Question: There are lots of books out there today, some are “teen books” written for teens and some are more for adults…My question is, what makes a book an adult book or a teen book?Answer: The difference is whether a book is written for an adult or a young adult readership — young adult meaning ages 13-24. Some publishers have a category called New Adult for college-age readers and use the term “young adult” strictly for high school readers.I know that’s not terribly helpful, but there are certain considerations made when writing for a teen audience. For instance.1. Writing from a teenage perspective.Superficially, this means having the main character be a teenager. However, that’s not the whole story. More specifically, it means having the story told from a teenage point-of-view.For instance, if the narrator is an adult writing about when he was a teenager, that might not qualify as young adult fiction, since the perspective would be that of an older person.Teenagers (it is commonly believed) appreciate reading novels written from the perspective of someone like them, or perhaps slightly older, who sees the world in a similar way and is wrestling with some of the same issues and concerns.Of course, plenty of teenagers read adult books too, but providing a teen perspective is a hook designed to appeal to more reluctant readers.2. LengthA similar hook, designed to encourage reluctant readers, is to make short teen novels. The theory is that a teen who doesn’t like to read will be turned off by a brick-sized novel like Game of Thrones but might try Rumblefish.Again, there are plenty
of exceptions.3. A different approach to sexuality.Many school boards and libraries, particularly in the southern US, are reluctant to buy young adult books that feature any sexuality. They face a kind of moral censorship on the part of parents.Moreover, while most teenagers, depending on their age, are curious about sex and romance and may be exploring or experiencing these facets of life, they prefer to read about characters who are approaching these issues in a way they can relate to and who they share similar feelings with. In other words, while certain adult readerships might enjoy steamy and graphic sex scenes, young teens might find them gross and difficult to relate to.4. Other moral issues.Moral censorship in certain parts of the world extends to the subject of foul language and sometimes stories that concern fantasy, the paranormal, or moral ambiguity. The stupidity of such policies cannot be overstated.5. Particular teen issues.It is also true that there are some issues that are definitely of more concern to teens than adults and vice versa. For instance, teens often relate well to characters who are trying to find their place in the world, prove themselves, or figure out who they are and what their values are.On the other hand, teens may relate less to stories about middle-life crises or the challenges of having Alzheimer’s.Again, that’s a generalization. I’ve met a lot of smart teens who read adult books and plenty of smart adults who read young adult books. But when you’re a publisher, pressured to turn out a steady stream of best sellers, you often rely on generalizations in an effort to boost sales.