Last night, at the Twilight Book Club I run (told you I had succumbed) the question was raised as to whether the Young Adult classification put readers off. I may be stupid but I hadn't realised it was a young adult book. It made me wonder whether my current work in progress, Emon and the Empire, is likely to be classified as Young Adult too? We queried what it is about a book, specifically the Twilight Saga, which makes publishers market it to older teenagers rather than middle-aged mothers. These are just our theories, but it came down to three things:
- The book is marketed towards the age of the main protagonists. It is about 17-year-olds, and since people relate more to those like themselves it is therefore considered to be of most interest to 17-year-olds. (Yes, I know Edward is actually 109. One of the many things I love about the book is the expert way the author creates a character who is at the same time a moody, stroppy teenager and a century-old adult set in the traditions of the 1920's.) My character, Emon, is 18 at the start of the book and 25 at the end which, by this criteria, would make Emon and the Empire a young adult book.
- It definitely fits the sci-fi/fantasy/speculative mould, and I think there is some snobbishness out there which suggests that adults are less likely to read such books and more interested in serious, true-to-life stories. I say yah boo sucks to that. Terry Pratchett anyone? And what about Bram Stoker's terrifying original? Plenty of adults love sci-fi, but maybe publishers are still a little wary of marketing a fantasy book to adults. Emon and the Empire is a fantasy novel.
- There are no "naughty bits" in it. Now, I know certain among the Utah contingent dispute this, pointing to the delicately handled scenes where Bella gets covered in feathers and bruises, but believe me, it's very tame compared to the sex scenes in adult literature - and do mean adult with a small "a". Most books marketed at adults include graphic descriptions of sex. I hate that about them. I like Marian Keyes as a writer, for example, but I really don't see the need to have her characters' private fetishes and behaviours documented in detail. The fact that this is the expected norm in books written for the over 20's is one reason I have only written thus far for the LDS market. In the Twilight books, Edward and Bella get married, and only afterwards is there any hint of shenanigans, and even then it isn't described. If leaving out the sex scenes turns a serious novel into Young Adult fiction then I guess Emon is, once again, a Young Adult book.
So by all these criteria it looks as though my current work-in-progress is shaping up to be Young Adult fiction. But that's fine by me. After all, the Harry Potter series are children's books but I loved those too.