As a self-proclaimed YA writer, though I converted, I've been driving myself crazy trying to find out what the hell YA is, what are the criteria, and do I fit them. What I've figured out so far, through reading just a few titles on both sides of the divider, is that YA is simply stuff and junk that teens would like to read.
Sounds impossible, right? How the hell do I know what the little ankle-biters want? I'm pretty sure they don't even know what they want half the time. Well, it turns out in four years of teaching, and countless years in retail bossing the little whipper-snappers around, I have a pretty good feel for what they like.
Since they seem to be incurably negative,* it's probably easier to talk about what the don't like. What they don't like is stereotypical teens. What they don't like is being portrayed as only caring about their cell phones and their iPods. What they don't like is having to stop every five seconds because they don't know a word or to re-read a passage because the sentences are a page long and wind around themselves twelve times over. In short, they don't like pretentiousness.
I know they do like funny. They like to laugh. Not pretentious, complex humor that we all know isn't really funny, but we laugh at it anyway so we don't look like the beer drinker among wine aficionados. Sure, you may say, "they just like immature potty humor and curses!" Well, potty humor and curses are fucking funny.
They also like when teens talk like teens. This goes back to pretentiousness. They don't like some teen rambling on like Edgar Allan Poe or F. Scott Fitzgerald or a seventeen year-old saying things like, "I'm not quite sure" or "You don't say." They just want to punch him in his fucking mouth. To tell you the truth, so do I.
They do like sex. They do like drugs. They do like edgy content, but to tell you the truth, so do adults. Compare plots. Which do you want to read? Drug dealing pimp falls in love with his drug addicted cutter of a prostitute or Johnny gets a new iPod for Christmas and thanks Mom and Dad with a big hug. They cry. Unless the crying has to do with the abuse Mom and Dad bestowed upon Johnny when he was younger and Mom is addicted to meth and Dad wears women's underwear to work, who gives a fuck?
I bet you like sex, don't you?
Now that you mention it, I don't think adults like pretentiousness much either. I think the average reader out there doesn't want to get on the plane with a paperback novel and Webster's latest tome. In fact, they'd probably have a kindle and dictionary.com dialed up on their laptop, but either way, it's a big inconvenience. Can't we have thought-provoking reading that doesn't involved talking in knots?
Therefore, it is my contention that YA literature is literature that human beings would like to read, rather than literature that human beings force themselves to read. Maybe all that's not YA us big boys and girls have just been forcing ourselves to swallow like all those vitamins and colon-cleansing bio-whatevers** they've been trying to sell us. Maybe we could all learn from teens.
*I know not all teens are negative. I know one in particular that is always keeping me from being negative and shedding the positive light on me and all that stuff. I'm just sayin'.
**Listen people. If a dude goes on TV and tells you to buy a pill from him, take it, and then examine your own feces so you can see all the black, disgusting sludge that now comes out because it is "cleansing" all the gunk that's built up in your shit track or whatever, and you don't realize that the pill is just causing your shit to turn into black, disgusting sludge instead of the cute little loafs you're used to pinching, you deserve to have black, disgusting sludge pouring form your asshole 24/7. K? K.