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Young Adult (genre)

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Young Adult (genre)

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From Wikipedia

From Wikipedia Young-adult fiction

Young-adult fiction (often abbreviated as YA)[1][2] is fiction written for, published for, or marketed to adolescents and young adults, roughly ages 14 to 21.[3]


Young-adult fiction, whether in the form of novels or short stories, has distinct attributes that distinguish it from the other age categories of fiction: Adult fiction, Middle Grade Fiction, and Children's Fiction. The vast majority of YA stories portray an adolescent as the protagonist, rather than an adult or a child. The subject matter and story lines are typically consistent with the age and experience of the main character, but beyond that YA stories span the entire spectrum of fiction genres. The settings of YA stories are limited only by the imagination and skill of the author. Themes in YA stories often focus on the challenges of youth, so much so that the entire age category is sometimes referred to as problem novels or coming of age novels.[4] Writing styles of YA stories range widely, from the richness of literary style to the clarity and speed of the unobtrusive and even free verse. Despite its unique characteristics, YA shares the fundamental elements of fiction with other stories: character, plot, setting, theme, and style.

History of young-adult fiction

The first recognition of young adults as a distinct group was by Sarah Trimmer, who in 1802 described "young adulthood" as lasting from ages 14 to 21.[3] In her self-founded children's literature periodical, The Guardian of Education, Trimmer introduced the terms "Books for Children" (for those under fourteen) and "Books for Young Persons" (for those between fourteen and twenty-one), establishing terms of reference for young adult literature that remain in use today.[3] However, nineteenth-century publishers did not specifically market to young readers, and adolescent culture did not exist in a modern sense. Nonetheless, there were books published in the nineteenth century that appealed to young readers (Garland 1998, p. 6):

Examples of other novels that predate the young-adult classification, but that are now frequently presented alongside YA novels are (Garland 1998, p. 6):

In the 1950s, shortly before the advent of modern publishing for the teen market, two novels drew the attention of adolescent readers: The Catcher in the Rye (1951), and Lord of the Flies (1954). Unlike more-recent fiction classified as YA, these two were written with an adult audience in mind. [FitzGerald 2004, p. 62]

The modern classification of young-adult fiction originated during the 1950s and 1960s, especially after the publication of S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders. This book focused on a group of teens not yet represented and instead of having the nostalgic tone that was typical in young adult books written by adults, it displayed a truer, darker side of young adult life because it was written by a young adult.

As publishers began to focus on the emerging adolescent market, booksellers and libraries, in turn, began creating YA sections distinct from either children's literature or novels written for adults. The 1970s to the mid-1980s have been described as the golden age of young-adult fiction—when challenging novels began speaking directly to the interests of the identified adolescent market.[3]

Popular contributions to young-adult fiction

  • Rae Bridgman: Canadian author known for her fantasy-adventure series The MiddleGate Books, including The Serpent's Spell, Amber Ambrosia and Fish & Sphinx
  • Ellen Hopkins (born 1955): American New York Times Bestselling author, wrote "Crank" series, and several other novels in verse
  • Brian Jacques (born 1939): British author of the successful and critically acclaimed Redwall series.
  • J. K. Rowling (born 1965): British author, J.K. Rowling is an award winning young-adult author today and arguably the most successful. Being the author of the extremely successful and critically well-received Harry Potter series, her books have been sold in more than 400 million copies worldwide and are translated into more than 63 languages. She is also the first billionaire-author (in terms of US-dollars).
  • Mark Walden (born 197?): British author, wrote the bestselling H.I.V.E (series) series.
  • Charlie Higson (born 1958): British author, wrote Young Bond series.
  • Paul Zindel (1936-2003): This Pulitzer-Prize winning American author wrote over 40 young adult novels, including The Pigman. His books have sold over 10 million copies and have been translated into languages all over the globe.

Edgy content

From its very beginning, young-adult fiction has portrayed teens confronting situations and social issues that have pushed the edge of then-acceptable content. Such novels and their content are sometimes referred to as "edgy."

In particular, authors and publishers have repeatedly pushed the boundaries of what was previously considered acceptable regarding human sexuality. Examples include:

YA novels currently in print include content about peer pressure, illness, divorce, drugs, gangs, crime, violence, sexuality, incest, oral sex, and female/male rape. Critics of such content argue that the novels encourage destructive or immoral behavior. Others argue that fictional portrayal of teens successfully addressing difficult situations and confronting social issues helps readers deal with real-life challenges.

Debate continues regarding the amount and nature of violence and profanity appropriate in young-adult fiction.

Hyphens (young adult vs. young-adult)

Recognition of the noun young adult and its punctuation as an adjectival modifier are inconsistent. Some dictionaries recognize young adult as a noun (Random House, 2nd 1987), while others do not (Webster's International, 3rd 2002). When recognized (as by Random House), young adult is treated as an open compound noun, with no hyphen.

When the noun young adult is placed before another noun (such as fiction, novel, author), however, the use of a hyphen varies widely. For example, an Internet search (of the Web or of news articles) using the key words young adult fiction shows widespread inconsistency in hyphenation. Although the Chicago Manual of Style falls short of declaring the omission of the hyphen as grammatically incorrect, it clearly addresses the issue in "Compounds and Hyphenation," sections 7.82-7.86: "When such compounds precede a noun, hyphenation usually makes for easier reading. With the exception of proper nouns (such as United States) and compounds formed by an adverb ending in ly plus an adjective, it is never incorrect to hyphenate adjectival compounds before a noun."(Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition 2003, p. 300) The Writer's Digest Grammar Desk Reference is a little more forceful on the subject: "The most complicated business conducted by hyphens is uniting words into adjectival compounds that precede nouns. Many writers neglect to hyphenate such compounds, and the result is ramshackle sentences that often frustrate the reader." (Writer's Digest Grammar Desk Reference 2005, p. 274-275) The Wikipedia Manual of Style also addresses the issue of hyphens for compound adjectives.

Although none of the sources cited above list young adult as an example, each clearly expresses a preference for hyphenating compound modifiers. With that in mind, young adult is a noun (without a hyphen) as defined by Random House. But when the noun young adult precedes another noun, it becomes a compound modifier and warrants a hyphen, as in young-adult fiction, young-adult author, young-adult novel, and so on. Because the sources do not declare the absence of a hyphen as grammatically incorrect, widespread inconsistencies in the punctuation of young adult are likely to continue, either out of ignorance or as conscious choice of style.


Whether any particular work of fiction qualifies as literature can be disputed. In recent years, however, YA fiction has been increasingly treated as an object of serious study by children's literature critics. A growing number of young-adult-fiction awards recognize outstanding works of fiction for adolescents.


The category of YA fiction continues to expand into new forms and genres: e-books, graphic novels, light novels, manga, fantasy, mystery fiction, romance novels, even subcategories such as cyberpunk, splatterpunk, techno-thrillers, and contemporary Christian fiction.

=Boundaries between children's, YA, and adult fiction

The distinctions between children's literature, YA literature, and adult literature have historically been flexible and loosely defined. This line is often policed by adults who feel strongly about the border.[6] At the lower end of the YA age spectrum, fiction targeted to readers age 10 to 12 is referred to as middle-grade fiction. Some novels originally marketed to adults have been identified as being of interest and value to adolescents and, in the case of several books such as the Harry Potter novels, vice versa.


  • John Grossman (2003). Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-10403-6. 
  • Eccleshare, Julia (1996). "Teenage Fiction: Realism, romances, contemporary problem novels", in Peter Hunt, ed.: International Companion Encyclopedia of Children's Literature. London: Routledge, 387–396. 
  • Egoff, Sheila (1980). "The Problem Novel", in Shiela Egoff, ed.: Only Connect: readings on children's literature, 2nd, Ontario: Oxford University Press, 356–369. 
  • Garland, Sherry (1998). Writing for Young Adults. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books, 5–11. ISBN 0-89879-857-4. 
  • Lutz and Stevenson (2005). "The Hyphen", The Writer's Digest Grammar Desk Reference. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer's Digest Books, 274–275. ISBN 1-58297-335-0. 
  • Nilsen, Alleen Pace (April 1994). "That Was Then ... This Is Now". School Library Journal 40 (4): 62–70. 
  • Stuart Berg Flexner, editor in chief ; Leonore Crary Hauck, managing editor. (1987). Random House Dictionary, 2nd edition. Random House. ISBN 0-394-50050-4. 
  • ed. in chief Philip Babcock Gove (2002). Webster's Third New International Dictionary. Merriam-Webster. ISBN 0-87779-206-2. 
  • Kenneth L. Donelson, Alleen Pace Nilsen. (1980). Literature for Today's Young Adults. Scott, Foresman and Company. ISBN 0-673-15165-4. 

Other publications

  • Authors and Artists for Young Adults, serial publication (Gale, 1989+) with bio-bibliographies of novelists, poets, dramatists, filmmakers, cartoonists, painters, architects, and photographers which appeal to teenagers. Entries typically are six to twelve pages in length, have a black & white photo of the author/artist and other illustrations. Recent volumes include a sidebar recommending similar books/works the reader might like also.
  • ALA Best Books for Young Adults[7] by YALSA, edited by Holly Koelling.
  • Books for the Teen Age, annual book list selected by teens for teens, sponsored by the New York Public Library [8]
  • More Outstanding Books for the College Bound, by YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association), professional organization for librarians serving teens in either public libraries or school library/media centers; a division of ALA. [9]
  • Diana Tixier Herald. (2003) Teen Genreflecting. 2nd ed. Wesport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited.
  • Judging a Book by Its Cover:  Publishing Trends in Young Adult Literature, by Cat Yampbell, The Lion and the Unicorn; Sep 2005; 29:3; Children's Module, The Johns Hopkins University Press, pp348–372, at p350-351.
  • Frances FitzGerald, "The Influence of Anxiety" in Harper's, September 2004, p. 62-70
  • Grenby, Matthew. “Introduction.” The Guardian of Education. Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 2002. ISBN 1843710110

See also


  1. Fox, Rose (2008-03-17). "The Narrowing Gulf between YA and Adult". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 2008-09-24. 
  2. Cruz, Gilbert (2005-03-07). "Teen Playas". Entertainment Weekly.,,1033923,00.html. Retrieved 2008-09-24. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Grenby, "Conservative Woman", 155
  4. Lamb, Nancy, Crafting Stories for Children. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, p. 24
  5. Serjeant, Jill. "Vampires Turn Gentler With Eye Toward Teen Girls", ABC News, August 10, 2009. Accessed August 14, 2009. "Stephenie Meyer's young adult romance novel Twilight has sold some 17 million copies, and fans of shy 17-year-old Bella Swan and outsider vampire Edward Cullen helped the movie bring in $383 million at global box offices."
  6. Children's Literature Association Quarterly
  7. Best Books for Young Adults, 3rd ed.

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