The appeal and focus of young adult fiction are distinctive. In most stories, the main characters are young adults who live in a world where they are the center of everything. From the characters’ point of view, they observe, judge, and react whenever they learn and grow from events in the story.
The appeal of Young Adult (YA) fiction
Teenage fiction is unique in that it has nearly universal appeal; YA fiction offers something for every interest and can be enjoyed by anyone who can read at a middle school level or higher.
It appeals to teen readers who like stories of first loves and other relationships, older teens who are fascinated by other teens’ situations, and even grown-ups who like stories that let them remember what things were like during their youth.
It’s easy to think that having a leading teen role makes this fiction “young adult” material. This is important, but it’s not a defining factor on its own. Young adult books feature teenagers, but their themes and content reflect adult sensibilities, sophistication, and awareness.
Six mandatory elements of YA
Young adult fiction shares six traits:
It is typical of teen novels to feature young adults with peers of the same age who share youthful characteristics in their thoughts and actions. In such cases, they don’t have the empathy of an adult, focusing first and foremost on how things affect them. In the beginning of the story, before they’ve matured through their experiences, they don’t put themselves in other people’s shoes very much or analyze why they or other people do certain things. Adults are typically just background characters or maybe not even in the story at all.
Teen themes that are universal
Teenagers struggle with universal themes all the time, and those struggles are echoed in their fiction. Withstanding peer pressures and experiencing puppy love are among the issues and developmental hurdles that affect every generation.
Narrative styles that are accessible
These stories are structured with accessibility and clarity within a teen’s social culture. It’s good to use smaller paragraphs, lots of white space, short chapters, or structures that mimic electronic correspondence such as the text messages that play a huge part in their world. Of course, all these style decisions are influenced by the age and sophistication of the intended audience.
Insightful, youthful narration
The choice of words and sophistication of the narrators’ views reflect adolescents’ dramatic, often self-centered mindset. In YA stories, teen characters describe their own experiences with simple grammar and syntax and immature observations. At the same time, the adult or all-knowing (omniscient) narrators show that they understand the thoughts of teens. Even though the first-person narration isn’t a requirement, it’s common enough to be considered another helpful characteristic of young adult fiction.
Moral centers are common in young adult stories, with their young characters growing and changing in positive ways. However, even if the story doesn’t have a happy ending, it ends with the main character maturing, with that wisdom being the positive aspect.
In these novels, however, the lesson is not preached. Instead, the story demonstrates the lesson while the readers interpret the “message” for themselves, which increases their sense of autonomy. This wisdom is revealed through your story’s plot.
While the themes may be universal, the plots that embody them are unique and appealing to young adults. The events of the story are believable in the context of a teen’s experience and the fictional world of the story, and they occur in settings teens can relate to. Often, the stories reflect current events, politics, or social norms.
Young adult fiction is not watered-down adult fiction. Rich, artistic, and compelling stories are told. Instead of indulging or talking down to readers, they respect them. Rather than referring to the quality of the story, the “young adult” label refers to the age and sensibility of the audience.