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  1. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Active Member

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    What is YA?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Homer Potvin, Jan 11, 2017.

    So I have a question.

    I just finished the last Hunger Games (all excellent, by the way) after reading the first two a couple of years ago. This book has more violence and adult themes than Blood Meridian and Primo Levi's Holocaust memoirs combined, yet it is considered young adult. Is this solely because they don't say shit and fuck and the violence isn't over the top graphic? Are the themes irrelevant so long as the language isn't overly naughty? Like bad things happen, but it's okay because it's been sanitized? I mean, reading this book, I could almost see the black squared sensors that had been placed over the action, like I was watching a R rated movie on network TV or something.

    I understand the writing and conflicts tend to be different for YA--I know it when I see it--but I'm beyond confused as to what is acceptable subject material and what is not. I guess it's all good so long as we don't use those bad words.
     
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  2. izzybot

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I think the defining feature of YA is mostly the age of the protagonists, really. Obviously quite a lot of violence and even death can be glossed over, and there can even be a fair bit of sexual content as long as it doesn't get explicit - I'm not actually sure what kind of language restrictions apply; for some reason I know more about that when it comes to movie ratings. But yeah, from what I know, to a large degree it's the protags being young adults themelves that determines it. I guess the idea is that adults won't be interested in reading about children/teens, though you'd think Harry Potter would've broken everyone of that by now, right.
     
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  3. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It's certainly a different creature to what was once referred to as juveniles back in the Golden Age of Science Fiction, many of which I collect for the cover artwork in their paperback forms. There seems to be little consensus as to where its boundaries are other than, as you already noted, the central conflicts tend to be those with which people in the 15 - 20 year old age range would best identify as being part of that general slice of life. That "bad things happen" in YA in its current incarnation would seem to be more a reflection of the current zeitgeist of cynicism about the future. Golden Age juveniles didn't have that same dark angst, and were more focused on the pluckiness and ingenuity of the protagonists.
     
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  4. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Senior Member

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    Does it matter?

    Well, then, why was Ender's Game not YA? The age range of the MC (and most of the characters) were children. I don't think it can even be categorized as children's book - too mature for kids to appreciate. I think the Hunger Games should NOT be YA. It is too violent.
     
  5. izzybot

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Is Ender's Game not considered YA? I know I read it when I was a kid. I mean, it's not for middle school children, but high school aged kids, sure.

    eta: Looking it up, Ender's Game was written in the eighties which I think was kind of before the advent of YA so much (I wasn't alive then; someone with more experience could clarify!), which might be why it wasn't shuffled into YA for having a young cast.

    Interestingly the movie was rated PG13, so it at least was deemed okay for kids.
     
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  6. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Senior Member

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    Does it matter?

    Hate the movie version - it was MESSED UP! I think Orson mentioned in an interview that it isn't YA. Same with its sister series, Ender's Shadow - NOT YA. Though the MC is really young.
     
  7. izzybot

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I mean, I'm sure when I read it it was because it was on a teen reading list or something like that, and I noticed when I was looking it up a minute ago that it was on some best books for teens list. He may not consider it YA but obviously young people are reading / have read it. I wonder if - assuming I'm right about its classification as adult military sf being in part due to it coming out before the YA boom - it's having child protags has gotten it sort of effectively re-sorted into YA more recently (like since the nineties)? I dunno. I was probably 11-14 when I read it and it's not like it messed me up, so I don't think it's a big deal, honestly. I tend to think that kids can handle more troubling content than adults like to give them credit for, anyway.
     
  8. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Ender's Game is YA, isn't it? I certainly never thought of it as a story for adults.
     
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  9. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Active Member

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    I read Ender's Game in 8th grade English class I think. It certainly follows the YA theme of a kid becoming the chosen one/savior of the universe. And finding time for the typical teen problems, despite the imminent end of the world and all. No naughty words there either, though I believe there might have been a gay Piggy sex scene in Speaker for the Dead. Or at least an allusion to one. I was never a fan of those books, and Orson Scott Card turned out to be kind of a whackadoo, though nowhere near as bad L. Ron Hubbard. I guess I was wondering why dirty words are so threatening to young readers but subject material seems to get a pass.
     
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  10. izzybot

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Our societal concepts of what's okay to expose kids to certainly are odd - it's by no means limited to fiction. Kinda thing I don't think about too much because I just get frustrated, to be honest :rolleyes:
     
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  11. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Something Wicked this Way Comes. Contributor

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    I guess I am a bit ahead of the curve. Read Jaws 2 and did a book report on it in the second grade.
    Granted I have read the entire Animorph series and peripheral books. :p
    Been reading Adult books ever since I could read, so maybe that is why YA
    seems so uninteresting to me as an adult.
     
  12. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Active Member

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    wait, there's a jaws 2 book?? jaws 1 wasn't all that great...
     
  13. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Something Wicked this Way Comes. Contributor

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    Yeah there is a Jaws 2 book, and possibly a third. Never read the first one though.
     
  14. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Senior Member

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    Does it matter?
    Well, I did a search of the meaning of YA and this is what they came up with:

    Young adult fiction or young adult literature (YA)[1] is fiction published for readers from 12 to 18. Characteristics of young adult literature include: characters and issues young readers identify with; issues and characters that are treated in a way that does not invalidate, minimize, or devalue them; is framed in language that young readers understand; emphasizes plot.

    And checked out Ender's game:

    Book Ender's Game
    Author
    Orson Scott Card
    Country United States
    Language English
    Series Ender's Game series
    Genre military Science fiction
    Publisher Tor Books

    VS. The Hunger Games

    Book The Hunger Games
    Author
    Suzanne Collins
    Country United States
    Language English
    Genre young adult dystopian, Dystopian, adventure, science fiction, drama, action
    Publisher Scholastic
    Published 2008–2010

    Both books are good reads nonetheless.
     
  15. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Unanimity requires compliance Contributor

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    Yeah, I don't think that a book is YA strictly because if focuses on children as the main characters. Look at Sea of Glass, by Barry Longyear. That follows a group of "illegal" children in a concentration-camp like setting, with one of them being groomed by a super-duper computer to trigger a global war in an effort to get the population back down to something manageable. It also contains one of the most explicit mutual masturbation scenes I've ever read in something that didn't come in a plain brown wrapper, between two under-18s nonetheless. Definitely not for the YA crowd (which is what I was when I found it, but that's another matter entirely. My folks let me read anything).
     
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  16. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well, it's not like OSC isn't known for vocally distancing himself from things he doesn't like. ;)

    My money's on the idea that he simply means that Ender isn't YA in its current, modern, now incarnation. The Ender books certainly aspire more to the tone and feel of old-school juveniles (am I the only person who remembers that term?) than the disaffected, despondent tone often felt in current YA. The completely sexless, almost "anatomically blank" Ken Doll nature of the characters in Ender is also much more in keeping with the old-school than the new. I would imagine all the below-the-belt intrigue not portrayed as "bad-touches" in modern YA sits poorly with him. I've read quite a bit of his work and the few times he acknowledges human sexuality, str8 or gay (he's done both), you defo get the impression that he's issuing a moralistic reprimand.
     
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  17. halisme

    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    A YA novel is a genre of novel aimed at people between 13-20, though often has broader appeal. Common themes are dystopian futures, anti-authoritarianism, and social divides. The protagonist is typically around the age of sixteen, has two love interests, sometimes at the same time, and is either competent beyond their age or in some way the chosen one.

    I think I've covered most of the common ground.
     
  18. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd consider Ender's Game MG, really... it's been a while since I read it, but it skewed younger than what I think of as YA. MG and YA, obviously, but I think the defining characteristic is that the books are aimed at younger audiences.
     
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  19. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    For those not in the know, MG is middle grade, a step younger than YA typically aims at for target audience. 8 - 13 ish.
     
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  20. KevinMcCormack

    KevinMcCormack Member

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    To be honest, questions about categorization don't always have a concrete answer because they're fundamentally business marketing decisions. I think the category is intended to describe the age of the reader (ie: the customer segment) rather than necessarily the age of the characters.

    Consider Golding's Lord of the Flies. The characters are what, ten years old? Yet, Middle Grade fiction, it is not.

    Wikipedia takes a stab at it: [Young Adult Fiction]

    I had an interest in self publishing a few years ago, so I attended a local conference for literary agents and publishers, and I saw they were pretty comfortable admitting that YA has fuzzy boundaries and a book's inclusion may even depend on geographical region of sale. There was talk of creating a new category "Teen Interest" for novels with young protagonists but extremely graphic adult subjectmatter, not suitable for teens <18 yo, for example.

    This is consistent with recategorization over time. Ender's Game might have been categorized as YA if it was first published today, but was not when it was originally published, because the market segment hadn't been invented yet.
     
  21. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Our local library had a Young Adult section back in the late '60s. I was in junior high when I got my first look at it, and I was disappointed at how juvenile the offerings were. I went back to Mary Stewart thrillers and things like Leon Uris' Exodus and Arthur Hailey's Hotel.

    These days, it's hardly YA unless for some reason the kid protagonist(s) are cut off from aid from any loving, sensible adult. Their parents are always dead, absent, abusive, or simply way less intelligent than the kids themselves. :D
     
  22. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Given that the majority of the well-known and popular YA series are written by Gen-Xers, the generation of latch-key kids, weened on the promises of the Reagan/Thatcher era only to have all of it pulled out from under us just as we entered the workforce... I would say that YA is doing what it's supposed to do, commenting on culture. ;)
     
  23. KevinMcCormack

    KevinMcCormack Member

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    I stand corrected, you're right. The category certainly does predate Ender's Game.

    I just scanned the sleeves for some titles like the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift, and they do say YA. Those are from the 1950s.

    That's probably a reflection of your reading level being ahead of your age bracket. And I'm sure content expectations have changed over time. Nancy Drew didn't have any romantic subplots, for example.


    Well, that may not be new. I remember thinking that Fenton Hardy was pretty negligent, being perpetually 'out of the country' such that his teenage kids find themselves getting tortured by counterfeiters in a tattoo parlour - and on a school night!
     
  24. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think part of the problem with defining YA is how much difference there is between YA that skews to the younger end of the age bracket and YA that skews to the higher end. There is a LOT of difference between the reading taste of a 12 year old and a 20 year old.
     
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  25. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Unanimity requires compliance Contributor

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    I just remembered, re: Ender's Game. The original short story was published in Analog Magazine. The movie may have been pitched YA, but I really don't think that the series was intended for younger audiences.

    ETA: Ender's Game was also on the Commandant's Reading List (U.S. Marines) as recommended reading for all ranks for many years, which, IMHO, puts it firmly in the category of Military Fiction rather than YA.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2017

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