Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What is Young Adult Literature?

I recently got a two-star review on Amazon for my Young Adult (YA) adventure story Jump/Drive and I have mixed feelings about the review. First and by degrees of magnitude ahead of any secondary feelings is how happy I am someone else almost read my book. Second is that the reviewer hadn't really read my book. That's a problem with amazon reviews that  is worse, I think than their belief that authors shouldn't review books.

The reviewer had bought my book for his eleven-year old daughter. I have to say that's not part of my target audience. She will, one day be my target audience but right now she's eleven and that's not, by my feelings, a young-adult.

Wikipedia says YA fiction goes from twelve to eighteen. I, personally, would say twelve is on the low end but there are some precocious twelve year-olds for whom it'd be okay. In those cases, the gray area cases, I'd hope the parent would read the book first, or at least be familiar with the author. I'm new. Not many people out there in the world are familiar with me yet so let me explain what I mean when I classify my books as YA.

Fairy tales are stories that help children deal with things that they'll encounter later. Fairy Tales teach them, through story, important life lessons in a way that doesn't appear to be teaching things. They teach good and evil. They teach that if you keep trying you can win out. They teach that we all have allies out there and if we accept their help they'll help us through hard times. Hell, Fairy Tales teach us that there ARE hard times but in a palatable way. In a way a child can understand without being threatened.

Young Adult literature does much the same thing but in a way that's closer to home. There aren't any witches or wizards in my stories. There may be step-parents. There aren't magic beans. There are guns. There aren't vampires. But there may be talk about sex. There are things that young adults, may well encounter in real life and I try and deal with them in a tactful, tasteful way that is realistic, sometimes idealized way to get the young adult thinking and talking about the subjects that are in my stories. Maybe the things in the book haven't happened to them, maybe they have. Maybe they've happened to a friend of theirs and they don't know how to deal with it or talk about it, or even what to think about it. I  hope my stories are a safe way for young adults to encounter teaching stories in a way that is fun, entertaining, and thought-provoking.

In Jump/Drive the story itself is about a hole that opens up in a small town and exposes a secret, underground, area beneath the town that the government was building for the population to retreat to in the event they needed to evacuate to somewhere safe. That's how the story starts out. The lesson in the book, the learning opportunity, is about abuse, sexual abuse, and what love is and how love, desire, and sex may be related but they're not the same thing.

My story has teenaged boys in it and they talk like teenaged boys talk. Their language isn't what you'd hope to hear in church, but is what you'd likely hear if you could hear boys that age talking to each other without an authority figure around them to stop them from swearing. The reviewer objected to the swearing and for that I'm truly sorry. Not sorry that it's in there. That's how they would talk. The dialog is the part of the book I think rings the most true. That's not just my opinion, but the opinion of everyone I've talked to about the book. Even those who object to the use of the swearing agree that while they don't like it, it is how they would talk. It's real.  I want my stories to be real. Fiction isn't just lies and made-up stories. Good fiction, which I hope my story is, is truth, real truth, told as if it were fiction so we can learn from it in the same way Fairy Tales teach our kids a truth by using witches, poison apples, and candy houses.

So, if you are someone from, my age range would be more ideally from 13 - 35, grab a copy of my book and read it, tell me what you think about it. Talk to your kids about it after they read it; let them know before they read it that they can talk to you about it if they want. But if you're not sure about a book, like really really sure, read it first.
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