July 24, 2012

Young Adult versus Adult

At our last critique group meeting, we discussed the difference between how Young Adult and Adult stories read. 

For me, young adult fiction differs from adult fiction in that the "voice" is different--more youth-driven. Not just the use of slang or "imitating" a teen, but seeing the world from a teen's eyes.

Teens often see, hear, and respond to life differently than adults. They can be moved more emotionally by certain events. A rejection from a boy they like, a bad haircut, or their best friend moving to a different school can turn their entire world upside down. I'm reminded how utterly despairing Bella became after Edward left town in Twilight.

Coming-of-age or rite-of-passage themes are common, which differentiates young adult from middle grade stories (where younger protagonists have adventures but ultimately remain "kids" at the end).

Other young adult themes involve broken families, peer pressure, and all those oh-so-important "Firsts" (first love, first cigarette, first time behind the wheel).

Intensity is a word that comes to mind when I think of my teen years (and those of my kids), and I try to carry that out in my writing. 

Alexandra Sokoloff has a wonderful blog post on Writing YA-Themes


  1. Beautifully described! Awesomeness!

  2. I think pacing has a lot to do with it too--even literary YA novels move you through the pages differently than adult literary books.

  3. Yes, YA books are often written from the point of view of a teen but there are any number of adult books that also are written from the perspective of young adults. Stephen King has written any number of stories and novels ("IT" is a perfect example as is "The Body" which was adapted for film as "Stand By Me." Portions of "IT" and all of "The Body" invoke what it is to be a teen and I can see teens picking up these as well as other books by King. These two examples are far more realistic than Bella's angst at Edward leaving her. The depression she fell into and the dangerous actions she undertook as a result are far less realistic than the relationship of the boys in "The Body."

  4. I agree that YA is all about the voice and how the MC reacts to things. There are more emotions involved and there is the innocence that they are still hanging on to. This is why I love YA. I feel like life is more mysterious and beautiful when you are young.