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Friday, 25 February 2011

Teen and Young Adult Fiction

There’s been a lot of controversy lately on teenage/YA fiction and the themes of violence it can incorporate. What are the accepted age ranges for both and how might they differ in the UK and USA? A Cornerstones author, JB Toner, raised questions about this to our managing editor, Kathryn Robinson; this is how the conversation went:

JBT: Please thank your editor for her thoughtful and very thorough report.

I need clarification on age groupings.

The new book that I'm working on is aimed at teenagers (maybe 14+). I thought this was what is meant by ‘Young Adult’, but if this market is the age-group (12+) I need to know that before I write any more.

KR: Thanks for your email and I’m really pleased to hear the report seems helpful. ‘Teen’ and YA is usually seen as being 12/13 to 15 years old.

JBT: Just to be absolutely clear about this point, are you saying that 'teen' and ‘YA’ are the same market - 12/13 to 15? I would have thought ‘teen’ might be 12-15 year olds, whereas Wikipedia defines YA as 14-21. Would you agree with that? Also, are you familiar with The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins? There is a lot of killing in that book and yet the book is labelled ‘teen’ on the back cover. I read somewhere (can't remember where) that the trilogy is thought suitable for 12 year olds.

KR: In the UK ‘teen’ and ‘YA’ are the same market – very generally described as12-15, although readers outside these ages will inevitably read these books too. I think there’s a difference in the US, which may be where the wiki definition comes from (and I think the ‘teen’ definition is used more there, too, whereas 'YA' is more common here); there’s a much more defined ‘teenage’ culture in the States, and their ‘teen’ reading age bracket encompasses this. The Hunger Games (of which the second book in the trilogy is in my bag right at this moment!) is marketed as ‘teen’ fiction – so12-15 in the UK. Yes, there’s a lot of killing - the genre is, I guess, dystopian horror – whereas certain other genres – historical, traditional fantasy, romance – would tend to be a bit tamer in terms of violence (the same rule applies to adult fiction).

I’ve read one of the reviews in the inside of the Hunger Games sequel which describes it as ‘post-apocalyptic brutality fiction’ – great definition I think and indicative of what an impact genre has on tone and levels of violence. Interestingly even in the Hunger Games books – at least as far as I’ve got with them – the level of sex is very slight and innocent, particularly when contrasted to the violence. What a strange world we live in…

See below an event that might be of interest to authors who write teen/YA fiction.

Tuesday 5th July 2011

BOUNDARIES – Who Killed Controversy?
An insight into the future of teen publishing. With guest experts from across the publishing industry.

Venue: 80 Strand, London  (click for a map)

Members: £0

Non-members: £5

For membership information, please visit the members’ section.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

It's All About the Flow

It’s not too shabby coming into work and having your boss look at the opening chapter of the book you’re writing. Thank God. I’ve been stuck on my non-fiction piece for a while now. I’d say a year if I were lying, two if I’m practising honesty. There’s something about the tone in non-fiction which you have to get right, or, I suppose as with any other writing, it just doesn’t flow. Mine, suffice to say, has not been flowing. It has been stuck, since 2009 (unlike my tears which have been free flowing since).

It might’ve been easier if it was an academic piece, that way the documentary style my so-called ‘funny’ anecdotal book seems to have taken would not only be acceptable, but expected. And so after Helen kindly read the opening chapter, she looked at me and said these simple words, ‘Narrative non-fiction’. Followed by, ‘Show, show, show!’ Of course. Retrospect all becomes telling and the only thing you have left to show for it is a dull story. Where’s the tension? The conflict? And in this book’s case, the irony? Narrative non-fiction allows some poetic license, lends immediacy to the event (or events), allows the writer to divulge information with action scenes and dialogue, without boring the life out of the reader. Hallelujah! An answer. I won’t get too excited as I’ve only just started writing in this new format, but at least I can say that the only things free flowing now, are words.