View Full Version : Young(ish) Protagonist in Adult Fiction

03-24-2010, 06:32 PM
I've been posting a few revisions of my query letter in the SYW forums and I've noticed on multiple occasions that people ask me if it's Young Adult.

I wrote a horror story. A vampire story, specifically. It's twisted, dark and definitely not for young readers. One of my two protagonists is a man in his early thirties and the other is a seventeen year old girl.

Many people seem to assume that because she's 17, it must be a YA book. My beta readers liked her and think she works with the story but my question is, is there some sort of unwritten rule that I'm breaking by having a protagonist that age in a book meant for adults?

***EDIT*** The only reason I ask is I don't want to misrepresent my novel to agents or have them jump to the wrong conclusions.

03-24-2010, 07:12 PM
Could you refer to her as a "young woman" in your query letters? Many, many adult novels have young protangonists. In Beth Hoffman's Saving CeeCee HoneyCut, the main character is 12 years old. Yet it's an adult novel. The MC in The Dog Incident in the Middle of the Night is a child. Given the genre of your novel though and the fact that Twilight has such YA appeal, I think that referring to her in the query as a young woman might at least prevent your novel from being pegged YA from the get-go.

03-24-2010, 11:08 PM
There's no rule. Child protags exist in adult books all the time. I think a lot of folks just see "17" and think YA, especially if it's paired with a common YA theme (like vampires). I haven't read your query, but it's possible the tone you're using sounds YA. Or folks just got it wrong :) But if you don't say "my YA novel" agents won't think it is, especially if you query those that don't rep YA.

03-29-2010, 11:19 PM
I'm glad you asked this, as something similar has been nagging at my mind. I'm not finished my WIP yet, so I haven't had any comments about it except for one friend asking if it was YA after she read my very very rough/practice query letter. The story starts with a 16-year-old MC and ends with him being 18, but it's got nothing to do with growing up or any other YA topics, and it's definitely darker/more mature than YA.

So I've been wondering: how important MC-age is to fitting a novel into a certain genre? I guess truthfully not very, since there are quite a few adult novels with young protagonists. As for how to present the young protag in an adult novel? Perhaps the best thing is just to choose language for the query letter that focuses more on the adult nature of the book rather than the youthful age of the MC?

04-04-2010, 12:29 AM
Your genre is horror. Call it horror, query agents who represent horror. YA vampire stories tend to be romances.

If your book is a horror novel and your query makes it sound like a YA romance, you need to rework the query.

04-04-2010, 08:38 PM
Try reading The Talisman by Stephen King & Peter Straub. That protagonist is considerably younger than seventeen, and it's definitely not a tale for children.

It's how you tell the story, not the age of the protagonist, that makes a book YA or adult.

04-04-2010, 08:48 PM
There is nothing wrong with dark fiction for YA, but the fact that a protag is 30ish, means it's not YA. As others have said, younger MCs are in adult work all the time, so that's not a problem.

Don't mention her age. Make sure the query doesn't sound YA (all my queries tend to sound YA, even when I'm trying not to).