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Young Adult Fiction

by Rei


Recently, I attended a discussion of Canadian children's authors, illustrators, and book sellers on the genre that is generally categorized as Young Adult or teen fiction. One of the book sellers pointed out the sorry state that he considers Canadian Young Adult fiction to be in. American YA fiction is in a similar situation. He thought that authors are not taking enough risks, are not pushing the edge, and that many authors seem to underestimate what teens can handle and are able to read.

The one point I do agree with is that authors and publishers (and film-makers) often underestimate teens. I started reading books that are considered adult novels when I was fourteen, and until I discovered that some of the best writers write for teens, I hardly ever read YA novels. My mother was reading adult novels when she was twelve. In fact, she was not allowed to get into a film adaptation of a book she had read because it had a lot of graphic violence (despite the fact that the book was much more extreme). It really makes me wonder what authors of teen fiction are thinking. Do I have to read books that insult my intellignce simply because I am interested in stories about teenagers?

The point I had a problem with is the concept of taking risks and pushing the edge. Sure, there is a place for books that take risks and push the edge, but why do writers need to do it on purpose? If writers are contantly pushing the edge, eventually they are just going to fall off. I think a good writer does not write a fictional story or a book with the intention of taking risks, doing something different, or pushing the edge because they feel they should, or because they think they need to address a certain issue that is important to teens. I believe that a good teen author writes a teen novel because they have an idea they want to explore or an idea for a story, and the character happens to be a teenager.

During the discussion, one woman felt the need to ask why we need YA fiction if her twelve-year-old can read adult novels. This, I believe, is a perfect example of age descrimination. She was almost saying that teens don't need to have books about themselves. First of all, not all twelve-year-olds can read at an adult level. People who do not have much experience with many teens seem to forget that we are people too, as well as the fact that we are all different. Besides, it has nothing to do with what we are capable of reading. It is about reading books that have meaning to us. People who are no longer children, but are not quite adults, have a very different life, and usually a very different view of the world than children and adults.

A Canadian publisher called Annick Press talks about having "an authentic teen voice" and "the real teen experience" in its submission guidelines for teen fiction. My question is, what is an authentic teen voice, and what can be defined as the real teen experience? Aren't all teens different? Doesn't every person, regardless of their age, have their own voice? How do they know that something can be called a real teen experience? This, I think, is the problem with most teen fiction. The need to define what a teenager is, and determine what a teen is able to read, not the lack of risk-taking.

What makes something teen fiction? Simple. It has a teenaged character. Book sellers have a tendency to group Young Adult fiction and middle reader fiction as only two genres, when in fact they are just as diverse as adult books. It has all the same genres, right? Something I find quite interesting is that many of the authors I read will be shelved as teen or middle reader books under one publication, as shelved as adult novels in another, or in a different store. The Lost Years of Merlin, for example. It's published as a middle-reader series in the Canadian book store chain, Indigo, but as a teen novel in a local Toronto store, Mabel's Fables. Yet in the Toronto libraries, it's in the adult fantasy section as well as the teens and middle-readers section.

I believe that there should not be such a strong distiction between Young Adult and adult fiction. Writers should not worry about the age demographic when writing a book unless s/he is writing for an audience who is still learning how to read. Just write a story. If you want to write about a teen, use a teenaged character, and everything else that makes it meaningful to teens will come naturally.


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Tue Aug 14, 2007 1:22 pm
something euclidean wrote a review...



I used to read YA books by pulling the new but strange ones off the shelves - the books that looked like they'd been published a few years ago at most but weren't very popular - and read them by the stacks. I stumbled across some very good, gripping books that way, books almost comparable to adult novels. One was a book of interlocking short stories subtitled "twelve brushes with religion" and another told three accounts of death and burial. I'd say both of those books were published in 2000, at about the same time [or just before] the YA market opened up as much as it did and the library started buying books like that.

Now I can't really read YA books much, even if I'd want to; outside of classics that get put in YA and then things like "His Dark Materials" and books by C.S. Lewis and Madeline L'Engle, the language is simple and kind of boring. I don't enjoy reading the words and so I can't get into the story, even if it's good.




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Sat Jul 28, 2007 11:32 pm
Kel wrote a review...



YA is what I aim to write for. The thing I like about YA is the fact that the storlines aren't quite as ... engrossed with nitty-gritty details about primary exports and what percentage of the population is goblin.

YA seems to me to be more free with what they write. They can go off on a tangent about something and it's well within the realm of YA. In adult novels, there are higher standards for in-depth detail and epic proportions.

The Bartimaeus Trilogy is YA in the local Wal Mart. Wrinkle in Time is another YA series I like. Artemis Fowl is good. Then you do have your books about the cliques, "Sealed with a Diss" and everything else about high school girls being mean. I don't dig those, though I'd like to read one just to say I did.




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Sat Jul 28, 2007 6:21 pm
KiteRide86 says...



I wanted to be published by the age of sixteen until I realized that I was much too young and inexperienced. Now I understand why young writers don't get published. It's because they just aren't experienced, in writing or in life, enough to write a really gripping book. So I'm waiting until I write the best possible story I can before I try and publish. I'm not going to rush it.




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Sat Jul 28, 2007 5:39 am
chocoholic wrote a review...



I read a lot of YA. It's usually my fav genre. It's usually quite good, but sometimes the author has no idea what they're talking about. I hate reading books about 12-14 yearold girls who go to loads of parties and have had millions of boyfriends. Like, have these people talked/observed a teen in a while? It's just not realistic.

Natasha Friend is good, and so are some other authors whose names do not immediately come to my head. I do like some adult stuff, though.

I think there needs to be more teenage authors getting published. I sort of know one, and I'm hoping to be published by the time I'm 15, but it's a cruel industry out there.




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Wed Jul 25, 2007 5:25 am
Sid wrote a review...



The method of catagorizing books for age groups is certainitly flawed. A few months ago I went to my local book store in search of a trilogy I had read called the Bartimeaus Trilogy right? Anywho, I search and search the teen fiction area with no luck, I then head over to the adult fiction to look for it there. Fruitless. I finally gave up and asked for some assistance from the worker. Turns out it was in the childrens section. Surprise. See these books are hundreds of pages thick, the main character is a demon, and the death tole by the last book is in the hundreds.

More proof that the system is flawed. : /




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Tue Jul 17, 2007 4:25 pm
KiteRide86 says...



The stuff I write usually ends up in the YA category, like The Closet. But I try to reach into more mature and realistic themes. I think The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants does this pretty well. The Uglies trilogy did, somewhat, but it had parallels and symbolism.




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Tue Jul 17, 2007 4:21 pm
KiteRide86 wrote a review...



Honestly, I dabble in lots of places. Though the only children books I read are the Royal Diaries. I really like those...anyways. I only read YA because, typically, they are less risky for me. They tend to bypass the more adult themes, which I don't like to read. I did read two adult books that I liked, but they were a tad risque for me. (P.S. I love you and something about a magazine writer who falls for the playboy gangster, don't remember the name)




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Thu Oct 06, 2005 3:09 am
Doctor Kitty says...



I'd say some YA fiction is awful, and some YA is pretty decent. The book review I posted a while back was a YA fiction.




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Wed Oct 05, 2005 12:25 am
bubblewrapped wrote a review...



Personally I like YA novels, mostly because they ARE light and fluffy, and since I'm usually really busy I dont have the time or patience for an involved storyline. I even like Meg Cabot (not Princess Diaries, but others like 0800-Where-R-U and Mediator). I generally go for the fringe authors, things like unusual ghost stories and supernatural stuff, or historical fiction, of which there are pitifully few worth reading.
I basically reached YA level when I was 10 and adult level when I was 13 but I've never been overly interested in adult novels because I find them all depressing. I have read Eddings - he's OK but epic fantasy is too much for me most of the time, I dont read as much as I used to so I dont get the gist, you know? I've also read Mary Renault - AWESOME - Laurie R. King - ditto - the Otherland series by Tad Williams - OK, but by the end they got a bit stale - Michelle Paver - GREAT - and sundry other adult stuff, so I'm not exactly atrophying hehehe. And I do agree that YA fiction needs to stretch a bit - I cant stand authors that patronize or talk down to their readers, or expect them to be a certain way - but when I need a light read I always go for YA.




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Tue Oct 04, 2005 7:14 pm
Fool wrote a review...



I sorta missed the Teen Fiction thing. I started Lord of the Rings when i was 10 and then went onto reading people like David Eddings and the other fantasy novels of the time, this year however, i did read Noughts and Crosses and then Knife Edge, which is supposed to be teen fiction, didn't really enjoy it. All the teen fiction i've seen in the bookshop is like girl sleep-overs, who gets to snog that cute lad type things, and i dont like reading them, so i sorta missed it.

If anyone knows any decent teen fiction, point it out to me please




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Mon Sep 12, 2005 2:54 am
Sam says...



That's one of my drives for writing Hourglass. Even if only like five people will ever read it, they're getting YA fiction that [is going to be] more realistic, and more serious. A change from the Princess Diaries calibre...




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Sun Sep 11, 2005 2:32 pm
Rei says...



That's basically the big problem with the entertainment industry. Not just in books, but in movies, TV, and music. They see one book etc. that's success and suddenly everyone wants to cash in on that success by putting out a similar product. A librarian friend of mine told me about a book she had recently got where the jacket made it sound like one of those pink Princess Diaries books, when it was really a boy's book. There is a place for every kind of book, regardless of it's target audeince, but simply because one was successful does not mean publishers should forget about other kinds. In fact, in a book I read about publishing, it said that publisher would be making even more profit if they didn't just put out books that supposedly have high commercial value.


I agree that it would be nice to have more novels published by teenagers. Unfortunately, the average teen-aged author either hasn't developed strong enough skills, doesn't know enough about the industry, or is simply not trying to get published. I can think of a few authors who were published as teens. Some were good enough, such as Hinton, and others were not, such as Amelia Atwarer-Rhodes. (The worst part is that she never got any better.) But the one thing a lot of them had in common was that they knew people who could help them get published. They had connections. Things were easier in Hinton's youth. It takes time. Publishers are more likely to print books by authors who have proven themselves in the literary journals, magazines, and possible newspapers. If you've got talent and know where to look (there is one reference book I've seen just for this purpose) it's easy for a teen to get poetry and short prose published, and it's not until you collect a list of these credits that you're likely to get book publishers looking at you seriously, no matter what age you are.




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Sun Sep 11, 2005 1:48 pm
Sam says...



It's nice to read a little Georgia Nicolson every once in awhile, but if every novel's like that, then it gets very tiring.




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Sun Sep 11, 2005 10:37 am
ConvolutedEmpty wrote a review...



I think Teen Fiction could be remarkably enriched if there were more publishing companies willing to publish books by Teens who were willing to challenge their peers, not conform to them. I find that most Young Adult Novels Today concentrate on redefining what people would consider average teenager problems and thrusting them into a lighter, more trivial context. They are targeted towards teenage girls that aren't willing to challenge even themselves, and would find it easier to read about somebody with obstacles that they can relate to, and a happy ending that they can wish for.




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Mon Jun 27, 2005 2:49 am
Sam says...



yeah, I liked the book, but the ending was bad. So isn't the sequel the ending of the ending? That's my twisted logic...:P




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Mon Jun 27, 2005 12:22 am
DarkerSarah says...



I didn't think the ending was bad. I think it was a bit forced, but the sequals could be very good. And obviously, Libba Bray is not a bad writer or a bad storyteller, as I thoroughly enjoyed the book. What did you find was so bad about it?




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Sun Jun 26, 2005 9:43 pm
Sam says...



Because if the ending was bad...then the next book is like the ending of the ending? AHHH! I'll probably read it anyway though, in case I'm wrong.




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Sun Jun 26, 2005 5:23 pm
DarkerSarah says...



Why the shudder?




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Sat Jun 25, 2005 2:48 am
Sam says...



It is a series...

*shudder*




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Sat Jun 25, 2005 12:05 am
DarkerSarah says...



Sam, I think that the book is going to be a series, which accounts for the "bad ending."




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Wed Jun 22, 2005 3:32 am
Sam says...



A Great and Terrible Beauty...great book, bad ending. I wholly agree with you.




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Tue Jun 21, 2005 2:35 pm
Rei says...



I know. But the fact that she was sixteen is one of the reasons it was so real. Besides, it was much easier to get published in the 60's than it is now.




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Mon May 23, 2005 7:47 pm
DarkerSarah says...



*jaw drops* Hinton was SIXTEEN?!?!?

*seethes with jealousy, too*

Wow...I've always loved that book, it's so sad and so real. I even liked the movie (Soda Pop sure was yummy!)

-Sarah




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Mon May 23, 2005 7:44 pm
Rei says...



I still hold to the fact that the ultimate YA novel is The Outsiders, for reasons not the least of whihc is that it was written by a sixteen-year-old.

*seeths with jealousy*




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Mon May 23, 2005 7:25 pm
DarkerSarah says...



I'm not much into YA fiction, but I read a book a little while ago called A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. It wasn't the most astounding piece of literature I've ever read, but it was an enjoyable read.




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Mon May 23, 2005 7:17 pm
Rei says...



You just don't know where to look. There is a lot of good stuff out there. For YA novels, you have to look to the small presses, particularly stuff that doesn't make it to the bestseller lists, and books from other countries.




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Sat May 21, 2005 3:12 am
Sam wrote a review...



I don't know...

I hate that a good percentage of 'teen' books are written for girls. And I hate it that most of them have the same plot. there are only like...4 teen books that I have read that followed an actual plotline. TEA MEAT ON THEM!

About a year ago I started reading adult novels just because I was sick of the teen ones...including The DaVinci Code, The Nanny Diaries, Angels and Demons, and State of Fear. Good stuff, man!

Teen literature seriously needs to change. Soon.




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Wed May 11, 2005 1:01 am
niteowl wrote a review...



I like YA fiction. I don't WANT to be challenged or made to think too much in the books I choose to read. So YA fiction and I are a perfect match. I even end up dipping into the kids section from time to time. Just one question, Rei: what is middle reader fiction?




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Tue May 10, 2005 5:19 am
Caligula's Launderette wrote a review...



I agree...I think I've read everything worth a damn in all the school libraries...when I was about 12 or 13 I started reading adult books because I wasn't being pushed mentally and YA books didn't interest me.

But there is an exception I have some very favorite authors that publish as Children's and YA authors and so I end of trudging to the back, the kids section of the barnes and noble or borders for their books.

Authors like Lloyd Alexander, who at first read seems harmless and pretty much for young kids, but if you look deeper really appeals to an older group.

meh...I think YA authors should push the barrier, but I doubt the publishing nitwits are going to let them.

CL




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Mon May 09, 2005 11:26 pm
bcain says...



You have some very good points, Reichieru.

I was reading YA books when i was 10 for crying out loud, but there are some YA authors I still read because they didn't act like there was an age limit to my brain.




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Mon May 09, 2005 7:54 pm
marching_gurl89 says...



I have started reading adult novels because teen books were not even challenging and didn't make me think.




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Sun May 01, 2005 1:34 am
Rei says...



This week, I have come to a very simple conclusion about Canadian publishers who believe they are publishing books for teens. They suck.





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