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YA, short for ‘young adult’, is a category of fiction aimed at teenagers, typically aged between 13 and 18. It’s far less restricted than middle grade in terms of acceptable content and stories often tackle bigger themes and emotional conflict.
- Average word count:YA novels are typically much longer than middle grade because teenagers are likely to be more confident, practised readers than younger children. Word counts can range from around 50,000 to 90,000, with fantasy and sci-fi sometimes going a little longer to account for the necessary worldbuilding and exposition.
- Protagonist’s age: The main character will usually be at least 14, bearing in mind that children and teenagers want to read about characters older than them.
- Mature content:Generally, anything goes in YA. Romance is a common thread and it’s fine to feature sex, drugs and other edgy topics, and it’s up to you how you tackle those.
- Themes: Young Adult stories tend to feature more intense relationships and emotions as protagonists question their own identities and make life-changing decisions. Romance is a common theme as readers are experiencing love and sexual relationships for the first time.
More information about this term:
- How to Write YA | Publishers Weekly
- What Do Young Adults Want to Read? Let My Students Tell You | Jane Friedman
- What are YA books? And who is reading them? | The Guardian
- Writing for young adults | Writers and Artists
- How to Write YA Fiction: 4 Tips for Writing Young Adult Novels | Masterclass
- How to write a young adult novel | Writer’s Digest
Siobhan O'Brien Holmes
Siobhan O'Brien Holmes is a developmental editor working with middle grade and YA authors. She specialises in speculative and genre fiction, particularly horror, fantasy, mystery, sci-fi and anything with a dash of magic or macabre. She is a member of the SfEP, EFA, ACES, British Fantasy Society, Horror Writers Association and SCBWI. She has an MA in Novel Writing and an MA in Children's Literature.All stories by: Siobhan O'Brien Holmes