Skip to main content

YA or A: What's Your Preference?

Greetings, followers! I have two questions for you today:

1) Do you prefer young adult or adult fiction?

2) What exactly is young adult fiction?

When Omnific Publishing released my first novel -- decidedly adult fare -- I suddenly heard all about Young Adult fiction. I think I might have even asked fellow author Susan Kaye Quinn "What is YA?" Ha ha. Sure, I'd read the Twilight saga, but back then I hadn't realized there was a specific category for this age group.

I now understand YA is typically for protagonists ages 14ish to 20ish. But what I'm still trying to grasp is how YA differs from Adult fiction. My confusion only increased when reading the very adult themes in The Hunger Games.

According to Wikipedia, plot, setting, and character are more marketable to young adults than elements like theme and style. At the same time, common themes of YA novels include the problems of youth, like identity, coming of age, drugs, family conflict, sexuality, and depression.

What sets apart YA for you?

I tend to prefer adult fiction because I like to examine events and struggles affecting people like me, at least those rare times when I'm acting like an adult.

However, I have written a couple of YA stories, and I'm particularly interested in the 18-23 demographic. As a psychologist I love working with college students because there is so much growth occurring at that stage of life. It's exciting to be part of it. I also loved S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, long before I knew it was a YA book!

I'm curious about the huge popularity of YA novels. If you enjoy writing and/or reading YA, what draws you to it?

Aw man, is it Monday already? Must be time for our Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop, hosted by Lisa Sanchez!

Check back on Wednesday when I'll be participating in the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop! A print copy of With Good Behavior or Bad Behavior will be up for grabs.


I prefer young adult. I wandered around the adult fiction in my library for an hour and couldn't find anything interesting to read. I wandered into the young adult, and found three books in ten minutes. Adult books tend to be cynical, full of sex, and outright downers. Romance excepting. But I get tired of romances. With young adult I can get a romance without a ton of sex easily. I can get a solid story with good characters who deal with real problems, but haven't lost their optimism yet.

But then, I've always read young adult. I only started reading adult books in the last couple of years. And like I said, they're kind of downers to me.
Unknown said…
Hi Jen,

My thoughts on YA novels:
~ they’re about teenagers (publishers call them “young adults” to appeal to teenage readers -- teenagers feel and think that they are older than they are);
~ the characters more often than not BEHAVE like adults (the characters in the novels and teenagers in general, I suppose – at least they WISH they could have that type of life);
~ teenagers and adults alike enjoy living vicariously through the characters (it’s exciting; the characters live the life they wish they had – either now, or back when the adults were teenagers) The teenage years are when you experience things, such as ‘love’ for the first time.
~ especially in the paranormal genre, crazy fads result!

Adult novels:
~ These are novels where the protagonists are older than 20ish? (vs dodgy ‘adult’ movies?) :s
~ I suppose I’m more comfortable with these novels because the adult characters behave like adults and I don’t hear *internal* warning bells about the novels negatively influencing young minds. (No, I’m not 50. But close!) :P

I’m interested to hear the thoughts of other readers!
Anonymous said…
In terms of reading, I was, funny enough, more interested in adult fiction when I was younger (mostly mysteries). Now that I'm old, I tend to read more young-adult (except for Dan Brown).

And, I write plenty of young-adult (mostly historical fiction). Though I write a wide range of ages into my novel so everyone can relate to someone, the main characters are always about 16. However, young adult, to me, is not just about the demographics. It related to the type of challenges the character must face (peer pressure, learning about love, and the coming of age). It's also the messages the author brings to the audience's attention and the character's growth.
Angelina Rain said…
I read both but I prefer adult.
1. I love a hero in uniform. I have yet to encounter a YA with a hero who’s a cop or firefighter.
2. I like my characters to be a little older and more mature.
3. I hated high school. I was a geeky good girl and I never fit in, so I hate books set in high school. It reminds me too much of those dreaded days.
4. I like erotic sex and you don’t get that in YA.
5. I hate the romance in YA. It’s cute, it’s fluffy, but the characters don’t have the life experience that’s needed for the relationship to last, in my opinion. Most high school relationships fail as soon as both people go to college or enter the real world so what’s to make those YA relationships last? I find the idea of finding your soul mate at 18 to be very unrealistic and that’s what turns me off about most YA books.

In my writing, my characters range between mid-twenties to mid-thirties. There are not enough good books with characters of those ages, in my opinion. I myself am 25 and I love books where the characters are about my age, yet most books I pick up have either characters in their teens or mid forties. I try to write for the age group in the middle.
I prefer adult fiction. I read it. I write it. But there are some exceptions to the rule and I like a few YA novels but not a fan of Twilight.

Adults are so different than teens and their experiences are wholly different and can't be compared even with love. The emotions, the thoughts, the dynamics cannot be paralelled. Sex aside, falling in love for an adult has more complications and the results are vastly different. Can you imagine writing a HEA where the YA ends up married?! OMG! That would be a big no-no. Or worse end up in pregnancy?!

I once read a YA that was written in the 90's that had a fat teen falling in love and eadling with weightloss and making friends.It was truly the best YA I ever read, the heroine was full faceted, her issues real and engrossing, not some superficial issue like just making friends. It was great and had a HEA that today would be scorned. It h ad her dumping the guy in the end and it was the best ending I have ever read. Ther heroine was truly satisfied with her fate and learned to accept herself as she was and not worry about boys and the in crowd.

Now if you give me a YA like that, then I can make the switch.
Unknown said…
I agree with many of you! I find it hard to believe in "love" that develops almost-instantly between strangers, especially when they haven't fully developed as people yet. That said, this has more to do with HOW a book is written than the ages of the protagonists.
Jennifer Lane said…
Thanks for weighing in, everyone. Very interesting comments.

Belinda, I agree that I tend to enjoy romances that aren't too explicit about sex. I think I've read a lot of adult books that are optimistic, though, like The Help, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Water for Elephants, etc. I think the drama feels a little more real and gripping with adult books. Bummer that the adult books you've read have been downers!

Racheal, ha ha--that makes sense why they label it "YA" when really it's teenagers. I love the point you made about the fear of corrupting young minds when writing YA novels. I have a novel about teenagers that is very dark in places, involving sex, pregnancy, and murder, and I'm nervous about putting it out there.
Jennifer Lane said…
Kelsey, I love Dan Brown! Maybe teenagers read adult fiction to feel older and adults read YA to feel younger? ;) I like to write a variety of ages too. Let's face it, snarky teens are a blast to write. I don't like YA stories where the adults are absent or are total losers.

Angelina, I never thought about how YA books don't have heroes in uniform! I know we both think they're yummy and can't do without them. I hated high school too. College was SO much better for me--maybe that's why I like writing that age so much. Good point about the lack of life experience making the YA romances a little flat. We like to write the same age range! My characters in WGB are 29 and 30.
Jennifer Lane said…
Gabriella, that sounds like a great YA story--do you remember the title? One regret I have about my first novel is that I made the protagonists physically beautiful people, which is not very realistic. I like what you said about the stakes being higher in adult fiction. I guess the stakes could be high in YA as well in that the characters don't have the maturity or resources to deal with very adult dilemmas.

Janine, we've discussed this before, agreeing that true love is difficult until both individuals are whole people in their own right. I'm with you--I'll read about any age as long as it's well written.
Laura Kaye said…
I read both but prefer adult fiction (and I write adult). YA doesn't always have the depth I prefer in conflict or character development, although there are definite exceptions to this. And I likey the sex! ;) Jen, your interest in 18-23 yo characters would put you in what they call "Upper YA" or "Transitional YA"--this is an emerging market, so an interesting place to be writing!
Jennifer Lane said…
Ooo Laura, I thought there might be a name for that age group. Upper YA or Transitional YA--I like it!
I read both adult and young adult novels. While adult novels have situations in them YA ones don't, it is about an emotional intensity for me. The emotions of an adult vs. a teenager can vary, but as long as I am taken on the ride, I will love the book.
Jennifer Lane said…
Hey Jessica, I've read a lot more adult books than YA, but there are some YA novels out there that intrigue me. I've heard good things about Revolution, and my book club will be reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Elisa Dane said…
I read both YA and Adult fiction, but if forced to choose between the two I'd have to go with adult. I'm with Laura, I like the shmexin. Good to know about this emerging Transitional YA trend. I'm quite comfortable writing the young twenty-something range :)
Anonymous said…
Hey! I review YA and Adult. In YA, the main characters are actual young adults (14-20ish) and the story is told from their point of view. You can't just have YAs in the book and say it's YA. The main thing is POV. Then content.

I like both and can't choose between them. I tend to read the adult when I want adult relationships and more 'graphic' sex scenes. hehe YA, you won't have that. The story is told from the POV of a young adult and is written with YA's in mind. Usually though, you won't find many over the age 18. That's one tip agents say to some authors. One great example from Omnific is The Three Daves by Nicki Elson. The main characters are in college, definitely young adults. BUT, the content is adult. The content is not written for teens. Great book for adults btw. :)

That's my two cents worth and from talking with authors of both age groups.
Jennifer Lane said…
Lisa, that Transitional YA title is good to know. Perfect for the age of the characters in the Hanaford Park Series.

Julie, I was actually going to mention Three Daves in my reply to Belinda about adult books I enjoy that are optimistic. Breaking Dawn taught me all about the lack of graphic sex scenes in YA, hee hee. I was all, "Give us SOMETHING, Stephenie!" Thanks for your post.
I think the draw to YA, for me, is the innocence and the first love experience. Most of us women gush about our idealistic views of love, and we get to live them in YA books (b/c idealistic love is nonexistent. lol). However, I also love Adult books, because I like maturity every now and again, and enjoy adult activities, too. :) I couldn't live without either genre.
Jennifer Lane said…
Aw, Smash. That's so sweet! Wait--you're telling me idealistic love is nonexistent? *pouts*
Keira Lea said…
I read both, but I prefer YA. I often feel closer to the characters in YA books. I think the difference between YA and adult books is more about perspective than content (explicit sex aside). When I was a teenager, though, I read more adult books. Now, I read more YA.
Jennifer Lane said…
Keira, I never thought about it before, but it does seem easier to get closer to YA characters. There's something about young people tugging our heartstrings.

I'm understanding more why YA is so popular. Thanks for your insights, everyone!
Anonymous said…
Hi Jen *waves*

I read only adult fiction since it's more pertinent to where I am today. I did read lots of YA when I was in my teens though so I'm thinking what we read is mostly dependent on our age when we read it. Does that make sense?!! I'm not saying I wouldn't read YA, however. There's a certain fic I seem to remember reading (pauses here to wink theatrically) about teenage struggles involving swimmers which was certainly concerning young adults and it was an outstanding read. And maybe a backstory for Grant and Sophie when they were teens woudld certainly capture my interest.

Anyway, sorry I've been missing of late. I'm not hot on motivation right about now. :( And I'm hoping Amazon UK will have Bad Behaviour available soon because ordering it from the U.S. means the p. and p. is almost as much as the paperback costs and being a penionista...!! Cross your fingers for me, Jen!

Mare x
Jennifer Lane said…
Detective Fox! Great to see you here. It makes sense we prefer to read about people like us, though I've also heard a couple comments about reading adult fiction when you're a teen and vice versa. Thank you for your compliment about SATT!

I'm not sure if Amazon UK will have my books. The shipping is quite beastly, I know. Let's chat on email about getting you a signed copy. Jen xx
Julie Musil said…
I write YA fiction, but I love both YA and adult, and switch back and forth. I agree with you about reading adult's nice to read about someone more like me. With YA, it's fun to write about what I remember. Those teen angst moments, the fear of peer pressure, etc.
Jennifer Lane said…
It is too hard to choose one or the other. I seem to hear a lot more about YA books on goodreads and blogs, and some of the sound really great. I wonder if parents are more likely to write YA or MG, inspired by their children. Thanks, Julie!
Nicki Elson said…
There are definitely some fuzzy lines between YA and adult. Hey! I see Julie already mentioned Three Daves. My marketer actually suggested at one point that we consider YA marketing, but the graphic intimate scenes knock it out of that category even though a lot of the themes apply to YA.

In answer to your question at my blog - I have no idea how to friend someone on Google. Sorry!
Jennifer Lane said…
And you definitely made a good choice by not leaving out those sex scenes, Bev! (I didn't think they were too graphic). Maybe your novel would have fit this "Transitional Adult" genre that was mentioned.

Well, somehow you're my friend, not merely a follower, on GFC so it must have been magic!