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What is YA?

I am a teenager who enjoys writing, but I often find myself frustrated by the books on the YA shelf as the majority of them seem to be only romance or a romance with thinly veiled fantasy/dystopian elements thrown on top of it. I enjoy writing whatever I want, but I'm wondering if my historical fiction, sci-fi, crime thrillers, and more would end up being published in an adult category. So, authors and readers alike, I'd like to know: what is YA? writing writer author ya youngadult write teenauthor

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Harold’s Answer

The short answer to your question is, "yes".


There is a longer and more complete answer, though it may not go where you expect. The experience I've had speaking with publishers and authors suggest they think of it a little differently. YA is any genre (though fantasy and sci-fi are really the big ones now), but it is defined not only by the focus character's age but also by how explicit the experiences are described. There is much more leeway on that than there used to be, but there are limits. If it crosses that line (determined by the publisher) it would be pushed as adult rather than YA. Also, it can depend on where they think the audience is.


For example, Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game was originally considered YA but was repackaged as adult where it became a massive classic. Hunger Games remained marketed as YA, but was cross-marketed to adults. Similarly, Harry Potter. The thing to realize is that YA, like any genre, is whatever the publisher wants it to be. Genre are artificial lines created to sell books, not a definition of what you want to write.


What it comes down to is that you should write what you want and understand it may need editing to meet a publisher's need or to get their attention down the road. But the first problem is to have something to send out. The genre/market it will be sold under comes later and is, frankly, out of your hands. It can be useful to use that shorthand when targeting and querying publishers and agents later, but first you have to have something to show them. Authors have little control over what categories their books are sold under unless they are huge names.


<span style="color: rgb(93, 103, 106);">See, long answer! </span>I hope that helps.

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Kristin’s Answer

Historical fiction, sci-fi, crime thrillers, etc., could totally fall into the Young Adult category as long as your main characters are young people. "Growing up" doesn't have to be the main focus, but it could woven in as background, or add complexity to your main plot.

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G. Mark’s Answer

YA -- or Young Adult -- is literature aimed at folks around 12 years and up. However, I've heard very compelling arguments for stating that it is not an "age target" but rather a genre of writing that centers around the experiences of the young adult -- the time in life when the transition to adulthood often results in emotional growing pains and the formation of the mind of the person as it will be formed in maturity. I think that if your work centers on that experience, you have YA material.


Thank you for this advice; I see your point. If the focus of the story is not necessarily on the growing up part, but more on the growing up person interacting with new worlds (fantasy and sci-fi dimensions and situtations) for the first time, would that count as YA? Again, thank you for your feedback. Trinity G.

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