Photo credit to Aaron Burden
I’ve thought a lot about YA. I’ve had my qualms and tribulations about it going from certain subjects being “taboo” to who can read YA (spoiler: it’s anyone and everyone). My biggest piece of thinking that I did towards YA was considering what subject matter was deemed YA and what was deemed NA or Adult. Personally? I think that anything is really up for grabs for YA. I believe that when young adults reach an age where they are becoming… well adults, they should be exposed to many ideas and many subjects. I’m not really a fan of people… coddling or sheltering people from the world. I don’t like to think of myself of some kind of cynic, I care too much for that, but I don’t want someone to go into the world unprepared of sorts. So I’m an advocate to open sex and sexual themes to YA because apparently we can have a bunch of minors killing each other for sport (m’hm I went there) but we get explicit sex scenes and oh no the children!
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about, obviously.
What if YA is a writing style?
We’ve talked about YA being a genre, a publisher’s creation to garner towards a younger demo, and I’ve talked about it being more of an age range. But while I was reading Nevernight I began to think, what if it’s more of a writing style?
For the sake of simplicity, I’ll be talking mainly about Nevernight. There will be no spoilers, but I do recommend reading it.
Do I think Nevernight is a YA novel? No, but it’s not for other reasons that I’ve seen common through the reviews (sex and violence). I thought the writing style was completely different from what I’ve read in YA. It was a lot more dense and had a lot more flavor. What do I mean by flavor? I mean that it’s got a lot more description and a lot of commentary and very fantasy-esque writing. There’s a lot of writing in the novel that I thought might trouble some readers who are used to more YA novels. I’ve seen this plight in a lot of YA reviewers. They thought the writing was really dense and that it hindered their experience, but I’ve read similar writings in adult fantasy novels.
So then I thought. Hm. Maybe YA is more of a writing style than anything.
I’ve noticed it more and more even with novels like Six of Crows or A Darker Shade of Magic which are the bigger fantasy novels that I would say are written closer to adult or “traditional” fantasy novels still have a very YA feel to them. It’s like when you look at a painting from the 1500s and you immediately go, “Oh that’s a medieval painting.” I can read a few chapters of a novel from the YA section and immediately understand that it’s a YA style. YA novels tend to be really straight to the point. There are definitely books that use a lot more flavor text, but it’s still what I considered kind of watered down compared to the adult and new adult stories. This isn’t only in fantasy either, this is also in more contemporary novels.
I was thinking about how Vicious and A Darker Shade of Magic have differences other than being in different genres. They’re written by the same author, V. E. Schwab, but they still sound and feel different. Strangely, to me, Vicious feels like the “Adult” voice and ADSoM feels like the “teen” voice. This isn’t to offend or anything, it’s just a kind of observation. So for a long time, I thought that it was the age of the characters. Usually if the characters are in their 30s, you’re trying to connect to an audience of the same age, right? So of course, the voice of the narrative is going to feel older. Yet, in Nevernight our main cast is under 20 years old. They’re teenagers and yet the writing very much has an older feeling to it.
The words that are chosen, the way that the sentences are formed, and just the general tone of the novel has the feel of someone that’s older and so it feels to me that this is an Adult novel rather than a Young Adult novel. There’s also the, yes very explicit, scenes of violence and sex. Again, I’m in camp “let your kids read whatever they want man”, so the explicit scenes didn’t bother me, really. But it is written like someone who is older, someone who knows more and who is unafraid to say certain things and being descriptive. Something like this only comes with age and experience. In YA novels, the words tend to be… shy? Is that the right word? But think of it when a 16 year old has a trouble saying things like “vagina”. It’s that kind of shy. Like they’re almost embarrassed to utter the words. In Nevernight, however it’s really a “don’t give a fuck” attitude. This constitutes to the whole story being revolved around assassins, but I digress.
Overall, I’m beginning to think that YA has moved on from being just a genre and just a demographic. I think it’s now moved into a place where it has a distinct style. It’s the same thing with middle grade. The wording and the general text is just different than other genres and demographics.
What about you? Do you think YA has a writing style? Do you agree or disagree? Tell me in the comments!