The Post About YA Books

About a year and a half ago, I sat down to write a YA book ("Young Adult," for those who might not know).  It took me three months to write the first draft.  It's been revised a few times since then, and is currently in the hands of my fantastic, live-in editor, Nicole.

This wasn't the YA book I thought I was going to write; I had another idea that got pushed aside by this one, but that I hope to come back to down the line.  Unfortunately, I have two other ideas that seem to have more potential, so I've moved on to those.

But I've never had a problem with ideas; it's the execution that gets me.

I decided to write a YA book because, aside from perhaps comics, YA books take up the bulk of my reading list.  I've also basically been writing YA books in my head for most of my life, I just never realized it.  In some ways, my education in creative writing was something of a hindrance, as I was under the belief that I needed to be writing serious literary fiction, and that all of my crazy ideas about superheroes and dragons had no real value.

That's not to say that I don't enjoy serious literary fiction.  But it's a fickle mistress that doles out far more pain than pleasure, although I suppose that's why the pleasure is so great.

...wow, that was a bit of a un-YA diatribe there...

As I said, I read a lot of YA books, and I've come to realize that there are, more or less, two distinct genres in the YA category: angst and fantasy.

Angst would be something like Twilight, of course.  The focus is on interpersonal relationships that are intensely emotional and overly dramatic, but in some way relatable to the audience.  I would imagine that books in this category generally skew a bit older, perhaps to high school kids.

Fantasy would be something like the Percy Jackson series.  Plot is foremost, and that plot demands a certain level of detail, complexity, and creativity.  Sure, the interpersonal stuff is in there, but it's not the central focus of the story.  It's there to add depth.  I would imagine these are the books that skew both younger and older, the books that middle school kids and their parents read, because neither group is too concerned with angsty teenagers.

The two genres can mix, of course.  Harry Potter is a great example of this.  That series began as mostly fantasy, but by the end it was equal parts fantasy and angst.  The genius of Harry Potter is how it evolved from book to book, taking the readers along with it.  For all the credit JK Rowling gets for her creativity, it's her vision of the big picture that I found most impressive.

Lately it seems as if the "angst" group has been mostly made up of post-apocalyptic and vampire stories.  This make sense, of course, because both areas lend themselves fairly easily to angst.  Sadly, it's resulting in a flood of books that are mostly about being melodramatic.  It feels like this group has reached its saturation point, but I'm not sure how it becomes any better.

On the flip side, "fantasy" books have yet to find a pattern.  Sure, most feature protagonists who are roughly the same age as the target audience, but beyond then there's been no set criteria for success.  It would have been very easy to see a ton of books featuring wizards after Harry Potter changed the book world, but that isn't the case.  There's a such a great variety of subjects in the "fantasy" group that it's ultimately the more interesting of the two categories.

Then again, I say that as an adult reading young adult books.  In fact, maybe the "angst" group is the better of the two, the one that will last the longest.  It certainly seems to have the most rabid fans.

Let's just hope the market for YA doesn't dry up any time soon: I've got 5 different series in my head, and it would be nice if someone paid me for them!