Saturday, March 24, 2007

Why YA?

With the announcement of the IAMTW nomination, and the fact that Strategic Reserve was entered in the YA category, I have been getting a lot of questions about the YA genre.

I chose to enter Strategic Reserve in the YA category, because I felt that was where its main appeal was. ALIAS seemed to be very strong with the young female audience, and the books appealed to that audience. The fans whose blogs and Webpages I read were primarily young women. It just seemed the right place for it.

I don't claim to know all the answers, and would love to have other people chime in here, especially if you think I get something wrong. I would also love to have the recommendations of others about what books/writers are good in YA.
Recommended writers, in no particular order:

Meg Cabot - Princess Diaries/The Mediator series, and a bunch of others. I don't think this woman sleeps!
Chris Crutcher - WHALE TALK is one of the finest books I have ever read
Francine Pascal - Sweet Valley High and spin-offs, Fearless, Fearless: FBI
Anthony Horowitz - the Alex Rider books, very British, kind of James Bond Junior
James Patterson - Maximum Ride books
Carl Hiaasen - HOOT and FLUSH - haven't read the Peter Pan books he did with Ridley Pearson, but I'd bet they're fun!
Niki Burnham - Spin Control Royally Jacked
Nancy Krulik - Love & Sk8
Scott Westerfield - The Uglies Trilogy
In looking over the list, I find that these are all very different writers. Which brings me to my first point.

In YA, you can write ANYTHING! Mystery, sf, fantasy, contemporary, funny, dark, sweet, racy, historical, romantic, adventure - YA books cover the spectrum.

YA covers every genre, and every tone. There are definite age categories: early readers, children's, middle grades, young adult. For now I am just lumping them all together, because otherwise I could spend a week just trying to sort out the sub-categories.

WHALE TALK (mentioned above) has some serious, heavy themes and action. PRINCESS DIARIES is sweet and funny. Naylor's ALICE books are very sweet, and intended for younger (probably 9-12) readers. There are inspirational books in YA, just as there are in romance and mainstream.

Ethnic books are good. ADIOS TO MY OLD LIFE is a great read. I was planning to buy it, then got it in my Rita nominees, and thoroughly enjoyed it. There are Latina/Latino books, African-American, Asian - and those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Oh, and OPAL METHA was an Indian (as in India) protagonist. (Never mind the whole plagiarism thing. Point is, a book with an Indian girl as the protagonist was sold, and was slated for major publisher support, which means they expected it to do well.)

There are a zillion publishers of YA out there, and series seems to be the name of the game. If you are interested in YA, you should sample a little of everything. Again, off the top of my head

Alex Rider (STORMBREAKER is the first)
Princess Diaries
All-American Girl
Gossip Girls
The Clique
The 310 series
Fearless FBI
American Girl (multiple series in different time periods)
A few years ago, there was a line of ALIAS books that were straight YA (the ones I wrote were adult novels, but they had a wide YA appeal). A lot of other tie-ins have that same appeal to the YA audience: Buffy, Angel, Trek, etc. And then there are the "house name" books like the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. To tell the truth, I haven't actually checked, but I think those are still being produced.

This is a huge topic, and may take several posts, but I also recommend looking at the Websites and MySpace pages, and see what's out there. You may be very surprised! I also highly reading Agent Kristen Nelson's blog, Pub Rants ( She represents several YA writers, and her blog is interesting and informative about a lot of areas, not just YA.

OK. Enough for now. I have stories to write!


wavybrains said...

Congrats on the nomination Chris! Other YA books I've read recently and liked--Vegan, Virgin, Valentine by Carolyn Mackler, Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCaffery (sp?), and the Miss Smithers series--really funny books.

wavybrains said...

Oh and wavybrains is me, Bethany from the MWVRWA loop!

Anonymous said...

Hey Chris,

Woo Hoo on the nomination! Way to go!

I've been working on writing my first YA and it's sooo scary. I think this audience is much harder to cater to because they are so bright and their minds are in need of much more at this time of life. I'm totally fretting over it, but also, I'm finding it totally thrilling.

The last YA I just finished reading was Meg Cabot's All American Girl. It was cute. And you're right, when does that woman find time to be human and rest a bit? LOL

Best of luck on your nomination! Hope we can see you at a meeting soon. Maybe with the weather calming down for summer you'll be able to pull yourself away from that coastal town and come see us valley girls. LOL