As the moderator for the YA (Young Adult) group on Inkitt, I created a little list defining the difference between young adult and adult works of fiction. For those of you gearing up to send off query letters to publishing houses, it’s important to know what category your book falls into.
What does YA mean?
Well, if your book is listed as 18+ with explicit sexual content and/or extreme cases of violence then it’s not considered YA. Generally, the main protagonist(s) are under the age of 18 or in some cases can be right on the cusp of adulthood.
So…does that mean it has to be PG?
Well, no. YA can included hard-hitting topics like sex, drugs, abuse, and violence. However, it’s about how it’s portrayed. If it includes graphic/explicit scenes, then it’s not YA. If it has undertones or alludes to situations occurring, then it can be considered YA. Think of PG-13 for rating movies, and that’s about as far as you can go until it slips into the adult category (an R rating.)
Is cursing allowed?
Absolutely…but not excessively. Many YA books contain some amount of cursing. They’re teenagers for crying out loud! However, if your characters are throwing out F bombs left and right with no real direction – then it’s back to the adult bookshelf with you.
But a lot of adults read YA so why does it matter?
While that’s true, YA isn’t about who’s reading the books, it’s about their target audience and the age of the main characters within the story. Most YA books are aimed at – well – young adults which can fall into a pretty broad range. Some say that range starts at 12 and goes all the way up to 30 years old. However, most agree that it’s generally targeted for 12 – 18 or up to 20. And if you’re thinking like that, you wouldn’t necessarily want your 12 year old to read a raunchy sex scene in a book labeled as YA. So yeah, it kind of matters.
I hope this helps all of you know the difference between YA and Adult stories so when you finally perfect that query letter, those publishers won’t be stuck scratching their heads!