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Michelle

What exactly is YA?

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Michelle   

I'm hoping the authors can give their input here, but am also interested to hear what readers think.. what do you class as YA? Is it the content, the age of the characters, or simply because it's in the YA section in the book shop? :)

 

ideas and discussions welcome!

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Athena   

I think so, Raven. Personally I classify any book that is written for teenagers and young adults, as YA. Generally it's apparent from the slightly simpler use of text and words and by the age of the characters.

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Raven   

So if they are YA books, when does a book stop being a children's book and when does it become a YA book? 

The reason I ask is because I would have labelled the early Harry Potter books as being children’s books, but as the series develops the tone, language and content all get more adult. 

 

Does that make the latter books YA or would they all fall into that category anyway?

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I would say the Harry Potter books are all children's books, even the later ones.  Personally, I feel that even the topics of growing up, such as relationships, are dealt with at a fairly innocent level, and makes them suitable for younger readers still.

 

Having said that, I'm not actually sure I can accurately describe what I believe YA to be.  I guess I feel that YA has plots, themes and topics that are related to the process of developing from the innocence of childhood to the maturity of adulthood, and allow teenagers to explore and understand them within the pages of a book.

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Janet   

So if they are YA books, when does a book stop being a children's book and when does it become a YA book? 

That's what I queried in another thread.  Sometimes I classify as children's and sometimes as YA - yet it's all guesswork on my part as I don't think there is a clear, dividing line. If there is then I'd love to know what it is.  

 

Like you I would class the earlier Harry Potter's as children's books (certainly the first one, anyway) but they do get darker as the series goes on. 

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Palagrin   

I'd argue that Harry Potter is children's.

 

Why? There's very little about stuff that normally takes a forefront in YA - stuff like sex, romance etc etc All in all, HP is very family friendly and you could give them to an 8 year old without much trouble as it is very "safe" in terms of content (even if they do get darker).

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In my mind, categories/genres aren't mutually exclusive: often there's a lot more overlap than placement on bookstore shelves or under online categories would suggest. Harry Potter fits neatly in Children's but also YA (especially the later books).

 

To my mind, YA is a genre not an age-category: what defines a book as YA isn't who reads it but rather what and who the book is about. For me, a YA book concerns a YA protagonist: loosely, someone between the ages of 13 and 19... though when someone stops being a young adult and is just an adult is up for debate: there's also the whole New Adult category, which theoretically takes over from about 19...

 

Anyway, a YA book has a YA protagonist, irrespective of the age of the majority of the readers. YA books also, as a result, have at least one theme that concerns issues of paramount importance for (most) young adults: first love, first sex, school work, getting into university/college, physical maturity, friendships, discovering who you are... Loosely speaking, 'coming of age/growing up' is a key theme in YA books. YA books are, broadly speaking, expected to be tightly written and relatively short compared with most 'adult' novels: there shouldn't be a long lead-in before the 'hook' of the story. Perhaps most importantly, normal genre boundaries are much more porous and fluid in YA: a coming of age novel set in a high school featuring an epic love story between an elf and a dragon-shapeshifter-in-human-form, with a murder mystery on the side and a tiny bit of time-travelling? - no problem! Books are expected to fall neatly into only one (or at most two) 'adult' genres or be considered 'unmarketable', but in YA blurring genre boundaries is often part of the point. This is what makes YA so exciting... in addition to the fact that this pseudo-age category is still in its early days and its transition to a genre is still very much on-going, therefore the conventions and tropes that define the genre are ever evolving. It's a great time to be a YA writer: it automatically makes you part of something much bigger than any individual book.

 

That's my take on it at least!

 

Alexia

 

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Michelle   

 Perhaps most importantly, normal genre boundaries are much more porous and fluid in YA: a coming of age novel set in a high school featuring an epic love story between an elf and a dragon-shapeshifter-in-human-form, with a murder mystery on the side and a tiny bit of time-travelling? - no problem! Books are expected to fall neatly into only one (or at most two) 'adult' genres or be considered 'unmarketable', but in YA blurring genre boundaries is often part of the point. This is what makes YA so exciting... in addition to the fact that this pseudo-age category is still in its early days and its transition to a genre is still very much on-going, therefore the conventions and tropes that define the genre are ever evolving. 

Alexia

This, I think, an important aspect. 'Adult' books are expected to fit neatly into a genre, and I know of at least one author who's been told she's not marketable because she doesn't fit neatly. My experience with YA is that the genre seems to be a secondary issue - if it fits in YA, that's how it's marketed.

 

I think this can have a downside as well though, as  a reader may experience one or two similar YA books, and decide there's no more on offer. This is something I'm trying to show my daughter now she enjoys reading.. it's a good opportunity to discover various genres, and mixtures of such. :)

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julie   

Would anyone know the average age of the majority of  YA authors  ?  I'm wondering if they'd all be young ( to me, young would be anything under 40 )... If I were to write a book, it'd be a challenge for me to recall how it felt to be a teen . I'm thinking maybe the closer you ARE to that age, the easier it'd be to write about that age .

 

 

Also, I live in an area that is predominately religious . ( A group that very closely resembles Amish ) ,and I know the English teachers in our schools have a difficult time choosing group reads for their classes. Most of the mothers of these kids read all the assigned books the summer before school to decide if the books are acceptable for their kids and church beliefs .

I'm not a churchgoer ,so I'm not asking personally, but these parents have a really hard time finding any modern YA books that would be acceptable ,so their kids usually end up reading some of the old Classics or more "childish-themed" books .

 

In fact, our entire library system has a large section of books specifically for the adults in the church . They have series of books about fictional Amish ,romances that would be considered G- rated , etc .

 

I've been thinking about some different questions that would be directly linked to YA books ... and maybe I'm old fashioned ,but are there any YA books that don't accept pre-marital sex as just another daily event ?  I know I sound like a Crabby Old Geezer that needs to get out of the Caveman days , but these are big concerns in our area. Parents don't want their kids choosing books that make certain ideas seem the norm . Does anyone feel that if kids read about these things, the books have enough influence over them to encourage certain behaviors, even though it is drilled into them at home that it is NOT acceptable ? 

 

I'm also wondering if very many YA books address the issues of bullying . We had that ,even back in MY day, but the thought would have never crossed anyone's mind that someone would come and get revenge by bringing a weapon to school .

 

Just a few thoughts to throw out there ....

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Kreader   

Hi Julie,

 

most of the books that my nephews have read don't have pre-marital sex in it.  I know because I've read them.

 

I agree that the books do seem to have adolescent protagonists.  There have been a few that irked me because of the blurbs.  They described the protagonists as young boys, said boys were 16-18, old enough to leave home, marry and have a child.  Young boys to me is boys under the age of 12.  If you get to the age of 21 then you're a young man.

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Palagrin   

Would anyone know the average age of the majority of  YA authors  ?  I'm wondering if they'd all be young ( to me, young would be anything under 40 )... If I were to write a book, it'd be a challenge for me to recall how it felt to be a teen . I'm thinking maybe the closer you ARE to that age, the easier it'd be to write about that age .

Actually, YA authors are pretty much every generation of writers.

I've been thinking about some different questions that would be directly linked to YA books ... and maybe I'm old fashioned ,but are there any YA books that don't accept pre-marital sex as just another daily event ?  I know I sound like a Crabby Old Geezer that needs to get out of the Caveman days , but these are big concerns in our area. Parents don't want their kids choosing books that make certain ideas seem the norm . Does anyone feel that if kids read about these things, the books have enough influence over them to encourage certain behaviors, even though it is drilled into them at home that it is NOT acceptable ?

Not all YA deals with sex. This tends to be more the case with genre-fiction, where romance though sometimes still important isn't as important as, say, staying alive. As soon as you move into more contemporary romance you tend to get more explicit material.

I'm also wondering if very many YA books address the issues of bullying . We had that ,even back in MY day, but the thought would have never crossed anyone's mind that someone would come and get revenge by bringing a weapon to school .

...I don't think that thought would cross most people's minds unless they were psychologically disturbed.

 

 

Hi Julie,

 

most of the books that my nephews have read don't have pre-marital sex in it.  I know because I've read them.

 

I agree that the books do seem to have adolescent protagonists.  There have been a few that irked me because of the blurbs.  They described the protagonists as young boys, said boys were 16-18, old enough to leave home, marry and have a child.  Young boys to me is boys under the age of 12.  If you get to the age of 21 then you're a young man.

I've never read a blurb where 16+ boys have been described as "young boys". Boys, certainly, but not "young" boys.

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