What Are Young Adult Novels?

“What Are Young Adult Novels?” by Joan Y. Edwards

Young Adult Novels are books that may touch on children’s issues or adult issues but written for and from the viewpoint and experiences of children who are 12-18 years old. They are sometimes called Problem Novels, Coming of Age, or Edgy Novels.

Criteria for Young Adult Novels

  • Ages 12-18; Ages 12-20; Ages 12 and up – Grades 6 and Up)
  • 40,000  – 90,000 words  (160 – 360 pages) (may vary)
  • 20-36 chapters (may vary)
  • Number of pages per chapter (10-20 pages) may vary
  • Words of Unlimited Number of Syllables
  • Sentences of Unlimited Complex Structure
  • Sentences may contain 40 words.
  • Memorable, Strong Main Character
  • Subject Matter and story lines are typically consistent with the age and experience of the main character.

Plots are related to, but not limited to the following topics:

  • Challenges of Youth
    Internal change brought on by external events and fits into a bigger picture of the character’s world.
  • Seventeen common topics for Young Adult novels. In a paper written by April Dawn Wells, she discovered seventeen common traits of young adult novels. They were “friendship, getting into trouble, interest in the opposite sex, money, divorce, single parents, remarriage, problems with parents, grandparents, younger siblings, concern over grades/school, popularity, puberty, race, death, neighborhood, and job/working.
  • Edgy Topics for Young Adult Novels have more complicated plots than Middle Grade Novels. They may include edgy, sensitive subjects such as: pregnancy, abortion, rape, incest, gays, drugs, murder, suicide, and others that used to be taboo for young adult books.
  • Situational Archetypes in Young Adult Novels: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young-adult_fiction#Usage_in_Education An excellent article that shows some of the classic situational archetypes in many young adult novels. I think you’ll enjoy this. It also lists books that use the archetypes. You can see if the plot for your manuscript of a Young Adult Novel fits into one of the archetypes.

Main Character

  • The Main Character steps outside his own backyard and encounters adult problems for the first time. He has to figure out who he is and where he fits in with the family and the community. By the end of the book he loses his innocence and his eyes open to the ethical shortcomings of his family and the neighbors he has known all his life. He questions the values and beliefs of his parents and community.
  • The Main Character takes note of how he influences and is influenced inside and outside his home – school, neighborhood, city (his larger world). He sees the actions and consequences of different behaviors of adults and other teenagers.
  • The Main Character searches to find out who he is and decide his own beliefs and values. He may believe he can make a difference, or he may believe it’s useless. He may have to make changes himself and face his internal fears before he can change the world he lives in.

Examples of Young Adult Novels

Best Sellers Teen Books http://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Books-Teen/zgbs/books/28


1. “Best Sellers Teen Books.” http://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Books-Teen/zgbs/books/28

2.  Marie C. Hansen, Jefferson Market Library “New York Best Selling Young Adult Books” http://www.nypl.org/blog/2011/01/20/2010-nytimes-bestselling-ya-books-free-downloads

4.  Wikipedia.org. “Edgy Content”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young-adult_fiction#Edgy_content

5. Wikipedia.org. “Notable Authors” (Young Adult). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young-adult_fiction#Notable_authors

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope it helped shed the light on ideas to answer the question, “What are Young Adult Novels?”

Please ask a question, tell me your favorite Young Adult Novel and why, or leave a your opinion. It makes me smile to hear from you.

Believe in Yourself
Write the book that’s in your heart.

Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2011 Joan Y. Edwards

14 thoughts on “What Are Young Adult Novels?”

    1. Dear Mary, Thanks for reading my blog and for taking time to leave a comment. You’re welcome. I’m glad you thought it was a helpful summary. Enjoy your writing.

      Play. Laugh. Smile. Write. Joan Y. Edwards

    1. Dear Roxie, Thanks for reading my blog. I appreciate your leaving such a nice compliment. You’re making me blush. I hope your day is filled with fun, excitement, and joy.

      Enjoy Life’s Changes Joan Y. Edwards Never Give Up

  1. Joan, thanks for another timely post. I’ve got a novel with an 18 year old main character that may have moved beyond YA. It’s about forming families, and the adult characters in the novel face problems similar to those of the main character. Any ideas on what to do when I submit it?


    1. Dear Peggy, Good to hear from you. Thanks for reading my blog. Here’s a blog that tells about an agent wondering what to do with books with Main Character of age 20. For now, she says they have to be plugged in as an Adult book. If there’s any way the experience your main character is having could be younger, or older, you could go there. If 18 is the only age that this character could have this experience, keep that age and pitch it as an adult. Or if that just doesn’t sit right in your gut, go with your gut feeling and pitch it as a Young Adult. If it’s about college students, you could say that in your pitch. If it’s mostly about adults, adult would be my guess. Some publishers may deem it young adult. Some may decide it’s adult. You might be able to write a comment on Sarah’s blogpost and ask her opinion. Why not? Sarah LaPolla, literary agent with Curtis Brown. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

      Look from a Different Point of View Never Give Up

      Joan Y. Edwards Website: https://www.joanyedwards.com/

  2. Joan,
    This is one more excellent post on genres of children’s literature. It is a great way to let fellow writers see needed information at a glance. Well done. Thanks for writing this series.

    1. Dear Linda, Thanks for taking time to read my blog and to leave a comment. I’m glad you think this is an excellent post on genres of Children’s Literature. I hope you and other writers find it useful in writing the next best seller. That’s true it is criteria at a glance in my blog post that is in bits and pieces over the internet and in books. It is my pleasure to help others. It also makes it clearer to me so I know where my stories belong. There are many books that seem to bridge between one genre and another. That’s how new genres are created. It’s interesting to watch the market change to meet the needs of its readers.

      Believe in Yourself Submit Your Manuscript Today

      Joan Y. Edwards

    1. Dear Karen, It’s so nice when top notch people like you write and tell me that my blog post was informative and helpful. Thank you very much. Thanks for tweeting a link to your friends in twitter ville.

      Never Give Up – Make It Happen Joan Y. Edwards

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