Tuesday, March 15, 2016


This post is not purposefully devised to inflame readers, but I know it will have this effect.

I have become concerned lately about YA, and especially about the infusion of fantasy and science fiction into YA.  A recent conference in Bolgna had several agents speaking of this trend. 

See the article here

I am a proponent of YA, and I of course support fantasy and science fiction.  But the gap I speak of is regarding the feeling that quality standards for YA are not the same as for adult fiction.  This idea seems especially true in the development of YA fantasy and science fiction by Indie and self-published authors.

I have attended conference for the PNWA and been a reader for their writer's contests for five years.  I know that the gap I'm speaking of does not apply to "serious" YA authors who I've had the pleasure to speak to.  They recognize that following the rules that generally apply to great writing - tight plot, good character development, logical narrative and so on - are equally important in YA.  We are, in essence, exposing our younger readers and potential authors to literature and to proper English.  However, some YA authors I have spoken to and whose work I have critiqued have made some untrue assumptions:

  • Reader's minds are not fully developed until 21 years old.

  • Young readers don't (or shouldn't) care about structure.

  • Content is much more important than English use for juvenile readers.

My favorite statement made by one author after a critique I made (of a YA fantasy manuscript) was simply:  "This is YA.  You can't judge this by the same standards by which you judge adult literature."

This thinking, of course, couldn't be more wrong.  YA must use the same standards as adult literature.  The only difference is audience.  If we believe any differently, we are only creating a crutch for ourselves, allowing us to justify our lazy habits as writers.  Worse, we are making assumptions about our audience, in essence "dumbing down" our writing to what we assume is their intelligence level.  This sells our audience incredibly short, and limits the longevity of our work:  A proper YA novel should be able to be enjoyed twice, once for the child and again when that child reaches adulthood.  If we produce work without a secondary layer of intelligence - supported by excellent writing - we leave a tarnished childhood memory at best.

I wonder if this gap exists, which allows in work of lesser quality.  Is this as prevalent as it seems?  Or is this a bad habit that writers in the limited sample I've taken developed?  If the latter, and especially if the industry does not support this idea, writers who make allowances for inferior quality are overdue for a rude awakening.


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