Posted in books, characters, creative writing, writing, writing thoughts, writing tips, young adult

Categorizing young adult fiction

read-515531_1920I’ve been editing a young adult project I wrote a few years back and never got back to, and it reminded me of a comment I saw on social media a while back about whether YA is an age group or a genre.

Traditionally, YA has been categorized based on audience age and the age and experiences of the protagonist. Youth ages 12-18 are the  target audience. Themes focus on new experiences and challenges as characters approach adulthood.

As the genres have shifted over the past decade, there’s been some debate about whether YA is still categorized based on character age and audience age, or if it should even be considered a genre at all. It’s more complicated than simply saying it’s one or the other, or should or shouldn’t be.

It’s not uncommon for a teenage character to face challenges and themes that may not be suitable for a twelve-year-old reader. Is it still YA? The fact that half of YA readers are adults shows that plenty of grownups enjoy reading about the young adult experience. Is it still YA if adults are the largest reader group of a particular book? The wide variety of subgenres, topics covered, heat levels, amount of profanity, and character age ranges in YA shows how difficult it is to pinpoint what is and isn’t YA.

I didn’t read Lord of the Flies until I was in high school, yet the characters are pre-adolescent. The content, however, would make it a difficult read for middle grade readers.

To Kill a Mockingbird’s main character, Scout, is only six years old when the book begins, but deals with difficult concepts and themes which apply to a wide variety of readers of all ages.

Fahrenheit 451 is often listed as both YA and adult fiction, and is frequently on high school reading lists. However, almost all of the main characters are all adults and the story deals with complex themes and difficult scenes.

So what makes a book YA, and is it a genre or age range of target readers?

I tend to agree that YA as a genre attempts to pigeon-hole a huge variety of fiction into one category. It says more about the age range of readers someone out there thinks will enjoy the story more than what type of book it is. TO me, that’s not a terrible helpful category. You have to move on to subgenre to figure out what a book is going to be about.

Classifying a book has more to do with the point and purpose of the story than the age of the reader or characters. Does the story speak to the experiences of a young adult? The teenage years are often a time of self-discovery and trying to figure out where you belong in the world. Young adults face a lot of “firsts” that are often complicated to manage and can have a huge impact on the way they see themselves and the world, good or bad.

YA fiction tends to focus on the specific challenges and crises that go along with entering a new world (adulthood, moving towns or schools, first relationships and jobs, etc.), social and emotional growth and development, exploring boundaries (relationships, drugs and alcohol, sex, etc.), and self-discovery.

Of course, many adults face similar issues, which is why the lines get blurred so often between genres, however, teens tend to experience these things differently than most adults. This shifts the focus or perspective of YA fiction. A relationship at 16 is very different than one at 40. The same goes for jobs, school, sex, and much more. The thing is, though, that those experiences are interesting to more than just the teens out there living it because it’s about the human experience.

Despite what genre gets listed on Kindle or Apple Books, YA is more complicated than simply saying it’s a defined genre or an age group. An author may have a specific audience or purpose as they write, but readers take what they will from each book they read and catalog it in a way that makes sense to them. The exact definition matters a lot less than whether or not the story speaks to readers in a meaningful way.

Posted in aerling series, books, new release, young adult

Merry Christmas!

Invincible BOWMerry Christmas!!

Today’s the day! The journey to share Mason and Olivia’s story started over a year ago, but it’s finally come to an end. The final installment of The Aerling Series arrives today!

All those who pre-ordered INVINCIBLE got first crack at this book, and I’m willing to bet at least a few of them are already close to finishing. For everyone else, you can now grab a copy of Invincible and have it downloaded to you Kindle or phone or PC within seconds.

So, if you’re dying to know whether or not Olivia and Mason get to stay together and who wins the war…head over to your favorite ebook or paperback platform and put in your order. Books make excellent Christmas gifts, too. 😉 You’ve still got a little time, before tomorrow to grab a copy for your Aerling fan!

And don’t forget to let me know what you think! Reviews are always appreciated 🙂

Buy Your Copy of Intangible Here:

Amazon Barnes & Noble Smashwords

kobo iBooks

Connect with me online:

Facebook: AuthorDelShereeGladden

Twitter: @DelSheree

Pintrest: DelSheree

Google+: DelSheree Gladden

Posted in aerling series, free book, invisible, ya paranormal, young adult

INVISIBLE Book Trailer… finally!

I know it’s taken me nearly a year, but I finally got a book trailer made for INVISIBLE! Come meet Mason and Olivia and learn a little more about their story. 

Oh yes, and if you’d like to grab a copy, Invisible is currently FREE on Amazon, or you can get Invisible along with 19 other amazing books for only 0.99 in the PANDORA box set, a USA Today Best Seller. 

And when you finish reading, I’d love to here what your think, so please consider leaving a review 🙂 
Posted in wednesday writers, young adult

Wednesday Writers: Gail Wagner

Today I’m super excited to welcome a good friend of mine, author Gail Wagner!

Once upon a time, there was girl who lived to read…wait, I meant loved. J  Her family was the type that family time meant all sitting in the same room together while reading different books.  She walked the school hallways with her nose stuck in a book because she had to finish the next chapter before class started.  She read so many books she got to put her name in a drawing over a hundred times and actually won a set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books (she never won anything).  She enjoyed most of the required reading in school.  She even became best friends with a girl in high school simply because of their mutual affection for Little Women (don’t judge, friendships have formed on less stable foundations).
Okay, clearly that girl is me.  Books were my escape from reality, not that my reality was bad. I don’t have any sob stories about how horrible my family was or how I was bullied in school.  Honestly?  I kind of just flew under everyone’s radar.  I had good grades, okay great and the rest of my class may have been a little surprised when I ranked number one.  I was in choir but only did one solo, simply because I have such bad stage fright I thought I might pass out while I whispered the second verse of Silent Night (thank heavens for microphones!).
I spent most of my childhood dreaming of being an actress or a singer.  Kind of funny after that sentence before, huh?  Unfortunately I have zero talent for acting (unless lying counts…I’m a great liar but don’t worry I try to use my powers for good, like surprise parties!).  I’m a fair singer but without the willingness to wear skimpy outfits and dance on stage that pretty much killed my pop career before it started…not to mention the whole passing out in front of a crowd thing.
Writing never crossed my mind.  My oldest sister was going to do that.  She’d made it quite clear to her twin

and I that were we ever to publish before her she would kill us in our sleep.  21 years older than me, I knew her well enough to know she was fairly serious (I love my sister!).  Oh she wouldn’t actually kill me, but she sure would make me miserable.  I didn’t think it would be a problem though.  I was so not interested in writing.

Flash forward several years.  My sister has passed away from a type of brain cancer I can’t pronounce let alone spell and I have one published book, one agented series and several more WIPs.  I didn’t start writing till she’d been gone for a couple of years and maybe it was her that put the bug in my ear…that or my husband telling me to quit whining about all the vampire/werewolf Twilight rip-offs and write my own book.  I’d like to think that after her initial reaction of wanting to kill me for getting published when she never got to, she’s my biggest cheerleader. 
However it happened, I’m so glad it did.  I’ve met amazing people and gotten to do some pretty awesome stuff because of it. 

 Follow Gail here: 

Posted in wednesday writers, young adult

Wednesday Writers: David Kirk

Today I’m pleased to welcome David Kirk!

I write stories with young adults in them. You will notice that I did not say I “write YA.” There is a difference. Publishers select genre designations primarily based on marketing issues. So a book with younger characters usually carries the genre young adult. Unfortunately, Amazon describes their category as “teens.”
I prefer to describe my novels as “coming of age,” or as the Germans say “bildungsroman.” This is a story in which the protagonist is confused about the ways of the world or suffers a loss, and then begins a journey of discovery. At the end, hopefully, some learning or maturity has taken place. It’s described as a novel of education or my favorite, a “novel of formation.”
YA and coming of age are not mutually exclusive. Many novels in the YA genre have elements of the bildungsroman. However, coming of age differs from books written primarily to entertain teens. It is also not restricted to the teenage years. I recently read an article about a high school beauty queen who led a fairy tale life. She married a successful business man and lived in a plush suburb. Suddenly, she found herself at forty, abandoned with four kids, and juggling night school and a job. Her coming of age began all over again.
Young adulthood is such a vivid time to write about. Scientists once believed that our brains were fully developed at twelve or thirteen. Recent imaging techniques reveal that biophysical development of the prefrontal cortex continues to as late as the mid-twenties. Some of us wore our emotions on our sleeve and had less-developed social filters to modify their expression. Feelings were intense. Mood swings were amplified.
Imitation begins at this time, which is an external compulsion. Little kids don’t have it. I recall the assignment in first grade to draw a picture of our house. We didn’t look at the person sitting next to us and copy her paper. (One of things the exercise taught me was that a career as an artist was in doubt.) But as teenagers we begin to imitate dress, style, music, even writing. We try different things out in order to someday develop our true identity.
I often speak at high schools and library sponsored young adult readers/writers groups. The question frequently comes up as to what, for someone obviously past their formative years, do I know or even remember about these years. Well, I helped raise two and I did go through it myself. But most importantly, I wrote it down. I grew up on a farm and that meant hours of driving a tractor up and down a field, or walking through acres of soybeans with a hoe cutting down weeds. Developing a vivid imagination not only helped pass the time, it was a matter of psychological survival. Plus I kept a journal, the kind college writing teachers tell you to keep, and wrote down sayings, quotes, experiences, and passionate love poems, usually about some girl who would have nothing to do with me. The characters of my first novel began in that journal.
So whatever the label, teen, young adult, or coming of age, it is such a great time to write about.
I would like to thank DelSheree Gladden, a great YA writer, for hosting me on this wonderful blog. I also like to chat, so drop me a line at djkirk@djkirk.net or with the contact form on my web site at www.djkirk.net. In addition, please check out my coming of age novels.
Posted in romance, young adult

The Twilight Comparison…Seriously?

Yes, there was a whole horde of “Twilight Knockoffs” after the series hit the big time, but there are a lot of authors out there who are getting pretty tired of The Twilight Comparison

I know I’m not alone in this. In fact, I’ll give you a list at the end of the post of authors who’s books have been compared to Twilight despite the fact that they are nothing even close to sparkly vampires. 
I’ve gotten this comparison more than one. I will admit that when Zander sneaks into Ivy house at night and watches her sleep because it’s the only time he can pretend she’s dead and she doesn’t stir his hunger like when she’s awake, there are some Twilight-esque attributes to that scene, but the goal of these scenes were pretty much the complete opposite of Edward and Bella. Zander, at this point in the story, is obsessed… like unhealthy, creepy, weird obsessed. He’s watching a girl sleep for crying out loud! Sure, he thinks he’s in love, but most readers get the concept that this is very wrong and Zander has crossed a line. In Twilight it’s supposed to be sweet, or romantic, or whatever, although in reality it should seriously disturb a girl. 
Many of my other books have been dubbed “Twilight-ish” as well, for much more insignificant reasons. It’s frustrating. It’s annoying. It makes you wonder what on earth the reader is seeing when they read your book. The fact is, Twilight is what made tons of girls and women start reading again or for the first time, which is awesome. If Twilight is the book that turned on that love of reading, sure it’s going to be the book you compare every other book to when you’re reading. I get that, but don’t judge a book solely on that one point. 
A book is not “like Twilight” just because it has: 
  • Characters meeting for the first time during school hours. Particularly if there happens to be a science class involved. Trust me, Bella and Edward were not the first, and they will not be the last. 
  • A sense of “lust at first sight.” Again, this is a fairly time honored tradition in YA. Let’s face it, teens are hormonal and driven by physical attractiveness in most of their relationships.
  • Romantic moments set in scenes similar to Twilight. Many characters have kissed at dances, in the forest, in a house, in car, etc. Characters kiss in all kinds of places, in real life and fiction. Don’t be so surprised if one happens to get repeated in two different books. 
  • Something paranormal. Sure, anything with vampires or werewolves is going to get compared to Twilight. Hard to avoid. But angels? Demons? Native American myths come to life? A girl destined to destroy the world? Aztec curses? Twilight does not have the paranormal market completely to itself. 
  • Romance in general. Some books get accused of being too much like Twilight simply because there are romantic elements. At all. Teens do tend to fall in love, or think they have anyway. There’s a good chance any YA book you pick up will have some romance at some point. 
  • An insecure girl who doesn’t see her own beauty or an overbearing guy who thinks he knows best. Many teenage girls have self-esteem issues. Many teenage boys think they are pretty macho and have everything under control. This is true in real life and fiction. True, Bella took it to the extreme, hence the accurately dubbed “Bella Swan Syndrome” readers got tired of. Even so, these are common personality traits you’ll see in YA fiction, not copycats of Twilight. 
  • Life or death situations. Most really captivating novels, YA or not, are going to have a moment where your favorite character might die. Sometimes they should die (at least one secondary character in Twilight should have died, IMO). Just because one character has to save another doesn’t mean the author is trying to mimic Edward saving Bella for the eleventy-millionth time. 
Of course, if you’re comparing a book to Twilight because you honestly think it’s a book Twilight readers will like, that’s fabulous, and we appreciate the recommendation. Kirkus Reviews did exactly that for Wicked Hunger, and Kim Finn’s Book of Shade received a similar recommendation. 
So, want to know what other authors have had to deal with this? I’ve made a handy list for you. Check them out and make the call for yourself! 
DelSheree Gladden – most recently… Wicked Hunger, but most of my books have gotten this at some point.