Thursday, March 25, 2010

You would never guess it's YA!!!

Yesterday evening, I was busy cleaning up scraped knees, putting together a spontaneous dinner, griping on the phone to my husband - all those things you do at 5 pm (well, all those things that *I* do at 5 pm) when I saw a tweet pop up in my Tweetdeck. It was an RT from @randomhousekids. I'll leave out the name of the original tweeter because I think she's a busy mom just like me, and probably didn't realize what she was saying.

Here's the tweet:

"Reading: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It's YA but I swear you don't even notice."


Right? And even ouchier is that it was RT'd by Random House Kids, all, "Yay!"

It brings to mind a NYT article written by YA author
(and fellow Austinite) Margo Rabb a few years ago about the derision that's often foisted upon YA (and children's book) authors. I'm not sure a lot of people know that it's incredibly common for a YA author, after telling someone what she does for a living, to get the response, "Cool! So when are you going to write a real book?"

Margo got a lot of guff from both sides of the argument after her article, including a charming offer to "punch her in the face". I think that, obviously, shows the strong feelings out there about the YA vs. Adult debate. (You can read Margo's response to the brou-ha-ha here. And you can read her fantastic interview with Markus Zusak about YA vs. Adult here.)

So what is it that makes YA different from adult books, other than the age of the character? When I write YA, or middle grade, do I think, "Whew! Thank goodness I write for kids so I don't have to research or write complex characters!"? Of course not. My books may not have 150,000 words, and they may not cause death and concussive potholes when dropped from a three-story window, but they are still books that were ached over. Just because a book stars a middle school kid who runs around a spaceship trying to figure out if his parents are sabotaging a mission to terraform Mars doesn't mean that the science behind the fiction wasn't painstakingly researched. There are obvious (and subtle) character arcs. There is a desire to help children fall in love with everything from physics and e.e. cummings - by creating an exciting story and a fully realized world for that story to take place in.

Sometimes (when there are less spaceships and 6th grade classrooms involved) it's hard to pinpoint why a book is YA vs. Adult - especially a book like The Book Thief. Often, it's a sales or marketing decision. What I'd like to know, though, is what do you, as a reader (and/or writer) think? What attracts you to YA? What turns you off? If you're an adult, do you go out of your way to find YA to read? Is it embarrassing to hit your local bookstore and go directly to the YA section to sniff out new reads? And if you're a teen do you think adults who read YA are skeevy? Do you have friends who skipped over YA and went directly to adult books?

I'm just curious, because I'm, you know, biased.

Tell it to me straight! Just don't ask when I'm going to write a real book. Or I might find Margo Rabb and have her punch you in the face.


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