Can you write a topic that's YA but not teenager-y?

by Cleo

Question I'm writing a story, and I want it to be directed towards generally teenager age readers, but I am terrified of it being put in the same class as books such as Twilight and The Hunger Games. It's going to be more serious than that, more mature, not for the ever texting teenagers that are so 'in' right now. Well, unless they have an intellectual side, that is. But not for 30 years olds either. Is there a way to break the genre barrier?

Answer: There are all types of teenagers, and the smarter, more mature ones read a variety of books, not just the ones that are big, trendy hits.

So what differentiates a teenage or YA book from an adult book?

One trait is that YA books typically have teenage or young adult main characters who are dealing with problems the reader can relate to. Okay, most teens don't fall in love with vampires, but the vampirism in Twilight is just a metaphor for a sex drive - something teens certainly do wrestle with. It's quite common in fantasy and science fiction to deal with real world issues metaphorically. Another example: the X-men comics use mutation as a metaphor for every group that faces prejudice.

Of course, there are also books with teenage main characters that are intended for adults. However, these are often written from the point of view of an older narrator. The perspective is different.

You'll find that just about every genre can be done as YA. Beyond fantasy and science fiction, there are YA romances, westerns, mysteries, literary fiction, historical fiction, etc. etc.

There's really no reason why you can't write a serious or philosophical book for teenagers. Just don't talk down to them. Present the issues in a way they can relate to. You'll find there are plenty of thoughtful teens who like books about ideas.

Comments for Can you write a topic that's YA but not teenager-y?

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Mar 19, 2012
by: Stephanie

More serious and mature than The Hunger Games? Have you read The Hunger Games? More serious than complete government control over their society to the point of starving it's people, kidnapping their children and having them die horrific deaths on television while their parents are forced to watch?

Did you find Gladiator and 300 childish and immature as well?

I didn't want to rate this page low, because I like your answer to her question. And the question was a valid question, if she hadn't mentioned the least childish and immature young adult series as such. I'm near thirty years old and I could not put that series down. If anything we should be aspiring to write something as serious that makes people feel on such a level as The Hunger Games series does.

A lot of young adult books are about dating and relationships, but so are a lot of adult books. That doesn't make them immature or childish. They are things people relate to. More serious books tend to be about politics and war... like The Hunger Games.

But even with the more serious topics of politics and war... people want relationships. Your book with sink without meaningful relationships in it.

Response: I certainly wouldn't call The Hunger Games childish. I like genre fiction as much as literary fiction, and I've read a good deal of both. I think good genre fiction can appeal to a wide age range (from 10 to 100) and can be a vehicle for profound ideas as well as riveting plots and great characters.

However, it's clearly not Cleo's cup of tea. Maybe she wants to write a more literary novel? That's her choice.

Of course, some people write literary novels for teens, so I don't think a person's preference for literary or genre fiction has anything to do with age or maturity. I think it's just a personal preference.

As a genre reader, I also sympathize with your indignation. Genre often gets a bad rap from the literary crowd. - Glen

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