The Limits of Genre

“A YA novel is gritty and gruesome in a way that a middle grade novel never would be.”

While researching my latest novel, I came across this sentence. The “gritty and gruesome” part stuck with me; I really enjoy writing to the teen/young adult age group and part of the reason why is because of those two words.

I grew up reading Judy Blume. A lot of her more famous books covered life as a child, but there were also some books in there that talked about getting older and larger issues. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, Deenie, and forever… are a few of those. She also wrote some novels for adults. In all of her books she treated her audience fairly and wrote the story as it needed to be told. I really respect her as a writer because of this, especially after listening to several children’s authors who believe everything must fit into their lowest category of sold books.

What I’ve learned from listening to writers and readers is that everyone has a limit of what they’ll read and enjoy. I understand this – it’s part of the human condition. I don’t feel like it should limit me on what I want to write and share because I also happen to publish young adult novels. One day I might write a picture book, but I don’t think that should limit me from putting a fist fight in another novel somewhere or mentioning that two (adult) characters had sex. It’s part of the story: leaving out those parts make a lot of stories weaker and less believable.

I love the genres I write. I would be ecstatic to become one of those names people think of when they talk about authors. More than anything I want to share the stories in my head, but I don’t want to limit them or pull my punches because I also write to a young audience.

I also don’t want to write a weaker story and say I had to because I also write for children. I’d rather take credit for my failings and say it was because I wasn’t comfortable writing the scene or that it went against my core values to take it farther than I did. If I market a book to an age group, I’ll fit that age group. If the book is to adults, then expect some adult content. I expect that of the books I read and I won’t give less to what I write.