What makes Young Adult young adult? It seems to me that frequently, authors consider their work to be Young Adult if it is about young adults. The content is not considered. I think that agents try to steer authors toward “adult” if their stories seem unmarketably dark, but by and large, plenty of what I’ve seen in the YA section at the bookstore seems a little mature for many YA readers.
To get a better understanding of the characteristics of “Young Adult Literature,” I looked on the American Library Association website http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/profdev/whitepapers/yalit.cfmand found it to be highly informative. Discussed were the definition, the history, the growth of author interest in the genre, and the expanding readership. I recommend it.
The most interesting fact for me, however, was that when the term first came to broad use in the 1960s, “young adult” readers ranged in age from twelve to eighteen years old (a.k.a. adolescence). By the late 1990’s, the readership had expanded to include children from ten to twenty-five years old. I say “children,” because this coincides with an interesting fact from my college Child Psychology class (circa 1998) that adolescence is now considered to last until age twenty-nine. (The “end” being when one has established a financial and home life independent of one’s parents.)
There is talk in publishing circles that the term YA is too broad, and should be broken into “younger YA” (ages ten to fourteen) and “older YA” (age fifteen and up. This makes a lot of sense, for obvious reasons, not the least of which is the different developmental interests of those two groups. But if they’re going to go that far, perhaps they should create a third sub-genre for the college crowd.