>> Monday, December 14, 2009
You know a friend of mine asked an interesting question. (And she was posting the question from another blog). What separates a YA novel from an adult novel? I know others have asked it, but my friend did more than pose questions, she passed some suggestions on what she thought of as a YA novel.
Now, I've checked out the other two blogs and my friend and myself were really the only ones seeming to discuss this issue, which seems odd because I happen to know a few experts on this subject. So, given the fact that I'm not a YA novelist (generally) and never really read them much (even when a YA) - though, again, there are exceptions, I'd like to encourage people to weigh in on this.
To find out what my friend, Bookishgal thought on this topic, don't forget to check out her blog.
Here's what I think makes a YA novel is:
- First and foremost, it needs to be a novel that speaks to young people. What does that mean? That means that the characters act and talk in ways that teenagers can identify with. That likely means teenage logic. In my (limited) experience, it means characters likely to be living in the moment without much understanding of consequence. It means emotions tend to run high and be extremes - euphoria and despair, terror and complete fearlessness, with little in between. They love absolutely. They hate the same way.
- Empowerment. I think, if one has characters young people identify with, you need to put them in situations where they have power. I think young people tend to feel somewhat powerless, riddled with rules and limited by their youth, where someone else decides everything for them. The world is full of things they can't do. So, a good YA novel, which likely includes people trying to keep them in "their" places, should include going beyond those limitations. This is likely why comic books and mangas often involve special powers and magic, supernatural forces and abilities. Or young people taking charge of their lives the way young people don't feel like they can in reality.
- Struggle. This might not be fighting against adults, but the struggle needs to be real, at least to teenagers. This might be action or adventure. This might be mystery or romantic conflict. There might be (in fact, likely is) danger. Teenager tend to feel like they're always struggling against something.
- Main characters can have layers and subtlety, but many of those on the outside of those characters may be black and white. Villains are very villainous, perhaps with no redeeming qualities. Good guys and support characters (friends) can be selfless and never fail to be there when you need them. Though authority figures don't always fare well.
- Some of the language and imagery might be a little less erudite than adult, but I'm not sure that's really that much of a distinction nowadays.
What do you think?