Young Adult versus Fiction – what content crosses the line?

YA-booksHey all! NaNoWriMo is going SO WELL this year.  I actually feel confident – though I need to get a little more of my outline done.  My pace has been absolutely insane this year – even with the past two days being ‘stumbles’ at 1,9oo~ words, my average per day is at 2,900~.

I’ve never written so much so fast before.  It’s a great feeling.  Even if my hands are starting to get a little more sore.  Poor things don’t know how to react!  But I’m going to keep pounding this novel out.  I should break 25,000 tomorrow!

For those who don’t know, I started a writing advice tumblr – just some writing tips.  I like giving writing advice and trying to help when I can.  Feel free to shoot me asks there – or send emails!   So far its been very fun and I think it helps me become a better writer when I have to try and break things down for OTHER writers.  So yeah. Send me an ask if you need or want advice.  or if you just want to chat!

Young Adult versus Fiction

So this is something that I’ve been thinking on for quite awhile.  What is the big difference between Young Adult versus fiction books.  Is is the content? Is it the writing style? What really defines Young Adult versus fiction aimed towards adults?

Most of my curiosity comes from where I should be placing my own books genre-wise.  Now I’m not talking erotica books – I think the difference is pretty obvious there.  Minors probably shouldn’t be reading books that feature heavy erotica.

Now I’m suddenly wondering why books that feature explicit sex don’t require ID…

Right, back on track.  What really defines the difference between ‘Young Adult’ and fiction? A quick search of wikipedia brings me to this:

  • The subject matter should reflect age and development by addressing their interest levels, reading and thinking levels.
  • The content should deal with contemporary issues and experiences with characters adolescents can relate.
  • Subjects can relate to dealing with parents and adults, illness and death, peer pressure with regards to drugs, sex, and the complications of addiction and pregnancy.
  • The content should consider existing global concerns such as cultural, social, and gender diversity; environmental and political issues as it relates to adolescents.

But that mainly refers to how to handle it in the classroom.  So it mentions issues and experiences that adolescents can relate.  I read some more mainstream fiction when I was younger and I was able to relate to some of that…

Is it the age of the character that determines whether or not the book is young adult or mainstream fiction?  I remember finding The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde in the young adult section – and the main character, Thursday Next, is an adult.  After looking on a young adult book list, I also saw Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams listed there as well,  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Piccoult.  These were alongside books that I would expect on the list, like the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games series, and Looking for Alaska by John Green.

So what really defines it?

It certainly can’t be the violence that makes mainstream fiction for adults inappropriate for young adult readers.  The Hunger Games series is really violent – as would be expected of a dystopian novel where children are put up to fight to the death.  I’m not sure where the Animorphs series comes in terms of genre – but it starts with the graphic death of an alien.  

Is it the lack of sexual content?  Because books like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Looking for Alaska have sexual material.  The latter has oral sex in it (though it is painfully awkward to read and I know that was a deliberate choice).  Hell, the Twilight series preaches abstinence, but characters crave sex and get married at a young age so they can have sex.

Is it really just arbitrarily decided by the reading level?  Young adult books are usually quick reads for me – but I still love them and I’m technically outside of the age demographic.  They aren’t difficult reads.  But if its just the reading level that puts them into the genre of young adult, are some of them really appropriate for kids?

It makes me really wonder if there IS a difference.  I’ve read a lot of young adult books, I’ve read a lot of mainstream fiction.  Sometimes I find it hard to find the difference – except that young adult books tend to be shorter and of slightly less difficult reading level.

What do you all think? Do you think that there are young adult books that have content that crosses the line? If so, which books? Why?

~LL Lemke


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