Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What is YA?

So I'm readin Melina Marchetta's THE PIPER'S SON.  I think adults would love it.  The first book my mom read on her Kindle was Marchetta's JELLICOE ROAD.  Both books are sold here in the States as YA.

Markus Zusack's I AM THE MESSENGER and THE BOOK THIEF are sold as adult books in Australia and YA in America.  Though THE BOOK THIEF has been a hugely popular crossover.

THE HOUSE OF TOMORROW was sold as an adult book but the narrator is clearly a teen and I think it's a book that teens would clearly be able to relate to.

There's a secret about growing up that no one ever tells kids.  The secret is that there is no secret.  Growing up is a suggestion, not a rule.  You can still be an adult--pay your bills and have children of your own and enjoy rollercoasters and get giddy over a new movie release and still feel alienated and alone and like no one will ever get you--and not be grown up.  I thought the secret was that adulthood was a profound line over which I'd cross and suddenly "get it."  Turns out, it's not.  It's still just as confusing as being a kid. Maybe more so.

If there's no real and true line that separates men from boys, women from girls, children from adults, then why is there a line, a definition, that segregates YA from adult literature?

This is where the parents come out of the woodworks and mention that some adult books are inappropriate for children.  Just as I'd say that there are some children's books that are inappropriate for adults, and some adult books that are inappropriate for adults (or anyone for that matter) and some children's books that are inappropriate for children.

I will agree that not every child has the maturity for every kind of book.  I would gladly hand my teenage cousins Andrew Smith's GHOST MEDICINE or IN THE PATH OF FALLING OBJECTS but would wait a couple of years to suggest THE MARBURY LENS.  Simply because I know both boys well enough to know that they're likely not ready for it.

But this dividing line between books for children (the dreaded YA label) and books for adults cuts each group off from amazing literature.  I write books with teenage characters in them that I think teenagers would relate to, but a lot of people who read Deathday are adults.

Going back to THE PIPER's SON.  It's a book in which most of the characters are out of high school.  But they're still struggling with identity and the future and what it all means.  And those are universal issues that teens and adults alike can relate to.

YA is a figment of our imagination.  It's a ruse.  And kids are smarter than that.

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