Ever thought about writing YA, or reading YA? Want to know what it is? Here are the essential elements that make a book fall under the format of young adult literature as inferred from Mertz and England 1983:
1. Most of these books involve having a young protagonist. Realistically, they’re usually between the ages of 13 and 18 so that we can relate to their later years in adolescence.
2. Point of View. Most of the times it’s written in such a way that you, the reader, are given the best advantage of feeling and empathizing what the character is going through. For example, right now I am reading “Period 8” by Chris Cructcher (which I will be doing a review on, by the way) and this story is told in 2nd person. It not only gives us insight into the main characters heads but those of other relative and pertinent characters. Most of these YA books, usually, will fall into 1st person, where as fantasy will fall into 3 person… normally.
3. In all, as we read these books, we’re not looking for static characters. We’re looking for round characters, characters who evolve, learn, and grow from their trials. Expect to see that in YA. Conflict is one of the biggest driving forces in these types of books.
4. Hence the high-stakes conflict, a huge life change is inevitable. It is uncommon for any YA protagonist to still remain the same after experiencing the turmoils and trials of adolescence and the many conundrums it offers.
5. Independence. We all know most people above the age of 13 want independence, so expect it in these YA books. Again, anything else is uncharacteristic. That doesn’t mean that the characters can’t be needy in some areas, but that overall, they are somewhat alone in and facing their problems.
6. Concerns from contemporary issues. Books today often face issues that we see in everyday life, from poverty, to abortion, to religion. All of these issues compromise the “conflicts” that challenge the young protagonist to learn and grow.
7. “You made your bed, you lie in it.” That’s right, the characters reap what they sew. If your favorite protag cheats on his girl, you better bet he’s going to have a hard time afterword facing all of the conflicts waiting for him on the other side. All actions have big repercussions.
8. Some fully developed characters. Most YA needs a well-rounded main characters along with 2 or 3 minor characters, also round, who can give depth and meaning to the work. Don’t expect to have parents who are highly involved, not at least in a good way.
As I continue to read YA, I know I’ll be looking for these elements. One, it’s a great tool for honing the writing craft, and two, it helps me to be mindful of what my readers are reading and dealing with in real life. It’s always important to be relevant, and that’s what YA books are… relevant; relatable.
Would you read YA? What are your thoughts on it? What are some other common elements in YA?
#YA #yalit #amreading #writerslife #ala