Young-adult fiction

Young-adult fiction

Young-adult fiction (often abbreviated as YA fiction, or simply YA) is fiction written for, published for, or marketed to adolescents, roughly between the ages of 12 and 18.


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 novel . Writing styles of YA stories range widely, from the richness of literary style to the clarity and speed of the unobtrusive. 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.Fact|date=February 2008 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 todayGrenby, "Conservative Woman", 155] . However, nineteenth-century publishers didn't specifically market to young readers, and adolescent culture didn't exist in a modern sense. Nonetheless, there were books published in the nineteenth century that appealed to young readers Harvard citation | Garland | 1998 | p = 6:
* "The Swiss Family Robinson" (1812)
* "Oliver Twist" (1838)
* "The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)"
* "Tom Brown's Schooldays" (1857)
* "Great Expectations" (1860)
* "Alice in Wonderland" (1865)
* "Little Women" (1868)
* "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" (1876)
* "Heidi" (1880)
* "Treasure Island" (1883)
* "Huckleberry Finn" (1884)
* "Kidnapped" (1886)
* "The Jungle Book" (1894).

Examples of other novels that predate the young-adult classification, but that are now frequently presented alongside YA novels are Harvard citation | Garland | 1998 | p = 6:
* "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" (1903)
* "Anne of Green Gables" (1908)
* "The Secret Garden" (1909)
* "The Yearling" (1938)
* "My Friend Flicka" (1941)
* "Johnny Tremain" (1943)
* "The Outsiders" (1967)

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 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 marketOwen, Mary, "Developing a Love of Reading"] .

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:
* Judy Blume's "Forever" (1975) (a teen's first sexual encounter and teen pregnancy)
* Nancy Garden's "Annie on My Mind" (1982) (two high-school girls who fall in love)
* Shelley Stoehr's "Crosses" (1991) (self-mutilation)
* Chris Crutcher's "Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes" (1993) (religion, peer pressure, child abuse, abortion)
* Rob Thomas's "Rats Saw God" (1996) (drugs, sex)
* Linda Glovach's "Beauty Queen" (1998) (teenage exotic dancing, threesomes, and heroin addiction)
* Laurie Halse Anderson's "Speak" (1999) (rape)
* Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (1999) (suicide, teenage sexuality, drug use, and abusive relationships)
* Sarah Dessen's "Dreamland" (2000) (emotionally, mentally, and physically abusive relationships)
* Alex Flinn's "Breathing Underwater" (2001) (emotionally, mentally, and physically abusive relationships)
* Alex Sanchez's "Rainbow Boys" (2001) (high school boys exploring gay sex, accepting their sexuality, and falling in love)
* Patricia McCormick's "Cut" (2001) (self-mutilation)
* Alice Hoffman's "Green Angel" (2003) (self-mutilation)
* Angela Johnson's "The First Part Last" (2003) (teen fatherhood)
* Julie Anne Peters' "Luna" (2004) (a girl whose older brother is transsexual)
* Steve Berman's "Vintage, A Ghost Story" (2007) (depressed gay boy who deals with suicide and loneliness)

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 Harvard citation | Random House, 2nd | 1987, while others do not Harvard citation | 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."Harvard citation | 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." Harvard citation | 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. Especially since 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, manga, fantasy, mystery fiction, romance novels, even subcategories such as cyberpunk, splatterpunk, techno-thrillers, contemporary Christian fiction.

Boundaries between children's, YA, and adult fiction

The distinctions between children's literature, YA literature, and adult literature are often flexible and loosely defined. 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.



*cite book
title = Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition
publisher = University of Chicago Press
p = 300
id = ISBN 0-226-10403-6

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last = Eccleshare
first = Julia
editor = Peter Hunt, ed.
title = International Companion Encyclopedia of Children's Literature
origyear = 1996
publisher = Routledge
location = London
pages = 387-396
chapter = Teenage Fiction: Realism, romances, contemporary problem novels

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origyear = 1980
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location = Ontario
pages = 356-369
chapter = The Problem Novel

*cite book
last = Garland
first = Sherry
year = 1998
title = Writing for Young Adults
publisher = Writer's Digest Books
location = Cincinnati, OH
pages = 5-11
id = ISBN 0-89879-857-4

*cite book
last = Lutz and Stevenson
title = The Writer's Digest Grammar Desk Reference
year = 2005
publisher = Writer's Digest Books
location = Cincinnati, Ohio
pages = 274-275
chapter = The Hyphen
id = ISBN 1-58297-335-0

*cite journal
last = Nilsen
first = Alleen Pace
year = 1994
month = April
title = That Was Then ... This Is Now
journal = School Library Journal
volume = 40
issue = 4
pages = 62–70

*cite book
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title = Random House Dictionary, 2nd edition
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id = ISBN 0-394-50050-4

*cite book
title = Webster's Third New International Dictionary
year = 2002
publisher = Merriam-Webster
id = ISBN 0-87779-206-2

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 [ [ "Best Books for Young Adults, 3rd ed."] ] 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 []
* [ " 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. []
*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.

External links

* " [ Cuss, Curse, or Clean It Up: How much, if any, Profanity to Use in Young-Adult Fiction] ", by Mike Klaassen, "", 3 Mar 2007.
* [ Honor Roll: Young Adult Books] . A list ranked by literary honors and awards.
* [ In defense of mean-girl books] , by Lianne George, "Macleans", 15 Oct 2007.

* " [ New Trend in Teen Fiction: Racy Reads; Parents Alarmed that Books are More 'Sex and the City' than Nancy Drew] ", by Janet Shamlian, "NBC News", 15 Aug 2005.

* " [ Now and "Forever": The Power of Sex in Young Adult Literature] ," by Tanya Lee Stone, "VOYA", Feb 2006.
* [ NPR: Multicultural Books Offer Diverse Reading Experience] Michel Martin interviews ALA President Loriene Roy, 19 Jul 2007.

* " [ Page Burners: Sex and the Teenage Girl; What Goes On Between the Covers Is Now What Goes On Between the Covers of New Fiction Aimed at Young Adults] ," by Tania Padgett, "Newsday", 4 Apr 2006.

* " [ Racy Reading; Gossip Girl Series is Latest Installment in Provocative Teen Fiction, and It's As Popular As It Is Controversial] ," by Linda Shrieves, "The Orlando Sentinel", 6 Aug 2005.

*" [ Teens and their Literature are Rocking the Marketplace] ", "Seattle Post Intelligencer", 7 Mar 2007.
* [ "Teens Reading More Challenging Books"] , "WDBJ-7", 5 May 2007.

* " [ Violence in Young-Adult Fiction: Acceptable, Beneficial, or Inexcusable?] " , by Mike Klaassen, "", 21 May 2007.
* [ "Who Says Teens Don't Read?"] by Erinn Hutkin, "Roanoake Times", 30 Oct 2007.

* " [ Young Adult Fiction: Wild Things] ," by Naomi Wolf, "The New York Times", 12 Mar 2006.

* " [ Young-Adult Fiction: What Makes a Great Novel for Boys?] " , by Mike Klaassen, "", 1 Jan 2008.
* [ A Change In The Weather] by Robert Gould, a modern-day fairy tale for young adults.

ee also

*Children's literature
*Children's literature periodicals
*Gay teen fiction
*Lesbian teen fiction
*List of young adult authors
*Young Adult Library Services Association

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