I have a dilemma regarding Adult verse Young Adult. When I originally wrote my novel it was written as an Adult novel with possible cross-over to Young Adult. It was written more in the vein of Firestarter, and The Dead Zone by Stephen King as a thriller.
In 2012, I attended Thrillerfest in New York City, and while I was pitching agents at Agentfest, the agents informed me that it was considered Young Adult because my protagonist is a 15 year old. So, I switched midstream and started to query literary agents who represent Young Adult. However, the more I query the more I think it is adult thriller. My novel is not a paranormal romance. Plus, the novel jumps three years into the future making my main character 19 years old.
Make sure you get your mitts on RUNNER by Patrick Lee. One of his two principal characters is also a youngster but RUNNER is no more a YA novel than I'm a unicorn.
What can happen in those dreadful horrible pitchapaloozas is that agents get tired, hear one or two key words, make a snap decision and then, bam, you're left thinking you've got it all wrong.
Well you don't.
Your novel isn't a YA at all. If it's like Stephen King it belongs right there on the adult commercial shelf.
I've been as guilty of this kind of snap categorization just as much as everyone else, and it's one of the reasons I don't do pitch sessions of any kind any more. It doesn't serve you well, and it doesn't help me find good juicy stuff to sell.
So, how to tackle this in your query: don't mention your protagonist's age if you can help it, and use adult books as comps.
And write to the people who organize AgentFest as part of ThrillerFest and tell them you were ill-served by the format and they should give serious attention to the alternative that I have been touting for two years. (And if anyone is interested in hearing more about that, let me know. Rant at the ready.)