Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Is it YA or Adult?

YA vs Adult

When I was a kid, I read books independent of my English teacher’s assignments. Novels like Tom Jones, The Three Musketeers, and Bambi.

None of these is exactly youth oriented. Yeah, you look at Bambi and may disagree but try reading it. Then you’ll see. And btw, Tom Jones is hilarious.

By today’s standards, these books are incomprehensible to kids. Pick up a modern YA, judge the dialogue and literary writing for yourself, and tell me this isn’t so.

So what’s happened? Was I especially gifted? *insert belly laugh here* Or are today's young people unable to digest weightier tomes like The Call of the Wild, White Fang, or Burning Daylight by Jack London?

Too much Graphic Novels? Sound bites in book form?

Or do we expect too little from them?

Whatever the reason, it perplexes me when I see ‘unrealistic narrative’ in a critique of a YA. Or, damn an author because their novel doesn’t follow an unwritten, incomprehensible rule that shifts in the wind according to the moral whims of the critic.

Kids have brains. Some folks don’t give them enough credit for what they can absorb. The youth’s literary base should be as broad as the sky and never, ever slotted in a hole just because of their age.

(One caveat: I am speaking literary here. I do believe graphic sex acts and gore should be in the adult section.)

Expect the universe, encourage their intelligence, and assume they can do anything. Don’t limit them to slang and jargon, pictures and a format in their reading menu. Bring out Pride and Prejudice, Plato’s Republic, and Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Mars Freedman.

Let them breathe. Let them expand.

Whatcha think?


  1. And another thing:
    This post is about our expectations for our young adults not about the placement of the novel in the bookstore.

  2. I agree; I was reading mostly 'adult' novels as a teen because there was no YA.

  3. Yes, give teens credit; they do have brains...and on the other hand, everything is fast-paced and their attention spans have shrunk as a general rule. I think we should just tell our stories and don't "dumb down" for them. They just may surprise us.

  4. I think about this a lot, but then society as a whole is dumbing itself down, don't you think? Not just our books...everything! And I wonder at times about attaching YA to my queries, because I'm not writing for YA, I'm writing the story I want to write. And yes, there may be a seventeen year old MC, but I don't want that to limit the character, the story, or my writing in any way. We don't give kids enough credit, this is true, but in the end kids, like adults, want good books. Tastes vary.
    So my advice, write what you want to write. Be as rich and true as you want to be, and maybe that 'good book' will find its way.

  5. Bravo, Escape Artist and CR!

    To go a step further, encourage kids to slooow down and read the classics. Toss a copy of Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird in front of their PS3. Give them a chance to experience the wonders of the world our minds make from the words we read.

    To clarify something prickling me: I wrote this post Tuesday morning at around 5 am. Then I blogged it.

    Imagine my surprise when I saw http://adventuresinagentland.blogspot.com/ about an hour later.

    Natalie M. Fischer blogged about a similiar theme.


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