Hello everyone and welcome back to another Saturday Spotlight at The Bibliophagist. Things have been crazy busy this past week but I managed to get all my posts done and keep up with my reading, for the most part anyway. I even managed to write some for my own WIP which I am so excited about. It is finally falling together. Of course, It’ll need a lot of work but it is my first draft after all. I turn my inner editor or else I’d never get the book finished.
If you are a reader or book blogger, please take the time to check out each author of the week and their book(s). Even requesting it from your local library helps them! They appreciate the smallest amount of support for the incredible amount of time they put into their books. Authors give us more than printed pages, they give us experiences, friends, and amazing adventures. The least we can do is show our support by writing a review for their books we read or borrow/buy their book(s).
Today, I am incredibly excited because I am bringing you a special guest post by N.J. Simmonds, the author of The Path Keeper. Simmonds talks about an emerging age bracket of books… #YAplus. Seeing the controversy among people via Twitter, I knew this was a fantastic idea. Be sure to watch out Twitter sites as well, at 3pm EST we will be hosting a #YAplus Twitter chat discussing this very topic. If you have any questions or input, please let us know. We’d love to hear your opinion. YA+ is a new and upcoming category and you can learn all about it tomorrow on Twitter at 3pm EST.
Not all YA books are for children!
The day I was told The Path Keeper was going to be classified as Young Adult I panicked.
I know a lot of writers set out to write a specific genre, but I never did. The Path Keeper was the first book I ever wrote, my soul story, the tale I had to tell. Who would read it and how it was going to be marketed hadn’t even occurred to me. At that stage, I hadn’t even considered being published, let alone how booksellers would position it on their shelves.
So why did I panic?
Because my debut has everything you wouldn’t associate with a book written for teens. Sex, violence, sex, swearing, drinking, deep ontological themes and…more sex. Authors don’t get a say in the marketing of their books, even if (like me) they’ve worked in marketing twenty years and lecture on storytelling and branding to MA uni students. But I’m not an expert in book promotion, the publishing industry or what sells – my publishers BHC Press are and they are very good at it – so who was I to argue?
But I did do what every nervy first-time writer does. I had a long chat with my editor.
“Hey, so…The Path Keeper is YA, huh? How come?”
“Your main character, Ella, is nineteen years old. Plus it’s a fast-paced, coming-of-age story.”
“Oh, right. So are you going to cut any of the sex and drinking and cursing scenes?”
“Not even when she swears in Spanish and English in the opening chapter?”
“Not even the scene when they have sex in the shower and he…”
“And what about at the end when they’re in the Spanish mountains and she begs him to…”
“No. It’s all staying in the book – but we’ll add a trigger warning for younger readers and market it as YA+.”
YA+ eh? Ooooh, a special category all of my own. I went away grinning and excited and relieved, because not only was I now officially part of the most boundary-pushing genre in book fiction, but my publisher had just awarded me an exclusive category. Young Adult Plus. Mine was a book not just for young adults, but for so much more than young adults.
Visit book Twitter any time of the day or night and you will invariably stumble across a discussion about YA. There are those worrying that the genre is statistically selling less than other genres, there are those complaining there is nothing suitable for 11-14 year olds between Middle-Grade books and YA books (as YA is getting too adult) and those complaining that the New Adult genre was ruined by saucy Indie writers and that’s why YA has become too grown up.
Here’s my hot take – Young Adults are NOT children.
Look at the words: Young. Adult. You aren’t officially an adult until you are 18, so if you are a young one then you are 16 at most…and if you are 16 I’m sure you can cope with sex scenes or someone saying the word ‘fuck’.
With this in mind, of course, we need a clearer distinction between MG and YA! A 13-year-old isn’t going to empathize with a nineteen-year-old protagonist. And an 18 year old reader may want their love stories to go beyond a chaste kiss.
This is why The Path Keeper is YA+. Whether we like it or not, there’s a huge market for older YA books because there are more YA readers over the age of 18 than under. Look at the math, how many 14-18 year olds are there in the world compared to fully grown adults who enjoy reading YA? Exactly.
And why do these not-so-young adults enjoy YA? As a 40 year old avid YA reader, I can answer that myself.
I don’t want to read about women my own age – I have enough middle-aged drama in my life, thank you very much.
I want to read about someone younger, freer and more adventurous than I am who has many more years of freedom and hope ahead of her than I do. I want to remember the angst and intensity of all my firsts – first time falling in love, falling out of friendships, taking a risk, challenging myself, standing up for what I believe in and discovering who I am.
I don’t read older YA because I hate my life or want to live vicariously through the fictional life of a teen – I read it to remember and to remind myself that life really can be that thrilling. That there’s always hope.
And I’m sure I’m not alone. If more and more not-so-young adults are reading YA and want to ship characters in their late teens/early twenties, then just like they do in the movies, it stands to reason that these characters will be doing pretty adult stuff.
I don’t mean to shock any of you, but at nineteen I had a full-time job, spent every weekend at my boyfriend’s house, had sex (a lot), drank (a lot), went on holiday to far-flung destinations with no parents in sight, and swore as much as I do today (which is…a lot).
So if you’re going to read a YA book with a protagonist in her late teens – should it really be censored to appease a 14 year old? No. That’s why The Path Keeper is YA+ and why you won’t ever hear me apologizing for the content.
YA for adults is on the rise, and the plain hard fact is if the industry insists on categorizing all books for kids aged 13-19 as one thing…you’re going to get issues. We need bookends around YA. MG, HS (High School), YA and YA+ will do just fine – publishing people, make it happen!!
As for Ella, my spirited protagonist in The Path Keeper doesn’t stay nineteen for long. In the sequel Son of Secrets she turns 23 and finds a whole new set of issues. And guess what the book opens with? Yep, Ella having a meaningless one-night stand. Oh dear, these young adults just refuse to behave…
Natali Drake is an accredited member of The Society of Authors and writes as N J Simmonds. She is a freelance brand consultant and writer and has had her work published in various UK newspapers, websites, and publications including The Mother Book. In 2015 she co-founded The Glass House Girls, an online magazine for women who need to be heard. Originally from North London, Natali now divides her time between her two homes in the South of Spain and The Netherlands where she lives with her husband and two daughters. The Path Keeper is her first novel from the series, her second book Son Of Secrets will be available from late 2017
**Remember to click the book image to read more about it and buy your copy today!**
Just because I like this paperback cover as well, here is the image of that edition. The above image is of the hardback version.
Thank you again, N.J. Simmonds for her honesty regarding her opinion on YA+ books. I think this is an issue easily fixed if only the publishers could get something put together and organized. I look forward to what you all think about the issue. You can comment here but be sure to join us on Twitter today at 3pmEST using the tag #YAPlus and talk about your opinion.
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