|My ducks this afternoon|
What does that mean? Well, years ago I read that Seventeen magazine was aimed at twelve-year-olds. It makes sense. Children--- especially children that read--- think of themselves as more mature than their age. So a reading 12-year-old would identify with an 'average' 17-year-old.
So when we learn that a YA novel is about seventeen-year-olds, we should assume that it is truly aimed at the younger-than-17 crowd. If it were for seventeen-year-olds, the heroes/heroines would be 22 or so.
Of course, you don't HAVE to be 12 to enjoy a YA novel. I read the Hunger Games books when I was over 50. A magazine for retirees had an article about how people of that age were enjoying YA books. And on the other end of the spectrum, there are the bright 9 year olds.
Which is where the scary comes in. Many young writers think that YA is an easy-to-write genre read by a narrow age range--- 17 or so--- who are not very demanding, on a number of levels.
But the fact is that most of the 17-year-old audience has graduated to reading mostly books for grown-ups by now. They don't need special, limited for-kids books any more.
The YA author must instead write for a core group that's younger--- perhaps as young as 12 or even 9. This audience does not know very much about the world around them yet, and so they need authors who won't expect them to recognize a Shakespeare quote or know who was emperor of Rome after Tiberius. But they want to think of themselves as fully grown-up readers able to read books that deal with challenging things--- they don't want to be babied along.
Especially these days, the YA author ALSO has to write for a number of older groups--- the 17-to-21 year olds who still like a YA book from time to time, the teachers, librarians and student teachers who read YA primarily to discover what to recommend, and the fully-adult readers who are willing to read YA if the book in question is well-written enough to draw in the more experienced reader.
So, in short, YA has to be just as good as grown-up fiction, but must not presume adult levels of knowledge, or offend against the innocence of child readers. I think that perhaps means that rather than being an extra-easy genre, it's an extra-challenging one.
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