I’m back home and eager to continue my series of blog posts about genre. It seems natural to jump back in with one of the hottest genres around, Young Adult or YA.
Wild, impulsive behavior, hormones bouncing off the walls, soaring emotions, dark secrets: this is the stuff of young adult novels. It is the fiction of firsts. First crush, date, kiss, job, failing grade, drink, smoke, sexual experience, rejection, the list goes on. Think of one of your milestone firsts and chances are it happened while you were a young adult.
It may be helpful to define the term, “young adult.” In terms of the genre, a young adult is an adolescent, a teenager, typically of high school age, between 14- and 18-years-old. There’s some breathing room on either end, but a protagonist younger than thirteen would be considered Middle Grade and one older than nineteen would be a New Adult.
Voice is particularly important in YA fiction. As you read, you should be hearing the voice of a teen telling her story. A novel written as a memoir, i.e., an older person telling the story of his teen years, is not YA because the voice is that of an adult reliving his youth.
The YA protagonist should also have a keen eye for adult hypocrisy. Teens are often censured by grownups that talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk, and they are fully aware of this. A sense of alienation from and aversion to the adult world is crucial to the YA voice.
Many subgenres fall under the wide YA umbrella, including historical, romance, literary, dystopia, fantasy and horror. Examples, in order of genre, include “The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing,” “Anna and the French Kiss,” “The Catcher in the Rye,” “Divergent,” “Tithe,” and “The Forest of Hands and Teeth.”
Few subjects are taboo in YA and some books deal with difficult, sensitive topics, such as drug use, promiscuity, suicide, cutting and bullying. “Speak” tells the story of rape victim who calls the police during a blow out party. Unable to say what really happened, she is shunned and becomes a social pariah. In “Living Dead Girl,” a kidnap victim tells the horrific story of her life as a pedophile’s plaything. It’s not all heavy weather in YA and there are plenty of books based around adventure and romance, but even these can brush on hard topics that are of concern to teens.
YA novels are written for and marketed to teenagers. The phenomenon of the YA genre is that many of the readers are adults. According to a 2012 article in Publishers Weekly, adults bought 55% of YA books. Not surprising, since parents must be buying books for their kids. However, of that number, 78% purchased the books for themselves. YA books such as “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” became blockbuster hits because of their crossover appeal.
Has YA run its course as a hot genre? Apparently not. In sessions at the San Francisco Writers Conference, I learned that sales are still brisk and new books are constantly being acquired. To paraphrase one editor, there is a consistent, yet changing readership as children grow into teens and seek out YA novels.
Interested in learning more? Here are some great websites to check out.
- Young Adult Books Central is a great place to find the latest books and reader reviews.
- Adult YA readers may enjoy Forever Young Adult, “a site for YA readers who are a little less Y and a bit more A.”
- Teen readers should check out Teen Ink, an online magazine and teen community.
Below you’ll find a few free-for-now Kindle books to give you a taste for the genre.
Brightest Kind of Darkness by P.T. Michelle
Nara Collins is an average sixteen-year-old, with one exception: every night she dreams the events of the following day. Due to an incident in her past, Nara avoids using her special gift to change fate…until she dreams a future she can’t ignore. After Nara prevents a bombing at Blue Ridge High, her ability to see the future starts to fade, while people at school are suddenly being injured at an unusually high rate. Grappling with her diminishing powers and the need to prevent another disaster, Nara meets Ethan Harris, a mysterious loner who seems to understand her better than anyone. Ethan and Nara forge an irresistible connection, but as their relationship heats up, so do her questions about his dark past.
The Sword and The Prophet by Missy LaRae
Fifteen year old twins Lily and Tyler are on a mission. Escape from their abusive mother, hop a train to Charleston, South Carolina, and don’t get caught. They’ve been kept in virtual seclusion their entire lives, and in one night make a break for it and succeed. However, something isn’t right with their new Aunt and Uncle, and they realize they’ve escaped one nightmare and stumbled into something even far more sinister and deadly.
Adventures In Funeral Crashing by Milda Harris
Sixteen year old Kait Lenox has a reputation as the weird girl in her high school, mostly because of her ex-best friend turned mean popular girl, Ariel, but maybe it has a little to do with the fact that Kait has a hobby crashing funerals. At one of these, Kait is outted by the most popular guy in school, Ethan Ripley. Yet, instead of humiliating her for all the world to see, he asks for her help, and Kait finds herself entangled in a murder mystery. Not only is the thrill of the mystery exciting, but more importantly Ethan knows her name! A little sleuthing is well worth that!
Perfectly Dateless by Kristin Billerbeck
Daisy Crispin has 196 days to find the right date for the prom. There’s only one problem–her parents won’t let her date or even talk to a guy on the phone. Oh, and she’s totally invisible at school, has to wear lame homemade clothes, and has no social skills. Okay, so maybe there’s more than one problem. Can she talk her parents into letting her go to the prom? Or will they succeed at their obvious attempt to completely ruin her life?
Disclaimers and Disclosures
I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.
These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.