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Thread: Is my fantasy novel actually YA?

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW rwm4768's Avatar
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    Is my fantasy novel actually YA?

    I've been getting my query for White Fire critiqued recently in Query Letter Hell. A lot of people have commented that it seems YA even though I don't mention character ages.

    I can see where they're getting this from, but it's also a multiple point of view novel. My male main character is 18. My female main character is 16. But the other two viewpoint characters, who do not get mentioned in the query, are 25 and 30.

    That's why I have trouble thinking of it as YA. Yes, most of the book focuses on the teenage characters, but I'm just not sure. I'm looking for some input. Is it YA or not? Personally, I don't think it is. I've read a lot of adult fantasy with one or more teenage character points of view.

  2. #2
    Edit . . . Edit . . . Edit . . . WriterWho's Avatar
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    What about new adult?

  3. #3
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    I think it's because you've used "Princess" in the query letter.

    I would bill it as a normal Epic Fantasy novel. A young character/narrator doesn't automatically make it a YA.
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  4. #4
    [Insert something witty here] KateSmash's Avatar
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    It depends. (OMG, if I had a nickel for every time I say this in a post ...)

    Even with multiple POVs (which are totally kosher in YA), there's still going to be one or two main main characters. I get from your OP that these would likely be the teen characters since your query focuses on them. Do they get more "screen-time" than the adult POVs? So that opens another level of questioning.

    How much of the plot revolves around common YA themes? Coming of age, figuring out your identity, love, loss, etc, etc and are those themes told in a particularly teen way? If yes, it might be a YA. If not so much, then it would probably be straight epic fantasy.

    The only way to really know for sure is to A) read a few YA epic fantasies (I suggest Rae Carson and/or Tamora Pierce) to see how you compare or B) get yourself a fast reading beta familiar with the YA and adult fantasy markets that can do a read through and give you a firm opinion.

  5. #5
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    Try querying it as YA and let the agents decide if it is.
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  6. #6
    Hero, villain, angel, demon AW Moderator Sage's Avatar
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    I would guess that it's probably not, but your query might make it seem that way, which is something to work on. I just read an agent tweeting about a book she thought was YA even though it was never queried as such, and she rejected it because it didn't fit the YA market, and then found out it wasn't meant to be YA. But she had thought it was when she requested and read it. Something led her to believe it would be and it affected her reading.

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  7. #7
    have faith, restart itsmary's Avatar
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    In general, there are a few major criteria that classify novels as YA:

    1. The protagonist is between the ages of 12 and 18. (Though 12 is bordering on middle grade and 18 is bordering on new adult/adult. Most stories that have an MC who is college age or beyond fall outside the realm of YA.)
    2. The protagonist goes through some sort of "coming of age" experience as the story unfolds. (Not an adult protagonist looking back on his/her childhood.) The protagonist and his/her peers have to solve major problems with minimal or no help from adults or other authority figures.
    3. The story is shorter, pacing is quicker, and the story moves along faster than an adult novel.

    Of course, I'm not the ultimate authority on what is or isn't YA. Only you can decide what to market your book as. But these are things I always ask myself when I'm not sure if I should classify a book as YA.

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW
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    It often strikes me that the division between YA and New Adult seems arbitrary. Especially the 18 cut-off point. Because, really, I think 16 and 17 year olds (which strike me as the most common ages for YA protagonists) have a lot more in common with 18 and 19 year olds than they do 13-year-olds. And 18 to 19 year olds generally have a lot more in common with 16 and 17 year olds than they do with people who are like 25.

    Some of this is just my own frustrations because I consider my book YA, but my two central YA characters are 18 and in the summer before college, and I have a lot of people asking me whether that even makes the book YA anymore - and it really should, in my opinion.
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  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW W.L. Marks's Avatar
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    If you feel that it's for adults, it probably is. I mean, look at an author like Mercedes Lackey...tons of books about teens and young teens, even with coming of age elements, but they're almost always marketed toward adults. I really think there's a tone to (most!) YA books that distinguish them from adult fantasies...pinning that tone down will have to be the work of people wiser than me though!

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  10. #10
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Yes, I used to feel weird about this with my own WIP. I didn't begin it as YA, but because the protagonist is a teenager it seemed impossible not to make it YA. (It turned out to be the right choice so far).
    But I feel it would be really hard being in a teenagers head and writing from their POV and not be YA, unless done very cleverly, or as a memoir with adult commentary put in.
    I would be interested in learning about exceptions to this.

    I suppose Gone With the Wind focuses a great deal on a girl in her teens and isn't YA, but even then she is seen as an adult in her time and culture... so I don't know.

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