PDA

View Full Version : Un-YA



courtneyv
05-09-2009, 06:01 PM
How can I make my book with mostly teen protagonists not sound YA? I've tried tinkering with the narrative, darkening the tone, having a complex plot that's not in anyway linear--think rollercoaster, but because some of the scenes are set in high school and teens are dealing with SOME teen issues like romantic woes and family drama, many of my critters have called it YA.

It's not coming of age, it's not all angsty, it doesn't have an after-school special ending--a key character dies, it has an adult POV, violence and danger flow throughout until the epilogue, all the POV's have their own feel--one with a gothic texture and rich vernacular because of his conflicted emotions and higher intelligence. But I believe it may be pegged as YA because when people see teens that's what they automatically think.

How else can I make it not sound YA? It's a complex story with mystery, suspense, romance, weirdness, sports, family drama, action. And it's 106,000 words. Not anywhere near YA range. I wrote it as adult suspense but believe it has strong crossover appeal. I'm just worried about it being labeled as YA from the get-go. I have nothing against a YA label. The reason I want it to fall Adult is because my sequel picks up ten years later, and that has 3 POVCs in their twenties, one eleven-year-old and one fifteen-year-old.

If you could point out upper-YA books that are complex with suspense/mystery as the core with maybe a hint of romance, that would be so helpful. Then I can see how my book compares.

Kathleen42
05-09-2009, 06:41 PM
Well you do have one heck of a problem. Here's the thing about crossover (imo - others may feel free to jump in and correct my theory): crossover is a much less relevant point when you're talking adult fiction. There's not as much of a marketing challenge in getting a teen to pick up a book in the adult section (just look at all of us who grew up on Stephen King). There is a challenge in getting an adult to pick up a YA title and that's where crossover sales make publisher's eyes light up.

That being said, there are adult books with teen protagonists or major teen characters. It, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, About a Boy. I'm sure others will throw in some YA titles as well.

Stunted
05-09-2009, 07:06 PM
Why do you not want your piece to be called YA? YA doesn't have to have a moral anymore. It doesn't have to be about troubled teens. It doesn't have to be about angst. Forget all the cliches. YA is just books written from the perspective of teens which teens would like to read. And many YA books are read by adults as well.

Suspense/mystery isn't really a genre in which I'm interested, so I can't really help you, but in terms of "complex plots" you could read anything by Pete Hautman, I Was A Teenage Fairy (Ignore the title. The book is amazing. I have a friend who hated YA fiction having never read any. I made him read it and he absolutely loved it.), and The Blood Confession.

There are things you can do about the word count. Can you turn it into two books? I don't know. But don't be a hater! YA can be anything you want it to be!

Hapax Legomenon
05-09-2009, 07:31 PM
There are certain things that make a book YA as opposed to adult. I've heard something -- MG is about the 'here and now', YA is about the future, and adult is about the past. It has to do with how the groups think, not complexity.

Other than that, it's really about what the publishers think. I'd recommend querying it to agents who don't agent YA and see how they react.

footloose
05-09-2009, 07:58 PM
I think you should focus on telling your story the way it needs to be told and not worry about genre. There are tons of hugely successful novels with teen protagonists or younger that contain elements common to YA. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Lullabies for Little Criminals are just two that spring to mind. Neither of these was classed as YA and the mc in the latter was only 12.

wandergirl
05-09-2009, 08:35 PM
Take a look at Prep (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FPrep-Novel-Curtis-Sittenfeld%2Fdp%2F1400062314&ei=064FSuHxB5KMtgP-4Kj1AQ&usg=AFQjCNFleBCa7aVO283zcTOyb9tN3mfdXQ&sig2=Ahy0IvIQRBFRQb_EzxEVLw) and The Secret History (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=2&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FSecret-History-Donna-Tartt%2Fdp%2F0449911519&ei=xq4FSpWLGaP4tAOfs-D0AQ&usg=AFQjCNFDj3T9sjjDlFZm1kROnE0muyLhhg&sig2=L80iLfxyD9j2WGAws2envQ). Both are good examples of adult novels with young protagonists. In the first case, the whole book takes place in high school, though from the perspective of the MC in her mid-twenties, looking back. In the second, the protagonist is in college; however, the same book could take place in a HS boarding school and still be read as an adult book. Much of it (like you said) is in the tone, the gradual pace, and the huge amount of introspection and expository. Also, I just finished Never Let Me Go (http://www.amazon.com/Never-Let-Me-Kazuo-Ishiguro/dp/1400043395) -- another book with a younger adult MC, looking back at her school days.

In regards to dark, complex upper YA, definitely check out Jellicoe Road (http://www.amazon.com/Jellicoe-Road-Melina-Marchetta/dp/0061431834/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1241886798&sr=1-1) and A Certain Slant of Light (http://www.amazon.com/Certain-Slant-Light-Laura-Whitcomb/dp/061858532X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1241886791&sr=1-1). Two of the best books I've read this year. As a matter of fact, in the latter, the (dead) protagonist is in her late twenties, though she haunts a HS teacher and falls in love with a teenage boy. (kind of. read the book). It's the very definition of crossover; the publisher could have marketed it to adults or YA.

Your word count will also help steer you -- over 80k, and it's heading into adult territory. Over 100k, and you're golden.

courtneyv
05-09-2009, 08:55 PM
I wrote in the vein of Dean Koontz and kind of John Saul, who often use teenage protagonists. I'm not a YA hater. I'm just keeping in mind that I have a sequel that won't fit in the YA market. Plus, I want to build a readership and stick with the same mysterious/suspenseful/weird niche for a while. Where my book is positioned will determine what I work on next.

My book can't really look back because it's told in third: subjective and rotating.

I cannot split the book into two. My story question holds taut until the epilogue. Some epic fantasies can be split up, but mine is a mystery. It wouldn't be fair to readers to invite them into my world without revealing whodunit and why and give some resolution to that.

I'm going to query agents who rep both YA and adult fiction.

Thanks for all the great examples and advice. I'll check into those books. A Certain Slant of Light sounds like a fascinating book!

alainn_chaser
05-12-2009, 07:56 PM
Generally, I think that the books that get shelved under 'Adult' with teen protags are there because the market felt they were very literary. (I'm thinking of books like A Complicated Kindness and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time). This of course does not mean teens do not read them but they're most likely just shelved differently because the adults don't want to have to wander over to the teen section and feel embarrassed. ;)

I think your best bet is to query for both like you're planning to. The agents will be able to help you a little more on this than we can I think.

eyeblink
05-12-2009, 10:25 PM
Generally, I think that the books that get shelved under 'Adult' with teen protags are there because the market felt they were very literary. (I'm thinking of books like A Complicated Kindness and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time). This of course does not mean teens do not read them but they're most likely just shelved differently because the adults don't want to have to wander over to the teen section and feel embarrassed. ;)


It may have been different in other countries, but in the UK The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was deliberately published as a crossover - put on both the Teenagers and Adults Fiction shelves.

It worked, though a schoolteacher friend of mine tells me it went over better with adults than teenagers. It won the Whitbread Book of the Year award.

Momento Mori
05-14-2009, 12:30 PM
courtneyv:
How else can I make it not sound YA? It's a complex story with mystery, suspense, romance, weirdness, sports, family drama, action. And it's 106,000 words. Not anywhere near YA range. I wrote it as adult suspense but believe it has strong crossover appeal.

Simple answer is to deal with it in your cover letter by saying that although it features teen characters, it's an adult novel because of [state your reasons]. Then make sure that you only query adult fiction agents in the first instance.

In any event, whether a book has crossover appeal is something that gets decided by the publishers and it's a decision that they make very carefully because of the additional costs involved with producing books that appeal to both audiences.


courtneyv:
The reason I want it to fall Adult is because my sequel picks up ten years later, and that has 3 POVCs in their twenties, one eleven-year-old and one fifteen-year-old.

Does it need a sequel? Unless and until you get an agent to rep you and a publisher agrees to buy it, I think you should shelve plans for a sequel and work on something completely different. It's fine to have it mapped out and ready to go if it's asked for, but if an agent can't sell the first book then unless the sequel works as a standalone it's not going to be possible to sell it either.

MM

Cyia
05-14-2009, 02:43 PM
You may have just written a dark and complex YA novel. YA can be (extremely) dark. Characters, even main ones, can die. Sex, drugs, drinking, cursing, taboo breaking - all perfectly acceptable for YA.

Sometimes you don't write the book you think you did. (I was in the opposite boat. I though mine was YA because of the teenage protag, but it skewed adult because of the themes in the book and the way they were handled.)

If it reads as YA - and is getting positive feedback from your readers - stop tinkering and go with it. Good YA sells well and the kids who read it now will be older if and when a sequel comes out.

Thump
05-14-2009, 03:32 PM
Write your novel as you like it and don't worry about your target market. Publishers and booksellers will place it in whichever section so let them worry about it. The important thing to remember is that someone will read it. And even if it's placed with the wrong set, it can always be rectified on reprint. Or a publisher might agree to have two covers and market it as a crossover.

brief: let the publisher worry about it. You just write YOUR novel.

courtneyv
05-17-2009, 07:05 AM
Thank you for the input and suggestions.

MM,

My book doesn't need a sequel. Another story concept sprung to life, branching off of the first book. My sequel refers to aspects of the first novel [characters, situations and such] but it is a stand-alone work. Even if I couldn't publish my first book, this one would make sense and fly on its own.