Monday, September 25, 2023

YA or adult?



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?




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.








Mister Furkles said...

Did Bill Faulkner write "The Sound and the Fury" for mentally disabled readers? No, they don't read much. Did Harper Lee write "To Kill a Mockingbird" for middle schoolers? No. Was "Ender's Game" for children?

The question is: who are your readers? Ask your critique group after reading the book.

NLiu said...

If you wrote a great book, agents want to hear about it. Thank you Janet for knowing we need to keep hearing this!

Also, in case you see this today, Amy Johnson, I'm trying to get in touch with you but keep getting a notification saying your inbox is too full for my message to be delivered. Sad times! Can you email me on the usual address and let me know if there's another way to contact you?

John Davis Frain said...

Technically, twenty somethings ARE young adults by definition, so...

...write the book. Write the series. Write the query.

mythical one-eyed peace officer said...

Off topic but seeing JDF's comment reminded me about the cool piece of baseball fiction he, or somebody with the same name, wrote that appeared in The Twin Bill. Good story!

B.W. said...

What if the book is focused around a young character (19-22) learning "how to be in the world, how to navigate the world beyond family and school." but also takes the perspective of his parents as they navigate middle age?

BJ Muntain said...

Finish the novel, OP. Make it the best you can. That's your job for now.

I know that category is important when querying, since agents often accept only certain categories and genres. So you want to make a good choice.

I also know that an agent or publisher may decide it fits better elsewhere.

So for now, remember this great advice I learned on some sharkly blog or another:

Query *this* book. You are not querying the whole series, you are querying this novel. And if this novel fits as YA - dark themes and all - then query it as a YA.

The rest you will discuss with your new agent during The Call(TM).

John Davis Frain said...

If you'll indulge me, I'd like to remind everyone of a wonderful Mark Twain quote. To wit, "I can live two months on a good compliment."

mythical, you've pushed me through till December, thank you for your kindness. I wrote that story with a lot of practice from what I learned right here at the reef, which is the unsullied full honest truth. (that would be a redundant phrase had I not just invoked Mark Twain's name)

Keep writing, y'all.

AJ Blythe said...

I don't think I can add anymore wisdom than what has already been given. so really just popping on to say "hi" :)