It’s been almost a year and a half since I first addressed this question: “What is YA, Anyway?”
Here’s what I had to say in July of 2013:
In libraries it’s still called “Juvenile,” but everywhere else in the world of books you see this label: YA. It stands for Young Adult. Problem is, YA Lit seems to include everything from Judy Blume’s finding-out-about-your-adolescent-emotions books to some pretty dark, vampiry stuff, not to mention drugs, sex, and language that sounds like plain old Adult, without the Young. So what, exactly, qualifies a book as YA?
Sometimes publishers will subdivide YA into Middle Grades, meaning “Tweens”–11 and 12, I guess–but there’s still this question: what defines it? Is it a book where the main character is 12? Or one which mostly 12 year-olds read? Under that definition, the first two Harry Potter books both would and would not qualify. When those books first came out, I knew as many grownups in love with young Harry as I did kids. (I was one of ‘em!)
Or maybe the definition of YA/Middle Grades is silly, and who cares? Well, I do, but only for this reason: there seem to be certain rules about what you can or can’t publish under these categories. In later posts, I’m going to examine this question, and I’m going to be asking for your input. Whether you are a young reader, a parent, a teacher, a librarian, or all of the above (?!), your opinion is valuable to me as I wend my way through the thickets of YA publication.
Still tuned? Good.
It’s now November, 2014. In the past nine months I’ve published two YA/middle grades books–to give them the label that would seem to qualify best, based on genre, story content, age of heroine. Problem is, I keep getting excited, “can’t-put-it-down, when-is-Book-Three-coming-out?” reviews from people in their 30s, 40s, 50s…on up through 70s. (And one 84 year-old, but yeah, my dad doesn’t count.) So IS this YA?
Young people seem to like my first book too–phew!–but I haven’t heard from very many. Clearly, it’s not the “grabby” kind of book most teens and tweens have become accustomed to. It contains no wizards, vampires, zombies, werewolves, nor boyfriends. (Book Two has one of those beings, but it’s only been out for ten days, so I haven’t heard the results yet.)
I’m not complaining. I wrote the story I wanted to write. But I’m still scratching my head over what to call it.
“YA lit for young adults of all ages” is what I find myself saying more and more these days. “A coming-of-age story.” Or, if I’m feeling a little snarkier, “I don’t know–what would you call To Kill a Mockingbird? Is that Tween lit? Well–there ya go.”
Disclaimer: in no way am I claiming to be a writer on par with Ms. Harper Lee. But the point is still valid, right? Can’t you have a story about a young person without it being a story FOR young people?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this–especially that last question. Anyone?
Several of my books are very solidly middle grade (10-14) and an overwhelming majority of the people I snag are adults. My theory is that adults are the ones with credit cards cruising Amazon in search of fodder for their ereaders. It’s exceedingly difficult to sell directly to kids unless you are Scholastic. Good thing there is a small population of adults who enjoy a good kids book. They continue to fund my next project. If you really want to snag tweens or teens, head over to Wattpad. But don’t expect to get paid. Wattpad is free. That kids and credit card thing again.
Thanks for the perspective, Michelle. I think I’m just going to enjoy the facts and try to ignore the labels, except, of course, when unavoidable for marketing purposes. The blend of readers is a lovely thing.