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Thread: Acceptable age for main character in YA

  1. #1
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    Acceptable age for main character in YA

    What is the oldest a main character can generally be in a book marketed as YA? I would have assumed early 20's at the oldest, but I see plenty of Forgotten Realms books with adult MC's shelves as YA in the library...

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    Most commonly, eighteen. I Am The Messenger's MC is nineteen, but we aren't all Markus Zusak.

    The sweet spot is sixteen or seventeen.
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    Heckuva good sport frimble3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glutton View Post
    What is the oldest a main character can generally be in a book marketed as YA? I would have assumed early 20's at the oldest, but I see plenty of Forgotten Realms books with adult MC's shelves as YA in the library...
    The library is flexible and puts books that YA readers might like in the YA section. Lots of middle-aged grown-ups read YA, as well.
    Trying to sell a book to a publisher as 'YA', is, I believe, more restrictive: it's older teenagers.

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    The colors! THE COLORS! leahzero's Avatar
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    As long as the number has the word "teen" in it, you are pretty much okay.

    However, it's not just age that makes something YA. A character in college is not considered YA, but "new adult." Conversely, you could have a 19-year-old character in high school (for whatever reason), and that would most likely be YA (assuming it dealt with issues and themes pertinent to high school life, or the equivalent of high school life in whatever imaginary world it takes place).
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    Quote Originally Posted by leahzero View Post
    A character in college is not considered YA, but "new adult." Conversely, you could have a 19-year-old character in high school (for whatever reason), and that would most likely be YA (assuming it dealt with issues and themes pertinent to high school life, or the equivalent of high school life in whatever imaginary world it takes place).
    What about secondary world fantasy marketed as YA, which is what I was mainly thinking of?

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    You can't sit with us! missesdash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glutton View Post
    What about secondary world fantasy marketed as YA, which is what I was mainly thinking of?
    The age range is the same. I think it's possible to have a secondary fantasy with teen protagonists be marketed as adult (depending on content, POV and voice) but I don't think a secondary fantasy with an adult protagonist (over 19) would be considered YA.

    As usual, there are exceptions.

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    practical experience, FTW rwm4768's Avatar
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    In secondary fantasy, I think there is a type of story that can appeal to young adults even though the characters aren't actually the right age. For example, the Hobbit is often shelved as young adult even though Bilbo is certainly not the right age.

    Likewise, you might see R.A. Salvatore, Weis and Hickman, Terry Brooks, and David Eddings shelved for younger audiences.

    But if you want to call your book YA, the character should be probably 15 to 18 years old. All the others I mentioned would probably write their query letters by simply calling their books fantasy. Then they would let the publishers, libraries, and bookstores figure out the audience.

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    practical experience, FTW McMich's Avatar
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    I'd say 18-19 tops. The issue would also be since it is fantasy- what is the main theme? 19 doesn't work for YA when the protag is off at college because they are not dealing with the same issues as YA. YA is limited by age, but also by issues.

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    I'm already a real writer. Katrina S. Forest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glutton View Post
    What about secondary world fantasy marketed as YA, which is what I was mainly thinking of?
    I agree that 19 is kind of your maximum. Characters might age with a successful series, though. I believe the protagonist in the Poison Study series turns 20 in the second book, which is labeled as YA right on the spine. Even then, she still deals with a lot of teen-relevant issues. As others said, it's not just the age, but the subject matter.

    Judging which classic authors are shelved with YA doesn't really help much for trying to sell a YA novel right now. But it is nice to know that in the event you become a household name, you don't have to deal with these issues anymore.

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    The young Indiana Jones books are YA. I can't remember how old he is, but the last one I read (a couple weeks ago) he's doing advanced degrees in university (and sleeping with one of his professors). I assumed he was early 20's. That said, I think it's a safer bet to keep them "teens." quan lot vera quan lot nam do nhiet do tam vest cong so chan vay cong so cho thue trang phuc re dep
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  11. #11
    He had lucid moments. dbock's Avatar
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    Heard in a podcast the other day that your MC should be a bit younger than your reader.

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    Monkeys are evil profen4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbock View Post
    Heard in a podcast the other day that your MC should be a bit younger than your reader.
    Could you give a link to that podcast? I've always heard that most kids books (and that includes YA) the reader generally reads about characters the same age or older, but rarely younger. quan lot annie do lot nam hang hieu bim cho be ban buon vay cong so cho thue trang phuc hoa trang
    Last edited by profen4; 05-14-2013 at 05:50 PM.

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    Bacteria are your friends Zombie Kat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by profen4 View Post
    Could you give a link to that podcast? I've always heard that most kids books (and that includes YA) the reader generally reads about characters the same age or older, but rarely younger.
    Yeah it's this way round. Kids will read up but rarely down. So a book about a 16-year-old character is going to be picked up by readers of around 12 and up.

    It's like when I was at school and it was really cool to hang around with people in the year above but not so much if they were in the year below!

  14. #14
    He had lucid moments. dbock's Avatar
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    My bad guys, just listened to the podcast again because what you said made more sense to me. And they said older not younger. Misheard.

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