I have a question that I'm hoping you could please help with. I'm in the middle of the 3rd draft of a fantasy book and am starting to think ahead to planning a query.
My issue is I'm utterly torn over whether it's YA or adult.
The characters start the book mainly aged 16/17/18, but will be a few years older by the time the series finishes. I like getting into character and really spinning the narration so you feel like you're in the head of a teenager.
The issue is that the books also deal with very dark and sensitive themes. I know that teenage readers can handle sensitive stuff, but I also know teens are impressionable, and I don't want to upset them by exploring the subjects I want to explore. Yet if I query it as adult fantasy, I'm concerned agent's will be put off by the fact I'm very much writing from the POV of kids who...Well, act and speak like kids. They come out far more mature by the end of the story, but the fact is there's a lot to get through before that maturity hits.
This is causing me a massive headache. Do you have any advice?
OF COURSE I DO!!
Getting on my sharkly soap box and spouting advice is what I live for.
First, let's lay to rest the idea that your job as a writer is to avoid sensitive or dark themes when writing YA.
In fact, that's EXACTLY your job. Shake things up. Make your readers see things with a new perspective. Challenge the status quo. Convey reality in a way that shifts the paradigm.
Teen readers are hungry for books that talk about "adult subjects" in ways they can relate to. The last thing they want are books that avoid those topics. Remember, these are kids who've undergone active shooter drills at their schools. They've experienced things that break our hearts. Let them read what they want.
As to whether it's YA or adult.
Yes, YA characters need to start out at16/17/18, but they can age as the series progresses.
Not to 45+ of course, you want to keep them young.
But YA is more than just age.
YA themes often include learning how to be in the world, how to navigate the world beyond family and school.
Often it's about breaking free of familial or cultural expectations.
YA often has a strong romantic element of some kind because kids are exploring their sexuality and learning how to do that as well.
Write your book.
Call it YA if it fits.
Choose your comps wisely.
Query with confidence.
If you wrote a great book, agents want to hear about it.