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Thread: Is it YA or Literary Fiction for Adults?

  1. #1
    ErinGlover ErinGlover's Avatar
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    Is it YA or Literary Fiction for Adults?

    I read a thread from Katiemac in 2009 with an excellent description of the characteristics of YA. My problem is I still don't know where my novel fits: YA or LitFic. The protagonist is 15, the antagonist is her mother. The themes involve incest, domestic violence, and suicide. The POV is 3d person, adult, in the protagonist's mind. The central issue is will Kali (the protagonist) keep her secrets buried where her shame is destroying her, or will she finally talk and escape her mother's toxic influence? Kali has PTSD. There is a lot of discussion and acting out around the mother/daughter relationship, the symptoms of an abused teen (promiscuity; setting fires; running away), and there is a love scene with Kali's boyfriend. I've read a number of books lately like The Mare and The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao that had teen protagonists but were not YA. Is it all about voice? Help, I'm so confused. I can show you a couple of lines if you like.
    Erin

  2. #2
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    YA can have lit-fic within its category, but it really comes down to voice and presentation.

    The Girl with all the Gifts was about a child, but it's definitely not children's fiction. Similarly Lolita isn't really YA, even though she's 15. Game of Thrones is 90% POV characters who are younger than 16, but the material is decidedly adult and handled in an adult manner.

  3. #3
    ErinGlover ErinGlover's Avatar
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    I don't think it's YA but I submitted the first 1400 words for critique and one other person thought it was. But it was just the 15 year old running away--the introduction. There were no heady ideas.

    Thanks for your feedback.
    Erin

  4. #4
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    With lit fic, it's a lot about the voice, but also a lot about themes and questions. Lit fic is not really the same as a genre - and of course you can have crossovers; literary YA is a definite thing. The main thing is not to fall into the trap of thinking My book doesn't fit thisgenre, thatgenre so it must be lit fic. That's not how it works.
    Last edited by mccardey; 06-19-2017 at 02:19 AM.

  5. #5
    I got it covered Undercover's Avatar
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    It's a good question though. Sounds really interesting!

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW cornflake's Avatar
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    As far as I can tell, it's YA; nothing about it suggests litfic, and as McCardy says, it's not a matter of 'it's not YA, so it's therefore litfic.'

  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I think it helps to see 'Literary Fiction' as more of a label than a genre in itself.

    Imagine an (incredibly complex) sliding scale, where on the one hand you have novels that are driven by the external plot, by the action and by the genre elements such as 'high fantasy' worlds, science fiction settings and so on. On the other end of the sliding scale, you have novels that are driven primarily by the internal plot, by introspective, in-depth character studies, by social commentary, by the characters' personal stories and development.

    Almost no novels - if any - exist on either extreme of the scale. Almost all genre/plot-based novels have an element of inner character life, development and so forth, and I can't think of any literary fiction where there isn't an external plot that 'fuels' the internal plot. Almost every worthwhile story needs both to some degree. Your novel can be anywhere on this sliding scale, and it will probably be fine. The YA meta-genre has more to do with the target audience than with the content, so to speak.

    As a final remark, don't forget that your novel can be strong or weak on both fronts at once. You don't have to look at your book and think, "Damn, there is too much external plot happening in my literary fiction novel!" As long as there's enough of both to make for a solid story, go nuts.

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW CJSimone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ErinGlover View Post
    I read a thread from Katiemac in 2009 with an excellent description of the characteristics of YA. My problem is I still don't know where my novel fits: YA or LitFic. The protagonist is 15, the antagonist is her mother. The themes involve incest, domestic violence, and suicide. The POV is 3d person, adult, in the protagonist's mind. The central issue is will Kali (the protagonist) keep her secrets buried where her shame is destroying her, or will she finally talk and escape her mother's toxic influence? Kali has PTSD. There is a lot of discussion and acting out around the mother/daughter relationship, the symptoms of an abused teen (promiscuity; setting fires; running away), and there is a love scene with Kali's boyfriend. I've read a number of books lately like The Mare and The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao that had teen protagonists but were not YA. Is it all about voice? Help, I'm so confused. I can show you a couple of lines if you like.
    Hi ErinGlover. I've also wondered how exactly to distinguish between YA and adult, and some if it gets confusing, but I think the main thing is whether the writing will appeal to teens and the larger YA audience more, or to those who read adult fiction more.

    Figuring it out can get tricky because while YA pretty much always has teen protagonists, adult fiction can have them. If it's an adult looking back at teen years, it's probably adult, but if it's a teen narrator, it can still be either.

    Yeah, voice is big. And whether it's teen issues or more adult issues is also important. Your stated themes (incest, domestic violence and suicide) can be either adult or YA. Your central issue sounds YA, especially trying to escape her mom's toxic influence. The acting out and the mental health issues sound like what YA readers are often interested in.

    From your description here, I'd say it sounds YA.

    Good luck!

    CJ
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    "I am absolutely THRILLED to be working with @CJSimone333 on a gritty, voice-y contemp YA, THE EDGE. You guys, the voice on this! *swoon*" (Dawn Ius, author of ANNE AND FRANK, OVERDRIVE, and LIZZIE).

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  9. #9
    Becoming a laptop-human hybrid Fuchsia Groan's Avatar
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    What do you mean by "The POV is 3d person, adult, in the protagonist's mind."? If you mean that the narrator is an adult looking back on her teen years, then it probably is an adult book. If the narrator is still a teen, very possibly it's YA.

    But "YA literary fiction" is a thing. Check out books like THE F1RST TIME SHE DROWNED, which I believe (haven't read it) is also about an abusive mom.
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  10. #10
    Ni. Peng. Neee-Wom. edutton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchsia Groan View Post
    What do you mean by "The POV is 3d person, adult, in the protagonist's mind."? If you mean that the narrator is an adult looking back on her teen years, then it probably is an adult book. If the narrator is still a teen, very possibly it's YA.
    This is what I was about to say. From OP's query, it sounds like the question revolves around whether the perspective is that of the protag as a teen, or as an adult.
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  11. #11
    figuring it all out
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    To add on to everything that has already been said, YA has evolved a lot in the last almost 10 years. Some things that weren't acceptable before are now, so the darkness of your plot might not be a dealbreaker as to whether or not it's YA.

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