Back in the day, there was a handful of genres. We had fiction or non-fiction, poetry or drama. That was it.
Oh, how times have changed.
We've always distinguished children's literature from adult, sports from humor, science fiction from mythology. However, in the recent years, one area of fiction has grown exponentially. YA.
So what is YA?
Young Adult literature primarily involves a protagonist between the ages of 12 and 17 who struggles in the story with any number of problems one typically faces growing up. In the end, the hero solves his own problem, and the reader learns a little about himself.
Common struggles include: friendship, relationships, getting in trouble or dealing with divorce, puberty, popularity, race, death, money, or spirituality.
Vital to the YA tale is that the protagonist must solve her own problem.
Recently, a new genre has surfaced: NA. New Adult literature includes the above with a hero closer to the ages of 17 to 25 whose primary struggles include adult situations (drugs, sexuality, crime, for example). If you view the NA shelf on Goodreads, you will see many covers that suggest a sexual theme. Then you will come across Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. That's because this new genre has already subdivided into "racey" NA and "edgy" NA.
Will it never end?
My advice for finding a book to read? Go to the section you are used to first. Ask the bookstore employees for suggestions. Read reviews online. Ask friends. (Uh, yeah, kind of how you've always done it.)
My advice for selecting a genre for your next manuscript? Don't. Write your story. Let the editor, agent, publisher, bookseller, etc., slot you in.
Don't like my advice? Try this for quick and dirty sorting:
It's YA if:
1. Your hero is aged 12 - 17.
2. Your hero is dealing with a problem you are comfortable discussing with your own mother.
3. Your hero solves her own problem.
4. Your hero learns something or the reader does.
It's NA if:
1. Your hero is aged 17 - 25.
2. Your hero is dealing with a problem that might make you blush to tell your own mother about.
3. Your hero solves her own problem, but might need help from an authority (police, lawyer) or health professional (psychiatrist, doctor).
4. Your hero might break the law at some point (drug offense or other misdemeanor).
Based on my list, where would you place these classics:
"Catcher in the Rye"
"To Kill a Mockingbird"
"Pride and Prejudice"
"Lord of the Flies"
I'd love to hear your thoughts on YA and NA, or genres in general.