined: December 6th, 2009, 5:20 pm
Location: Atlanta
Contact:

Re: Young Adult Fiction

Post by Harper Karcz » April 15th, 2010, 9:56 am

Ishta wrote:More on this when I've had some sleep, but: what really bothers me about YA today is that a lot of 12 and 13 year old kids are reading it. 15, 16, fine. 12?!?!? No.
Ishta, which YA books have you read recently? And what content, specifically, are you talking about? Just so I know where you're coming from.

It's interesting you pointed out 12-year-olds because I think that's one of the hardest ages to write for. They don't want to be reading kid books anymore, but some of them may be developmentally ready for older books, while others may not. Some publishers have launched lines for tweens (like the Aladdin MIX line at Simon and Schuster), but kids still want to "read up" and explore the perspectives of older kids / teens. Like I said above, though, YA is an incredibly diverse category these days, and so if you're implying in your post above that 12-year-olds should be sticking to the fairly G-rated material, there's plenty within YA that would be suited to them.

(But when I was 12, we were reading some fairly grown-up books as assigned reading in school. We read To Kill a Mockingbird in 7th grade, as well as Watership Down and Lord of the Flies. The latter two books disturbed me more than anything I've read from the YA section.)

I know you might disagree with me on this, but I think many of the issue-related books in YA would also be well-suited to 12-year-olds. They give tweens / young teens a safe way to explore problems: better to have your hypothetical 12-year-old first face the issue of bullying, or suicide, or sexual harassment, within the pages of a book than in real life. I went to middle school in the early 90s, and there were physical fights and bullying happening then. These days, it seems much harsher, and much more widespread. Better to have my hypothetical 12-year-old start thinking about it after reading, say, 13 REASONS WHY or SOME GIRLS ARE, and to start becoming mentally and emotionally equipped to deal with such things should they happen to him / her, or to a friend or sibling, than to have him / her caught completely off-guard by a bullying incident.
Having just the vision's no solution
Everything depends on execution.

-- Stephen Sondheim

A.M.Kuska
Posts: 73
Joined: March 8th, 2010, 6:52 pm
Contact:

Re: Young Adult Fiction

Post by A.M.Kuska » April 15th, 2010, 10:07 am

Harper Karcz wrote:
(But when I was 12, we were reading some fairly grown-up books as assigned reading in school. We read To Kill a Mockingbird in 7th grade, as well as Watership Down and Lord of the Flies. The latter two books disturbed me more than anything I've read from the YA section.)
Watership Downs disturbed you? O.o What part?

Harper Karcz
Posts: 68
Joined: December 6th, 2009, 5:20 pm
Location: Atlanta
Contact:

Re: Young Adult Fiction

Post by Harper Karcz » April 15th, 2010, 10:18 am

A.M.Kuska wrote:
Harper Karcz wrote:
(But when I was 12, we were reading some fairly grown-up books as assigned reading in school. We read To Kill a Mockingbird in 7th grade, as well as Watership Down and Lord of the Flies. The latter two books disturbed me more than anything I've read from the YA section.)
Watership Downs disturbed you? O.o What part?
I know it was allegorical and all, but dude, the BUNNIES went to WAR!

12-year-old me couldn't handle that. But my "things that disturb me" compass has never really matched up to anyone else's. Heh.
Having just the vision's no solution
Everything depends on execution.

-- Stephen Sondheim

bcomet
Posts: 588
Joined: January 23rd, 2010, 2:11 pm
Contact:

Re: Young Adult Fiction

Post by bcomet » April 15th, 2010, 2:21 pm

This is such an interesting topic.

I just heard that John Green's book, Looking for Alaska, was banned in his hometown:

http://www.sparksflyup.com/2009/09/bann ... -to-do.php

But then there are arguments that his one sex scene was awkward and hilarious.

Does that mean if it was a serious sex scene, or a really hot one, it would be worse? More unacceptable?

One commenter wondered if the most provocative question about that scene that kids might have: would it get discussed in class?

The breadth and scope of material and subject matter in YA is currently, it seems, wide open.

I love, by the way, John Green's entertaining commentary––and hilarious video–– on why he loved Twilight and also his take on some of its––aside from entertaining factors–– questionable morality.

So, it seems that even writers who dare to go where they wish in a story, can also have places they hope or wish other writers (or at least people, even if it's written about) not to.
Last edited by bcomet on April 15th, 2010, 2:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
gonzo2802
Posts: 105
Joined: March 8th, 2010, 5:33 pm
Contact:

Re: Young Adult Fiction

Post by gonzo2802 » April 15th, 2010, 2:31 pm

The best thing for a book's publicity is to be banned.

Once you tell people they can't read something, you make it nearly impossible for them not to want to read it!

User avatar
Robin
Posts: 315
Joined: April 8th, 2010, 9:09 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA
Contact:

Re: Young Adult Fiction

Post by Robin » April 15th, 2010, 7:54 pm

gonzo2802 wrote:The best thing for a book's publicity is to be banned.

Once you tell people they can't read something, you make it nearly impossible for them not to want to read it!
Amen. I think it is human nature to want to explore the banned info. One of my fave books, Fahrenheit 451 (not YA)...
I agree with YA topics being appropriate for the current times. Teens go through much more than I did and have more difficult choices (and consequences) than our parents.
Robin
"A glass slipper is only a shoe. Dreamers who only dream never have their dreams come true."

http://www.RobynLucas.com/

Sommer Leigh
Moderator
Posts: 1624
Joined: April 2nd, 2010, 11:07 pm
Location: Omaha, NE
Contact:

Re: Young Adult Fiction

Post by Sommer Leigh » April 15th, 2010, 10:38 pm

Harper Karcz wrote:
Harper Karcz wrote:I love reading YA, and I'm so glad that it's come of age, so to speak, over the last ten years.
Sommer Leigh wrote:I love the fact that YA is growing up, so to speak.
Sommer Leigh, I think we wrote those very similar sentences within just a few minutes of each other! Same wavelength!

Awesome! I was a YA in the 90s. I read a ton of YA and adult books and I remember that I used to feel so frustrated with potentially good stories feeling like they'd had all the good, juicy, smart parts taken out and filled in with generalities and luke warm character development. As if to say, This Book Is About A Universal Teen Girl Who Will Not Really Resemble You At All. Particularly the supernatural and horror stuff. It's no wonder I turned to adult novels early on.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 1 guest