Untouched at 54K, getting back into it!
Young Adult is a very flexible genre, and lately I've been wondering what defines a novel as Young Adult. Most importantly, what is age appropriate for YA.
When it comes to YA, generally I think teens, age 13-18. I think PG-13 in terms of content. And I think of young adult struggles- falling in love for the first time, growing up, becoming adults, finding your place in the world, etc.
I've been told in critiques for Untouched that Gwen's voice seems too mature for young adult, but I also believe that many people underestimate teenagers, and don't give them enough credit. Untouched may not be very young sounding, but it certainly deals with what I think is a YA topic- growing up and leaving your childhood behind.
So is it still YA? What is too mature for YA? What are the parameters?
Is getting married and having a baby too mature for YA? Maybe. To some people it is, which may explain part of the conflict over Breaking Dawn. Twilight was certainly YA, but the protagonist matured and so did the content. So why do we still consider it YA?
Novel series can and do mature, and I've been trying to pinpoint what causes this. When I think of the first Harry Potter, I think MG. But in my opinion the final Potter book was definitely YA. At what point did the series transform from MG to YA? In book four when Cedric dies? Or maybe when Dumbledore dies? Or maybe it's not a particular event, maybe the conflicts that Harry has to deal with just evolve and mature as he does.
All the fourteen year-olds that picked up Twilight in 2005 when it first came out aged with the series, and by the time Breaking Dawn was released they were seventeen, and (hopefully) able to recognize and compare their own life decisions and choices with Bella's. But what about all the tweens that picked up the series after it got big and are reading about situations they have no life experience to compare to? Mature teenagers have a better chance at recognizing the flaws in Bella and Edward's relationship, and at realizing the consequences of her decisions. Younger minded readers (because it's not necessarily about age) don't recognize what is wrong there, because they don't have fully formed opinions of right and wrong when it comes that situation.
And no, I don't think Meyer made a mistake. She wrote the story she wanted to write-- isn't that the advice given to aspiring authors? Write the story you want to write? From the beginning Meyer decided there would be a baby involved in Edward and Bella's story, which is one reason I'm not convinced she deserves all the backlash on Breaking Dawn. The ending of the series was thought up and written out before Twilight became big. Stephenie just wrote her story- she never knew it would take the world by storm.
(Not that Twilight doesn't have other problems, but that's one reason I don't hate on Bella for being a Mary Sue: Meyer never imagined that Bella would become a role model for so many young girls. Meyer simply created a character- a foolish, whiny teenager. Bella is a normal girl, not a hero, and she ends up with everything she ever wanted. No wonder teens want to be her. But enough about Twilight.)
My point is this, if YA spans across adolescence, what topics are off limits? What is age appropiate?