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Young Adult versus Adult

When I was younger, I always dreamed of writing a book for young adults.  But over the past few years, YA books have changed.  When I walk the shelves of books stores, dark books with tortured protagonists seem to line the shelves, books that I never imagined finding in a young adult section only a few years ago.  So now I’m having trouble determining exactly what makes a book young adult verses adult.

These are the rules I thought were important:

  • The character must be a young adult.
  • The themes and topics must be appropriate for young adults.
  • Vocabulary and language must be appropriate for young adults.
  • Young adult books should deal with a different level and type of character development.
  • Young adult books should run from 40,00-80,000 words

The problem I’m having now is that these rules don’t seem quite so important anymore.  And also, what people deem appropriate for this age group is shifting.  I know school libraries are still fairly careful about the content and language in the books they supply, but young adults are going out of their way to buy books that the schools don’t allow.  If anything, they seem drawn to books that aren’t “allowed.”

Now, I have no desire to get into a debate about what should or shouldn’t be allowed, I’m more interested in trying to figure out what rules I should be following as a writer.  Part of me says that it is just my comfort level, but the other part of me wonders how I can compete with books that push these limits more than mine do.

So, I guess my questions are as follows: what is the difference between a young adult book and a book for adults?  And, are there really any rules anymore when it comes to YA books?

Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. True. Consider the changes in novel length. (Think Harry Potter and Twilight) Writing for this audience is a challenge.


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