In my trip up north, the number one question I was asked was “What is YA, exactly?” And even though I thought the answer was simple, it really wasn’t. Is YA based on the age of the protagonist? The age of the readers it’s geared toward? The issues it deals with? Or a combination of all three?
So, I went digging.
Young Adult fiction is defined as “fiction written for, published for, or marketed to adolescents and young adults, roughly ages 14 to 21.”
So that means that the protagonist is usually between the same ages. It’s rarely from the prospective of an adult—though it has happened. And deals with situations that are presented to young adults. Unless, of course, you’re picking up a science fiction, fantasy, or paranormal. As much as I’d have loved to run into a vampire as a teenager, it never happened.
Writing styles vary widely, from the literary to the commercial and even some books are written in free verse.
However, because of it’s uniqueness. You can do almost anything with it. You don’t really have boundaries. And whatever boundaries there are, are constantly being tested. Boundaries such as drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, illness, divorce, gangs, crime, violence, suicide, and let’s not forget sexuality.
This seems to be the big one people like to push. Sexuality can include, but is not limited to having/not having sex, homosexuality, incest, rape, teen pregnancy, oral sex and promiscuity. The list is endless.
Some people view these topics as immoral and destructive behavior and think they should be banned from the books teens read, but let’s face it, these are the topics teens are all dealing with in one way, shape or form. I agree with the others who argue that “the fictional portrayal of teens successfully addressing difficult situations and confronting social issues helps readers deal with real-life challenges.”
Unfortunately the debate relating to the amount and nature of violence, sex, and profanity appropriate in young adult fiction will continue until the end of time, I expect. No one will be able to agree on what’s appropriate or not. Not even the teens reading it.
But despite all that, YA fiction has the same characteristics as other stories: character, plot, setting, theme, and style.
So the question still remains, “What is YA fiction, exactly?”