Are YA and Adult Category Books That Different?

Photo credit: irvingpublic on Flickr
The short answer: yes.

The long answer:

It always frustrates me when adults talk about YA like YA are the same as Adult books but without certain things and with a splash of angst. It's such a simplistic—and largely inaccurate—way of talking about the category, and yet adults say things along those lines all the time.

The thing is, those analyses couldn't be farther from the truth. When adults say YA is the same as Adult but without sex (wrong) or without f-bombs (ha ha ha ha), they're basically saying YA is a pared down version of Adult category books, but that's a fundamental misunderstanding of what YA is.

There are a lot of differences between YA and Adult, many of which are why even though I'm an adult, I tend to prefer YA over Adult category books. Some of these differences include:

  • The voice. YA voices are so different from Adult—and they should be! Told from teen perspectives, for teens, YA voices are (understandably) younger, and they're also often more emotionally charged. Teens get overwhelmed more easily, and they see the world differently than their adult counterparts. The lows are often lower and the highs are often higher—because when you're a teen, emotions are often all over the place and things feel like a bigger deal. The teen perspective is fundamentally different from the adult perspective, and this is reflected in the narrative. 

  • The pacing. Along with the voice, this is one of my favorite things about YA—the pacing is often much faster than adult category books. Use whatever reason you'd like to explain it, but the result is YA books tend to be quickly paced reads that get you into the meat of the story quickly while laying down the foundation of the story world along the way. 

  • The outlook. Understandably, teens don't see the world—or their lives—the same way adults do. Adults are largely focused on the future—their careers, families they may or may not want to build, their aspirations, bills, etc. Teens, meanwhile, are much more focused on the now. They're often not worried about what their lives will look like in five, ten years because they're too busy trying to handle what their lives are throwing at them in the moment. To teen protagonists, what's frequently the most important is what's happening right now.

  • The impact. YA is for teens. Period. It's totally fine that adults enjoy reading YA too—why wouldn't they, the books are fantastic! But the thing to always remember is YA isn't for adults, it's for teens, and it always will be. So ultimately, the impact of YA books is in the teen community. The messages and themes and examples the books give can (and do) ultimately affect the way teens see themselves, others, and the world. So to me, at least, the stakes are much higher in impact in YA, because YA authors are sharing their stories with a group that is growing and developing along the way. 

There's sex in YA, sometimes graphic (Carrie Mesrobian books, anyone?). There's swearing in YA, and a lot of it. Ultimately, what separates YA from adult category books is much deeper than surface-level content differences, and a failure to recognize that is often what (mis)leads adults into trying to claim YA for themselves. But YA isn't for adults and it never has been—and that's important to recognize and remember. 

What do you think? What differences between YA and adult category books would you add to the list? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Are YA and Adult category books that different? @Ava_Jae says yes—and that's a good thing. (Click to tweet

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...