Sunday, June 22, 2014

What exactly is "Young Adult" anyway?

So, my fantasy novel INK MAGE is still going strong, a steady seller for the Kindle.  Pick it up HERE if you haven't already.

At the time of this blog post, there are 246 reviews for the novel.  Most of them are positive, a fact for which I'm grateful.  Once a book starts getting a lot of reviews, you can start to see trends.  Something that confuses me slightly is the whole notion of "young adult" or YA.  I mean, what exactly makes a book YA?  Is it the fact that it is marketed toward a certain age group?  Or is it simply that some of the characters in the novel are of a certain age?

In INK MAGE our protagonist is 19 and a few of the other main characters are of a similar age.  I specifically wanted to make these characters young, but in no way was I setting out to write a YA novel, and frankly I don't think I did.  But if you read only the reviews, you might get confused.  One reader cautions, "this is a good read but there is a lot of sex and violence and this is definitely not a YA novel." (In spite of the quotation marks, I am paraphrasing.)  Well, uh ... who the heck ever claimed it was a YA novel?  Not me.  Other reviews say something along the lines of "Obviously more for the YA crowd."  Really?  So which is it?  Definitely YA or Definitely not?

You see my confusion.  Both can't be true.  Right?

Possibly some of the confusion stems from the fact that "coming of age" is one of the categories Amazon has used to market INK MAGE.  I don't know.  All I know is that I am curious about how people categorize things and how they arrive at my novel being YA or not.  I don't think it is.  My wife is an associate professor at a large university and YA literature is one of her areas.  You'd think some of her knowledge would have rubbed off on me. It didn't.

So I ask ... what the heck is YA anyway?  Not the most original question, but since I am now applying it to my novel specifically I am at last paying attention.  If you know anything about YA then chime in.  And if you happened to read INK MAGE, let me know your opinion.  YA or not YA?


JD Rhoades said...

As far as I can tell, the only thing that reliably gets a book called YA is the age of the protagonist(s). A teenaged protagonist is going to get you identified as YA whether you meant to or not.

David Marsh said...

Agents tend to call it YA when the main character is a teen, nineteen the max according to several lit agents...and now there's this New Adult category to cover late teens early twenties when mature themes come into play. These days LOTR would not be considered YA yet when I was at school in England it was an assigned read. You're right, Victor...go figure!

Victor Gischler said...

I'd always assumed "YA" meant that the book was marketed toward a certain age group and dealt with "growing up" issues that would be of interest to that age group. That's what I get for assuming.

Heather J Allman said...

YA has the intent of being written for and marketed to young adults. Ink Mage fits neither. It IS clearly for adults. You can't even get a tattoo, magic or not, until you're 18 =ADULT.

Victor Gischler said...

Ha ha ... good point, Heather.

I should point out that I'm not complaining about any review that thinks (or doesn't) that the book is YA. It's just that I'm always interested in how people think about my books and how they arrive at various conclusions.

I certainly wouldn't try to sell anyone on the novel by telling them it's YA.

Gerard said...

In libraries YA lit is meant for teen readers and in my place those readers are usually 12-16 years old.

I'm about 3/4 through the novel and do not consider it a YA. The teen character is going through some travails but that is not the same. The violence is not a learning experience with lessons on mental trauma, the sex is not filled with new, adult emotions, their is not a bunch internal monologue by the lead characters wondering about relationships and the future. This is no bildungsroman.

I like the sex parts.