Key Elements of a Good Young Adult Novel
Young adult fiction is one of the most popular genres in the world right now, and has been since the early 2000s. However, readers and writers tend to hold opposing viewpoints: you either love YA or despise the idea of being accused of reading or writing it. It's something we as bibliophiles really enjoy. Whatever your feelings are, knowing what constitutes a novel young adult will help you construct the tale and appeal to the audience you seek.
What exactly is Young Adult Literature?
In terms of its history as a designated category, the young adult (YA) genre in literature is relatively new. Although there have always been books written with an adolescent audience in mind, the publishing business has only recently recognized this category and released works particularly for it. YA literature is broadly defined as literature created for an adolescent readership, including a teen main character, and dealing with teen issues.
One popular mistake regarding YA is that it is a genre; nevertheless, it is a category. Science fiction, horror, mystery, and so on are all genres, and you've surely observed that when you look at YA books, they cover all of them (sometimes more than one at a time). YA books are classified based on the audience's presumed/preferred demographic (a specific age range known as "young adult," as opposed to genre books, which are classified as such for any reader who enjoys horror, cozy mysteries, literary fiction, and so on, regardless of demographic status.
Teen-oriented literature have been around for a long time. Before YA had a label, books like The Outsiders (1967), The Pigman (1968), and Forever (1975) were at the vanguard. There are other books featuring young protagonists, such as Catcher in the Rye or Lord of the Flies, that were originally published for an adult audience, while becoming a mainstay on high school reading lists. These works are not technically examples of YA fiction because of the intended audience.
Examining Recent Examples of Young Adult Literature
Authors like as Sarah Dessen, Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, and John Green have come to dominate the YA genre in recent years with works that explore the routes that teenagers follow through their adolescent years, both good and negative. In some cases, these stories are told from a very straightforward, contemporary perspective; for example, books by Sarah Dessen tend to feature a teenage girl in present-day North Carolina, who is often juggling a job, school, and a relationship, and who is almost always trying to come to terms with some kind of wound or absence in her life.
Some of the same responsibilities are performed by YA genre fiction, but against a different backdrop, such as a dystopian future, as in Susanne Collins' The Hunger Games books or Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series. Others, such as Maria Dahvana Headley's Magonia and Daniel Jose Older's Shadowshaper, may be more imaginative. The themes of these books are based on the surreal or odd, yet the teen protagonists are still coping with challenges that are quite similar to those that their current YA "peers" are grappling with.
In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is attempting to survive the Games and save the world while also suffering the loss of a parent and juggling her love for two very different males. Consider how many times you've watched movie trailers on TV or gone to the movies. The Maze Runner, The Spectacular Now, The Hunger Games, Paper Towns, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and Twilight are all based on YA novels, and as you can see, there is a wide range of genre represented, despite the fact that they all fall into the same general category.
The Essential Elements of a Good Young Adult Novel
The protagonist of a YA novel, as well as the point of view (POV) from which the story is told, are critical to connecting readers with the character and story. The protagonist is either narrating the narrative (in first person) or the POV is close over his or her shoulder (limited third person), giving the impression that the story is being delivered through our protagonist's eyes.
The finest YA novels feature characters who have a strong, distinct voice. When we say "strong voice," we mean that the protagonist's voice is clearly defined such that the reader feels as though they know the character right away. Consider Hazel Lancaster, the protagonist in John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. Hazel's clever, snarky, and adorable attitude shines through from the first pages of the work as we learn about her outlook on life, cancer, and the people around her.
Because of the tight, one-sided perspective that sets readers in the character's shoes, first person POV is most commonly utilized in stories with a single protagonist and is highly frequent in YA. This is an example of a reader-proxy—a character who acts in the reader's place—which is essential in YA books.
The entire novel of The Fault in Our Stars is told through Hazel's eyes, as if we are inside her head. A reader knows the character's unvarnished thoughts and emotions when written in first person. This can result in an immensely fulfilling story; nevertheless, one of the drawbacks of this method of storytelling is that readers do not get to experience other characters' points of view. Some YA novels are told in dual first person narration, which means we have two protagonists (who are frequently also acting as antagonists to each other), such as June and Day in Legend by Marie Lu.
In third person, the plot will most likely focus on numerous people, anywhere from 2 to 5, though 2-3 is more frequent because it is easier to follow fewer characters. This type of narration can nevertheless be close, with the characters' voices coming through the story. Harry Potter is told in third person because there are a few scenes in which Harry is not there. However, when Harry is there, his perspective on life, his friends, and the world around him is distinct and obvious.
To be invested, a reader must identify with the character, care about him or her, and appreciate the distinctive ways the individual sees the world.
Not about adolescence, but about adolescence
In YA literature, this is an element that is readily misunderstood. Yes, young adult fiction is aimed at readers aged 12 to 18, and the characters are typically in this age range or closer to 14 to 18. However, writing a tale about teens and writing a story as a teenager are two very different things. A YA author must go inside the mind of a teen and tell the tale as a teen would tell it, with a teen's voice and life experiences.
Best-selling author Jodi Picoult collaborated with her daughter on her YA novel, Between The Lines, which helped her hone the voice of a teenage narrator. "Having a co-writer who was a teenager was like having a built-in B.S. meter sitting next to me," Picoult said of the experience. Other authors recommend listening to teens talk or interviewing them to see if a circumstance, scene, or language rings true to them.
"I think everyone's got a little teenager inside of them still," says Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent trilogy. "You just have to strive to help yourself reach that teenager."
The most important thing to remember while writing a YA novel is that there is no adult hindsight in YA fiction. The story isn't about introspection; it's about the experience of an adolescent at that time in his or her life.
The Prose is Simple.
Writing a story in brilliant, sophisticated prose is satisfying for a writer, but not for young adult readers. Because the story and characters are the driving force in the novel, a YA reader will let you off the hook for writing that is more simplistic in nature. However, this means they have higher expectations for the story as well—YA readers are some of the toughest and greatest readers in the book lovers’ universe. When a writer stays loyal to their characters and the situations they find themselves in, the prose follows—the writing is strong and fascinating. Each sentence should entice the reader to continue reading. The purpose of young adult writing is to move a tale along quickly, rather than to slow down and appreciate the prosaic nature of sentence form.
Happiness for the time being
The journey is the most significant component of young adult fiction—how the character(s) developed from their predicament and how they are now stronger, braver, and better for it. Typically, this results in a Happy For Now (HFN) conclusion. Readers want to end these novels on a positive note, believing that our main character has matured and will be able to survive and thrive in the future. This does not necessary imply that the story need a Happily Ever After (HEA), but it does emphasize the importance of closure. The goal should be to leave the reader with the impression that if our main character can survive in this environment, so can the reader in real life.