Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What is YA Lit?

What is YA Lit?

I have been thinking about this question a lot lately. Is YA Lit the books being written for Young Adults/Teens as designated by the publishers and authors? Is YA Lit any book that a Teen or Young Adult reads? Or is it some combination of the two? Or is it something totally else entirely?
Who defines what YA Lit is?


Young-adult fiction or young adult literature (often termed as "YA"), also juvenile fiction, is fiction written, published, or marketed to adolescents and young adults, although recent studies show that 55% of young-adult fiction is purchased by readers over 18 years of age. The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of the American Library Association (ALA) defines a young adult as someone between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Authors and readers of young adult (YA) novels often define the genre as literature as traditionally written for ages ranging from sixteen years up to the age of twenty-five, while Teen Fiction is written for the ages of ten and to fifteen. The terms young-adult novel, juvenile novel, young-adult book, etc. refer to the works in the YA category.

Merriam-Websters, Oxford Dictionary, American Heritage Dictionary 

They don't define it.

Those that have been reading this blog might know I work at a public library and I am the Teen/YA Librarian. I see just as many teens as I do adults checking out books from the YA section as I see teens just as many teens checking out adult books.

There is no rating system yet for books like there for movies, TV shows, and video games. Though I will not lie; I am waiting for this to happen. But then again they tried this with comic books and it worked for a while with the Comics Code and then the publishers decided to start policing themselves and rating stuff. We see the ratings on manga.

Sorry I am straying from my point as to what really is YA Literature? Is it something created by the publishers just to sell books? Or is it a guide of books which would be appropriate for those ages to read. I know when I was kid/teen there was no YA Lit. There was kids’ book and adult books. So I delved into the world of sci-fi/fantasy literature like Tolkein and Weiss and Hickman. I read the Star Wars books that were out there and all the comic books I could get my hands on. There was also the Doctor Who novelizations; how could I forget about Doctor Who in all of this. But none of these would be consider YA Literature.

I think the topic of what is YA Literature is an interesting one. I believe, and it is just my opinion, that there are many YA Lit books that far more superior in craft and writing style than Main Stream Literature and New York Best Selling Fiction. There is a lot more freedom in writing YA Lit. There is mixed genera. There is even a mix of age groups in the protagonists; though I will admit they are younger; teen like in age.

But in the aspects of my library’s YA section I have Frank Herbert’s Dune; the Weiss and Hickman Dragonlance books, Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time, Doctor Who, Star Wars, etc.

I also have Lemony Snickett, Tom Angleberger, Rick Riordan, and Eoin Colfer all who some would say could be too young for the section.

Then I have everything they consider “YA Literature.”

But look at the authors who are writing it; everyone is getting in the game look at Patterson, Grisham, and  Reichs. When is Nicholas Sparks going to write one?

So what is YA Lit?

How is it really defined?

Age of the Readers?

Age of the Characters in the book?



Subject matter?


The authors who write?

What is YA Lit?

What really defines it?

Is it all based on a matter of perspective?

Or does all of this define what YA Lit? Is it a living organism which will change with the times and the readership?

I don’t know.

Though I am curious to see how you define YA Lit, so please feel free to share your thoughts and feelings about YA Lit.


1 comment:

  1. I came to find out that some of what I've written doesn't really seem very YA by modern parameters, since I write historical and was writing about young people long before the YA explosion of the last 5-10 years. What had been considered perfectly normal for youth literature in my generation suddenly has become either mature MG or adult literature that just happens to have teen or preteen characters. A lot of it comes down to voice, theme, content, subject matter, style, and setting.

    I've seen recent books published outside the U.S. which are classified as YA in those markets (e.g., England, Germany), but would probably have a hard time being sold as YA in the U.S. For example, one of my favorite recent historical YA books was Anne C. Voorhoeve's My Family for the War, in which the protagonist ages from 10-17, with an Epilogue in her early twenties. That's almost unheard-of in mainstream U.S. YA these days, a character aging that significantly over the entire book.

    There are other recent historicals whose YA classifications I question, like the 1920s trilogies by Jillian Larkin and Anna Godbersen. They're about 18-year-olds in very adult, mature situations, in an era when they would've been considered adults, period, not just young adults. The books awkwardly straddle the fence and try to play both YA and adult sides, with a kind of schizophrenic feeling.