Monday, September 13, 2010

Lines in the Sand

Sometimes I wonder where the line is that separates YA from the rest of the book world.  Is it YA simply because the main characters are teens?  Is it YA if it deals with teen issues?  How much violence is too much?  How much profanity is too much?  How much sex does it take to cross that line?

I hope you're not waiting for me to tell you, 'cause I sure as heck don't know.  I'm currently reading Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. It's got a similar set-up to The Hunger Games but is set in the contemporary world rather than a dystopian future.  In it, 42 15 year-olds are kidnapped, put on an island, and forced to kill each other.  It's called the Program.  In the first 3 chapters, there are 3 dead bodies.  Within the first hundred pages, the body count rises to near a dozen.  These are brutal, bloody deaths not for the squeamish.  Then again, most of the violence in The Hunger Games was exceedingly violent too.  But the difference is that HG is shelved in the YA section while Battle Royale is shelved in the adult.

Maybe there's a pivotal scene I've yet to read that will shed some light on it.  Until then, I'd love to hear where you all think the lines are.  How much violence is too much violence?  Are sex and profanity and violence and drug use only okay if they serve a point?  Isn't gratuitousness the birthright of youth?  Do we have a responsibility to write life as it is or as we think it should be?  Should I shut up and go back to writing about silly euphemisms?  


  1. I'm not sure what the dividing line is either, or even if there is a clear line between YA and adult anymore. But if you haven't seen it, Sherman Alexie has one of the best takes on the subject I've seen, found here

  2. Mike: Thank! I hadn't seen that. It's a great article. Despite the amazing success of YA as a genre, I still get people who want to know when I'll write a "real" book.


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