Wednesday, April 8, 2015

SO ... WHAT IS YA FICTION ANYWAY?

Hi, I'm Dina Sleiman, and unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, I’m sure you’ve heard that YA fiction is all the rage. Books like The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, and Twilight have not only taken the world by storm, but have also been made into blockbuster movies. Even the Christian market has been opening to YA fiction. But what exactly does “Young Adult” fiction mean, and how does it differ from regular adult fiction? That’s precisely what I had to figure out when I started working on my new Valiant Hearts Series from Bethany House a few years ago. Here’s a little of what I learned to help introduce you to the world of YA fiction.

Know Your Age Range - The age range for these so-called “Young Adult” books is typically about 12-18, although these days many of the books are crossing over and having success with adults as well. Younger than that (aimed at 10-13) is called “Middle Grade,” and a new, slightly older category (aimed at 18-25) called “New Adult” has recently emerged. So be sure to know which group you are writing for, and keep in mind that kids love to read about characters a few years ahead of them in life. So the typical age range for main characters in YA books is around 15-19.

Don’t Talk Down – There is no need to dumb down your thought processes or language choices when writing for teens. Considering that a newspaper is written at a fifth grade level, teens should be well able to handle whatever you toss at them. The last thing they want is for you to treat them like children. In fact, because teens are used to reading challenging literature in school, they are actually much more willing to tackle tough subjects and vocabulary than their adult counterparts. While adults are often looking for fluffy entertainment, teens love to learn and grow through fictional experiences.

Through a Teen’s Eyes - The primary difference between adult and teen fiction is in the perspective.  Remember, your main characters should be teenagers, and teens don’t see things the way adults see them. They are questioning the status quo, figuring themselves out, and trying to find their place in the world. They have the intelligence of an adult, but not quite the wisdom or maturity. When writing teen fiction, you must take yourself back to those days, or attempt to view the world through the eyes of your daughter, granddaughter, niece, teenage neighbor, etc... Also, be sure to understand the teen culture of your chosen time period. If you try to tackle a contemporary young adult novel, you will face the extra challenge of grasping the lingo, the styles, and the popular trends without seeming “lame.”

Keep the Pace Fast – While books like The Hunger Games and The Fault in Our Stars clearly demonstrate that teens are willing to read about tough issues, politics, and even philosophy, the pace should be fast and punchy. The descriptions are quick and tightly woven into the other elements of the scene. The conversations are fast paced and often witty. The books are full of action and excitement, twists and turns. I sometimes joke that teen novels are just like adult novels—only more exciting!

Get Real and Raw – As I mentioned, teens are interested in learning about the world through fiction. But not some fake, fluffy, sugar-coated world!!! Not something oversimplified or didactic. They can get all of that in children’s literature. No, they want to understand the real world in all its raw, gritty glory. Often, they will experience issues (and learn how to think and feel about them) in fiction long before they will in real life. They want you to tell them the truth, guide them, but ultimately let them make their own judgments.

Tools to Face the World – Teens want to be ready to face the world of adults. Top teen fiction issues include identity, sexuality, drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, suicide, prejudice, depression, bullying, corrupt politics, family struggles, etc… Serious, real-world stuff! Hopefully they aren’t actually dealing with these issues, although some are, but they want to be prepared when the time comes. If you are a Christian writer, what could be better than introducing these challenging sorts of issues from a godly perspective?

Romance but More – Teens love romance. Especially teen girls. As I mentioned, the awakening of sexuality is a major theme in YA literature. This does not mean having sex, it means learning to understand their bodies and the strange new feelings and sensations they are experiencing. It means making good decisions about the sexual and romantic parts of life at a time when they are often fumbling, giddy, and full of angst over boys.  However, in keeping with the fast pace and grittiness I mentioned, most teen romances offer more than just romance. You will typically find romance mixed with adventure, sci-fi, dystopia, fantasy, suspense, or tough contemporary issues.  So offer your teen reader romance, but also give them something more.

That wraps up the major differences between teen and adult fiction. I think as secular teen fiction becomes darker and more liberal, the market for Christian teen fiction will continue to grow. Likewise as more Christian adult readers discover this entertaining genre, they will boost sales and open even more doors for YA in the future.

What are some of your favorite young adult books? Come on, ’fess up, we know you love them!

GIVEAWAY: 
SO ... leave a comment answering Dina's question above or whether or not you read YA fiction and you will be entered for a signed copy of Dina's latest book, Dauntless, and GOOD LUCK!!

ABOUT DINA SLEIMAN: 
Dina Sleiman writes stories of passion and grace. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. Look for her novels, Dance of the DandelionLove in Three-Quarter Time, and Dance from Deep Within. Currently she is working on her YA Valiant Hearts Series with Bethany House Publishers. Book 1, Dauntless, is now available, and book 2, Chivalrous, will release in September. Dina serves as an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire Publishing as well, and she loves to teach at writers conferences throughout the US. For more info visit her website.  http://dinasleiman.com/





111 comments :

  1. My daughter introduced me to the HARRY POTTER books. They are a lot of fun.

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  2. Melanie Dickerson's The Merchant's Daughter. I love the Beauty and the Beast story so this fit right in.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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  3. What a great post! You hit all the things I love about reading well-written YA fiction. I love the YA titles from Juliet Marillier and Melina Marchetta, and looking forward to reading yours and Jody Hedlund's newly released YA books!

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  4. Dina, I love your book Dauntles have the Kindle edition, so I would have the physical copy. Plus, I love Harry Potter, Melanie Dickerson's fairy tale, and Francis Hodgson Burnett's Secret Garden and The Little Princess.

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  5. The glory of YA books is that they can have a lifelong effect on people's lives because they're read at a time of development and reckoning. What an amazing and powerful tool!

    Dina, good morning and welcome! Once I retire I might try my hand at a delightful YA series, and hats off to all of you who've set the path alight with your work! Go you!

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  6. Dina,

    It's nice having you on Seekerville. Thanks for sharing. I'm sorry to say I don't read YA. I might if I had more time, and if I did, I'd start with you.

    Have a blessed day!

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  7. Dina, thanks for clarifying the term YA. I had an idea it was what you said it was, but now I know for sure! :-)

    Children's books are some of my favorite reads. i guess I should move up a few years and try YA.

    Glad to have you here this morning. :-)

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  8. I've seen numerous YA movies, but the only books I've read are The Hunger Games Series. You are dead on about the pace.

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  9. Thanks for the post, Dina.

    I'm a middle school teacher, so I actually read a lot of YA books. Some of my favorites are The Hunter Games and The Gallagher Girl Series.

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  10. Dina, Thanks so much for your post. I'm glad you're here in Seekerville. I've read The Fault in Our Stars. I have a 16 dd and struggle to find quality, clean books for her to read. Glad to be able to add your name to my author list.

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  11. Dina, I loved how you clarified what makes for good YA fiction. I haven't read a ton of it. I read the HUNGER GAMES series, and I was surprised how it drew me in. Hubby and I watched the Divergent movie, but I haven't read the trilogy yet. I want to . . . in all my spare time. :)

    I'd love to read yours. It would be fascinating to see YA written by a Christian author. Thanks for sharing this!

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  12. Mary, can you believe I never read Harry Potter!!! My mom is so anti anything with witchcraft, that my kids and I have mostly avoided them just to keep the peace. But I read a sample recently, and it was awesome, and I did add them to my ceiling high TBR list.

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  13. Cindy, I love Melanie's books. And really, it is Melanie's success that has opened up the door for other people like me and Jody Hedlund to start writing YA medieval novels.

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  14. Heidi, those are new authors to me, but they look great. I'm really looking forward to Jody's too!

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  15. Hi Kelly. I saw your review on goodreads :) Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Yes, I like to read on kindle, but a physical copy is great for the bookshelf and for lending to friends.

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  16. Ruth, amen! Those are the books you remember for a lifetime. I'm actually really encouraged by all the dystopian books out there that teach teens to spot government oppression and stand strong against it. But Christian YA authors have the special ability to add a powerful spiritual message.

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  17. Jackie, thanks, that's sweet :) It's been interesting watching the reviews come in, because not everyone even realized Daunltess was YA. For most people, it hasn't affected their enjoyment. But one grandma said the pace left her dizzy. LOL. Which was funny, because it's actually not super fast paced. I like to do a lot with dialogue and character development.

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  18. Mary Hicks, I definitely recommend you give it a try. Although it should come with a warning, because it spoils a lot of people for adult literature. LOL. I really only started reading it regularly in about 2012, but now I prefer YA.

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  19. Terri, I loved the Hunger Games. I read them all three straight through, which is really rare for me. One part I found funny was the way she slowed the pace to focus on fashions. But I'm sure teen girls loved that. And while I felt like it had a lot of positive messages woven within, the ending was a downer and very existential.

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  20. Rhonda, I actually studied to get a certificate of eligibility to teach middle school English in Virginia around the time I wrote Dauntless. I had to learn about YA literature and also about child development for that age group, so it was really helpful.

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  21. Dawn, it can be challenging, especially knowing what is and what isn't good literature for teens. Some of my favorites have been Hunger Games, The Divergent Series, The Matched Series, and The Selection Series. Those were all pretty clean. In Christian, of course many people have mentioned Melanie Dickerson, but there's also Stephanie Morrill, R.J. Larsen, Bonnie Calhoun, Jill Williamson, Anne Stengl, Melody Carlson, and now Jody Hedlund and I have new YA series. And Zondervan has a lot of teen titles. An older series my daughter loved was the True Colors Series by Melody Carlson. Some libraries carry that one. It deals with tough teen issues from a Christian perspective.

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  22. Jeanne, it's interesting that both Melanie Dickerson and I kind of found YA because it is hard (okay, basically impossible) to sell adult books set in the Middle Ages. But the majority of adults who have read Dauntless have really enjoyed it. As for the Divergent series, I definitely recommend reading it. The author has an amazing imagination. Be warned that the ending is sad, but beautiful and redemptive, and I think you will enjoy it. Veronica Roth is actually a confessing Christian.

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  23. I haven't really read a lot of YA fiction. But I am in the process of reading Dauntless and it is very good. My 9yr old wants to read it!

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  24. Great to see you on Seekerville, Dina. I recently received Dauntless and am just starting to read it. Exciting!

    I was also introduced to YA through Melanie's books and although I haven't read The Hunger Games the books have been passed around to all members in our house. I've enjoyed all the movies from this series, as well as watching Divergent and am eagerly anticipating more.

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  25. Rachel, nine might be a little young, so it is good that you're pre-screening. We just let my 11 1/2 year old niece read it, but it actually says 14-17 in most of the descriptions just because there is some violence and some tougher emotional issues. Of course, even those middle grade readers deal with some tough issues these days. I was surprised when I read books with my son when he was around 9 and 10.

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  26. Waving at Anita, my fellow Inky from Inkwell Inspirations. I hope you enjoy Dauntless! I love all those books and movies you mentioned too. just watched Mocking Jay and looking forward to Insurgent coming out on DVD.

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  27. SO ... what is YA fiction anyway??

    Well, one thing for sure, when it comes to old gals like me, YA means:

    YOU AREN'T!!

    And ... YAWNING ALOUD ... since I was up very late last night, which is why I am late to the party.

    Okay, enough of my "lame" jokes which prove conclusively that I could NOT write YA!! You definitely have to be sophisticated and with -it enough to write for the Young Adult market, which I'm not.

    Which is why I admire authors like you so much, Dina, who tackle this genre with the same grit and gutsy reality that teens face in today's world, without all the sugarcoat.

    Like you, I have never read Harry Potter, but then I'm like your mom in that I avoided all things witchcraft over the years, primarily because I was involved in witchcraft before I became a Christian, so I know the danger involved for young minds and for old minds who were once involved. :|

    I must admit I don't normally read YA, although I love Melanie Dickerson's books, so maybe I should venture out more often, especially since I love your work too!

    Anyway, welcome back to Seekerville, Dina, and you definitely nailed it with this excellent post on Ya, educating me and many others about this hot "genre" (not sure if it's actually a genre or not, but to me it is).

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  28. DINA SAID: "I actually studied to get a certificate of eligibility to teach middle school English in Virginia around the time I wrote Dauntless. I had to learn about YA literature and also about child development for that age group, so it was really helpful."

    WOW ... talk about great timing and meant to be, Dina ... good for you! ESPECIALLY since YA is exploding into a very popular "genre" today, so I wish you the very best, my friend!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  29. Dina...I never pick up a YA novel, but reading your post, and the comments I think I might try one, especially if I find one I don't have to buy(LOL). No really, I think at 57 I might fell like the grandma did about it being too fast. I'd like to try one...
    Great post to draw me in. Thanks!

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  30. Dina - I started reading The Hunger Games because a friend wanted me to. I'm like you, read them fast. The Ending was a bummer. I'm delighted to see you writing Christian YA. I'm the librarian at my church and it is hard to find YA to interest the teens.

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  31. I have read a few, but not enough to have a favorite. I have started writing 2 books for Middle grade children. Your post will be very helpful.

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  32. It's great to have you with us today, Dina, and thanks for sharing your perspective on writing YA!

    Thirty-something years ago, when I first got serious about writing, I was really into YA fiction. Lois Lowry, Joan Lowery Nixon, Madeleine L'Engle, Cynthia Voigt . . .

    Then my daughters grew up and I moved on to women's fiction and romance. But there's still something special about a well-written YA that gets to the crux of life and tugs on the emotions.

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  33. This is just what I needed for my girls.I love finding YA authors I can recommend to them. They are in their early teens and love to read. They check out ten books every two weeks at our small town library and are running out of new choices. Just recently they discovered romances and are hooked.

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  34. One of my favorite series has been the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I also try to support all of my favorite Christian YA authors as well.

    dianemestrella at gmail dot com

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  35. Hi Julie, you're pretty hip whatever your age, although I still say the fact you thought I was a teenager when we met means you need better glasses. LOL. Trust me, I have teenagers, and I don't look like one!

    Yes, the middle school teaching certification was definitely a God thing. I still haven't ended up using it, but I learned tons of valuable stuff. Although I think teaching full time and writing full time would be too much for me, I am still hoping to use it to speak in middle schools and high schools about writing and literature.

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  36. Marianne, you might be surprised. Lots of people really end up loving YA books. Mine would be a good place to start because I tried to keep in mind Bethany House's normal adult historical romance readers as well as teens while writing it. They wanted it to be a cross over type novel from the beginning.

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  37. Terri, that's awesome to hear. I did a book banter for Bethany House recently, and I was shocked how many people were so thankful that I'm writing Christian YA. There are lots of authors who would love to write Christian YA, there just hasn't been enough of a market for it. So now I'm on a mission to tell people that if you want more Christian YA, you need to spend your book buying dollars on it. That is the best way to send the message to publishers. Zondervan especially is offering a lot of Christian YA right now.

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  38. Wilani, yes, it is especially important to know your age group, the stage of psychological development that they are at, and the conventions of the genre for that age. Glad to be of help.

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  39. Myra, I agree about YA getting to the crux of life. You know, you're comment reminded me that the first novel I ever tried my hand at back during a grad school class was YA. My other published novels are all adult books, but I guess I've come back to my roots :)

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  40. Oh wow, Jamie. Your daughters sound like the perfect audience for Dauntless :) And you know, you can recommend that your library buy books that you want. Quite a few libraries are already carrying Dauntless, which tickles me.

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  41. Thanks for supporting YA, Dianne!!! I appreciate that. The Lunar Chronicles are some of the many books on my way too long TBR list.

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  42. Storm Siren by Mary Weber is my favorite YA book I've read, so far. :) Your book sounds very interesting and I can't wait to read it!

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  43. Thanks, Lena. Storm Siren sounds good too. I'll have to check it out.

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  44. Thank goodness for writers with your convictions and understanding of the YA genre. I remember when my children were in that age range...finding suitable books was a huge undertaking!

    One daughter was crazy about horses, so she read all of Lauraine Snelling's books. Our son loved westerns and read most of Louie L'Amour and our other daughter liked true-life non fiction.

    Now, one of my darling grown daughters has introduced me to several contemporary YA books...of course, the Hunger Games. But one of my favorites is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (recently made into a movie).

    Thanks so much for sharing your insights and would love to win your book Dina!

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  45. Awesome post, Dina! You hit the nail on the head, and THANK YOU for saying we shouldn't dumb down our writing for teens. Wow, I got quite upset when a well-known author said she purposely didn't use "big" words in her YAs and that was why she was enjoying writing adult books. WHAAAT??? It's the intellectual kids, the kids that are into words and story and stretching their minds, who read the most. Teens who read tend to be smarter than adults who read! Just sayin'. :-)

    Great post!

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  46. I really read this with interest. I don't understand exactly what YA is so this was great.

    I loved a series called....I'm groping for it and Amazon won't open. I think it was Cedar River Daydreams by Judy Baer. The Zon opened.

    Christian teenagers dealing with lots of trouble. It was a great series.

    I've had an idea for a YA book for a while but I just don't know if I'll ever get it written. Still, it's fun to play with ideas.

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  47. Now I feel like I have a good, understandable definition and some guidelines. Thank you.

    I know Melanie's are considered YA but I love them. They are totally adult romances, too.

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  48. I'm afraid I am in the same boat as Julie. I'm not 'with it' enough to write YA.

    But then is anyone shocked to hear that?????

    :)

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  49. I read all the Harry Potter books but that's about it for me and YA.

    I picked up a Twilight book once, in someone else's house and after reading a few pages was interrupted. But I thought while reading, "I could keep at this. I could read on."

    So many I will sometime. Just to learn what all the fuss is about. :)

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  50. I will talk to the librarian, Dina. She has ordered books for them before. Thanks for the reminder :)

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  51. Kathryn, I've heard great things about the Book Thief. My daughter and niece were both the types that it was hard to keep them in books. Now with my boys, it's the opposite issue. They both have an eye focusing learning disorder, and even though they went through therapy and do well in school, they're not really pleasure readers.

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  52. Melanie, yeah, sounds like that author didn't do her research. Even middle grade books use some challenging words, so unless she was writing elementary chapter books.... I noticed that Zondervan actually took some big words out of my adult historical romance. LOL. But Bethany has never removed a single big word from these YA books.

    The one challenge I'm facing right now, and maybe you have too, is that a few adults seem to want YA books to be superdeeduper clean (yes, intentionally quoting Barney there for effect) and not deal with any real life issues or include even a few sweet kisses. But if I wrote that way, my teen audience wouldn't like it. I think they are probably mistaking YA for middle grade.

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  53. As a grandmother of 2, I still read YA books, from time to time. Esp. fantasy books.

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  54. Hi Mary, I think if you like Melanie's books you would like mine too. Both of us write "teen" YA, which crosses over well to most adults. Especially in historical novels, heroines tend to be young, often teenagers, anyway. I know you have a good sense of humor. If you ever do try YA, you should capitalize on that.

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  55. Renee, good for you :) Gotta stay young at heart. Yes, there are tons of great YA fantasy novels. Most Christian fantasy and dystopian these days are YA novels. In fact, the same is true for medieval novels, which is a big part of why I tried my hand at YA.

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  56. I wanted to leave a general comment for everyone to say that my goal for this series is to give Christian girls strong role models and empower them to think outside of the box and reach their full destinies in Christ. Even if you aren't into YA, they would make great gifts for daughters, granddaughters, nieces, etc... wink, wink.

    Here is my dedication to my readers from the front of Dauntless:

    My prayer for my readers is that you will be strong and courageous. Follow the path God has laid before you, wherever that might lead. Be a doctor, a lawyer, a professional athlete, a wife, a mother, or even a president. Chase after your dreams, and if a handsome knight in shining armor should happen to come alongside you, headed in the same direction, and you should happen to fall in love…then join together and become partners in your quest. But please remember this—you are complete, you are beautiful, and you are dearly loved by God just the way you are.

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  57. My daughter ntroduced me to some of her teen fantasy books. I also have read an excellent civil war teen series. Hey, I'm not afraid to admit teen reads are excellent reads ! I would love to read your ya book and share it with my teens. We need more clean teen Christian books published !

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  58. Deanne, they really are great books for anyone :) As I mentioned to someone else, there are plenty of Christian authors who want to write YA, and publishers who are willing to publish Christian YA. There just hasn't been enough of a market for it. I know when you have kids it's a tough time to be spending money (says the woman who is about to have two kids in college) but seriously, the only way to tell the publishers that you want more Christian YA is by spending your book buying dollars on Christian YA. So I keep encouraging people to remember that.

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  59. Hi Dina:

    What an interesting post you've given us today! I'm a big fan of YA and middle grade -- especially Newberry Award winning stories. These are as good as anything being written today. Thanks!

    I enjoy reading a good YA novel more than an equally good adult novel. I also agree with C. S. Lewis, who wrote, “A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.” Mark Twain did not write "Tom Sawyer" as a children's book and he disagreed with his publisher about marketing it as a children's book.

    If you Google, you will find study after study that shows that more adults read YA fiction than do persons under the age of 18.

    Authors ask yourself this: are you really writing for this age group or are you actually writing from the POV of this age group portraying the typical challenges they face?

    Philosophically, I don't believe that YA is a separate kind of fiction any more than 1st person POV is a different kind of fiction than 3rd person POV.

    YA is fiction from the world POV of young adults facing young adult situations and challenges.

    YA seems more situational determined than age determined. A young 18 year old wife with two children living in suburbia will seem more like adult fiction. She is living the adult life. However, a 25 year old woman, who has not yet settled into a career, who has not used her seemingly useless college French degree, and who still dates hoping to marry and one day have a family, is still very much a YA or NA story. (This is the theme of my favorite new adult series, Sandra Byrd's, "French Twist" -- a trilogy.)

    Consequently, I see writing a YA story as writing a story from the POV of this age group when the principal characters are facing typical YA problems.

    Since adults were once part of the YA demographic, they may well find YA novels more interesting than the 'adult' books which have them as the intended audience. Adults living in adult life situations have once been in the YA position themselves. They have seen how things have turned out. Adults know what they once believed and what they believe today. They can compare how those views differ and how that difference may portend for future developments.

    "If I changed this much between 17 and 21, what could that mean for the changes that I might go thru between 27 to 31 or 37 to 41?" What can writers teach these readers about the experience of change itself?

    I might add that there is also a nostalgia factor of enjoying a vicarious second chance to do things over -- only better.

    That's why I like YA so much. I would really encourage more of our best authors to take a try in writing excellent YA.

    Please put me in the drawing. From what I hear from teacher friends, every young girl wants a bow and arrow set! You have the perfect cover art from a marketing POV!

    Brava!

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  60. I love YA fiction and I'm thrilled you are writing it! I have not read your book but I'm definitely looking forward to the series and I'm gathering a wonderful library for my little ones. I agree with your comment that secular YA is far too liberal. I'm excited to see Christian publishers provide exciting, faith based alternatives.

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  61. Vince, thanks for all the support!!! You said everything perfectly, and I don't really have anything to add to it. But I do want to share one of my experiences with YA.

    When I read Hunger Games, I was so impressed by Katniss's courage and strength and willingness to stand up to oppression. At the time, my family was under threats because my husband does some in Islamic ministry. Katniss's bravery really inspired me to stand strong and not back down. I figured if she could stand tough on her own for her beliefs, how much more I should be willing to stand up for my beliefs with God on my side!

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  62. Jenelle, yes, it's surprising to see what is in secular YA sometimes. There definitely can be some sex included, although it tends toward the sweet side and to be mostly off screen. There can be a good bit of swearing. The Delirium series was really over the top for me with the swearing, although I liked other aspects of the books. And they don't hold back at all on violence for the teen YA books.

    But more so the problem for me is the depressing world view. That is my only real gripe with the Hunger Games. I so badly wanted a triumphant ending, but instead I got a very realistic and kind of depressing ending. I hope they bring out the positive more in the last movie than in the book.

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  63. Dina, I'm currently earning my B.A. in Professional Writing! What does the masters program look like?

    I love Theresa Kelly's Aloha Cove series, the Nancy Drew Files (really anything Nancy Drew!) by Carolyn Keene, among others. They're still readily available on my bookshelves! I'm also eager to read Melanie Dickerson's fairy tales.

    Please add my name to the drawing!

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  64. Sarah, I did Communications for my undergrad, so I can't really offer a compare contrast. Of course, grad school is always more intense and in depth. There is a lot of self-study in grad school, and that helps you to go out and learn anything you need for life in general. Other than allowing me to teach college adjunct classes and just sounding good, LOL, I'm not sure that the Master's Degree was incredibly helpful for my novel writing career. I only took one novel writing class, and by the time I started working on my first novel over a decade later, trends had already changed. But I was in a good position to go out and learn what I needed to quickly.

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  65. Hi Dina!
    Great to see an Inky here at Seekerville. The Inkwell and here are my two daily go-to blogs. The best of both today - yay.

    I cut my teeth on C.S. Lewis' Narnia books. Moved on to others later. Recent history: both Harry Potter and the Hunger Games series. I liked Hunger Games more because of Katniss. I had queasiness about the witchcraft of the Potter series even though the books are extremely well written. I love Melanie's books (and did NOT realize they're considered YA, wha'sup wit dat?) I also like John Flanagan's the Ranger's Apprentice series. More boy oriented, but still uber cool. I have most of these books in paperback and hope to pass the love of reading onto my five year old. Have to wait a bit to intro the YA, but they're there for him to see and wonder about (not the Harry Potter ones though... borrowed those).

    Anyway, it's so awesome to see your books getting highlighted here. They are on my Wish List and I would love to win Dauntless. Can I bribe you with a coffee house swap (cuppa joe for the book) since I live in your town? *heh*

    So excited for you and this series.

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  66. Dina, great info. I host a writing class at my church. Some of the folks are interested in YA! I'll pass on the information you provided and let them know about your books. Thanks for sharing!

    Congrats on the MA. Did you do the Seton Hill program that's often advertise in various writing journals, by chance? It always catches my eye, but a huge commitment when time is tight. Good for you!

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  67. Deb, good to see you here too. Melanie's books, like mine, are perfect examples of teen YA that crosses over to adults well. I think coffee for a book sounds fair!!! We're long overdue to meet in person :)

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  68. Thanks, Debby. I got my MA from Regent University way back in '94 :) Hope the info is helpful to your students. There is also a younger group I didn't mention, which is short chapter books for early readers ages 7 through maybe 9ish.

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  70. Hi Dina! Your post was great, especially for people who aren't familiar with YA. I will admit, I was a Twi-hard. I also loved Harry Potter, Divergent and I also liked the Mortal Instrument series (and I would love to rewrite it from a Christian perspective). I read the Hunger Games but didn't get into that as much for some reason. The first story I ever wrote had main characters that were 17 and 18, but I never considered it YA. Someday I may go back to it and see if it fits your definition. I suspect it needs a lot of changes! Dauntless sounds amazing. Can't wait to check it out.

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  71. LeAnne, there are a few instances in which young characters don't necessarily mean YA. One would be a more literary coming of age novel, but those usually cover a longer span of years and deal with adult type issues. Another would be a historical novel in which the characters are taking on adult roles at young age. In historical fiction it can be hard to tell the difference sometimes. Part of what makes mine YA is just that the medieval time period sells well in Christian YA, and it doesn't sell well in Christian adult. I could have easily shifted a few subtle issues, mostly character motivations and perceptions, and made Dauntless an adult book.

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  72. Dina, what a great guest you are! Holy schmoly girl, you're on your game here and I'm lovin' the extent of information you're giving us. Thank you so much!

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  73. Thanks, Ruth. I always enjoy my visits to Seekerville :)

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  74. Very interesting post, Dina. I think the YA market has definitely really grown. When I was teaching English 30 years ago, adult classics were pretty much what was taught in the schools. Now they are reading books like The Hunger Games in schools. Students really relate to these books. I have not had much interest in The Hunger Games because the subject matter just doesn't appeal to me, but I will probably read it sometime. Last year I read The Fault in Our Stars because every class I went to when I was subbing seemed to have somebody--students and teachers--reading that book. I enjoy talking with my nieces about the books they are reading.

    I also have never read Harry Potter, although I have the first two books in my house so will probably read them sometime.

    In the past I have been interested in writing young adult fiction. But even though I am around middle school and high school students a lot, I don't feel like I have what it takes to write it.

    Please enter me in the drawing for Dauntless.

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  75. Not gonna lie. I absolutely loooove teen fiction. Authors I enjoy include Melanie Dickerson, Marissa Meyer, Jenni James, Heather Frost, Heather Dixon, Ally Condie, Ally Carter, Kiera Cass, Suzanne Collins, Cameron Dokey, Markus Zusak, Dina Sleiman... I could go on and on.. Haha. Happy reading!

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  76. I read somewhere that the average age of a YA reader is actually middle age.

    I love YA!!

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  77. Sandy, the educational side of this whole discussion is really interesting. Reading the classics can be tough. I've even heard fiction writers argue that by today's standards many of the classics aren't even that well written. These young adult books can still be challenging and educational while offering a high level of entertainment. One of the features of my books is that they could be used to teach not only history, culture, and politics, but also specific legends from the middle ages. Book one is Robin Hood. Book two is Camelot and Lancelot, and Book three will be crusader legends. I hope to continue the series and cover other legends as well.

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  78. Sydney, thanks for the enthusiasm and support :)

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  79. Tina, glad to hear that you love YA. I wouldn't be surprised by that statistic one bit.

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  80. Hi Dina and welcome to Seekerville today. Fun post. I'm so happy YA is popular as I am delighted young people have great books to read.

    I thought I would write YA until I realized I had to be in the head of a teen and I bowed out. LOL

    Thanks again for joining us.

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  81. Waving hi to Dina! I loved Dauntless and am so glad to see such quality historical fiction on the shelves of young adults like my daughter (and non-YA readers of YA, like me!).

    Non-inspy YA faves are Harry Potter and Hunger Games.

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  82. Sandra, thanks. That's funny about bowing out when you realized you'd need to go into a teen's head. I'm pretty comfortable with teens. LOL.

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  83. Hi Susie!!! I'm so glad you enjoyed Dauntless. I really do think it's a fun read for adults too.

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  84. Great post Dina! I used to devour YA but it has actually been a while. For a while (a long while actually) it was all I read so I kind of set it down for adult fiction and then studies took hold of me. I really need to get a good balance. It happens because I love so many genres. The last YA book I read I believe was The Maze Runner, and that was an advanced reader copy. Yep, it's been a while. I need to branch back out again. Thank you for really breaking it down for us!

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  85. These are such helpful guidelines! C.S. Lewis always said the best writing would be read by youth. I think that's why we love it so much, it has that raw emotional quality you were describing. Thanks again.

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  86. I have finished writing a YA book and even had an agent give me revision feedback, which I need to do. Do you think you go between YA and Contemporary Romance? I have a passion for both. I really liked the first few books of Cassandra Clare's City of Bones its a little dark, but its was interesting.

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  87. Wow, Kelly, an advanced copy of Maze Runer, that's a pretty cool opportunity!

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  88. Lilly, that's so true. Teens love good books that really touch on the human condition.

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  89. Great question, Jeri. Agents and editors don't like you switching around genres too much, but YA is more of a "category." You'll have to start with one for a while. But if you're writing in similar genres, the transition from YA to adult or vice versa is one of the easier ones. So if you want to write contemporary romance for adults, then I would suggest contemporary YA with romance. The harder jumps are from say fantasy to romance, or dystopian to historical. Melanie Dickerson who is well known for her YA will soon release her first adult novel, also medieval romance. Jody Hedlund who writes adult historical romance just published her first YA historical romance. Melody Carlson writes both YA and adult contemporary. Those are just a few examples.

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  90. Dina, I will pick up the Divergent series. And thanks for the background info on Veronica Roth. That's pretty cool! Excuse the dated lingo. The brain is tired and couldn't come up with anything more expressive. ;)

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  91. Jeanne, I'm pretty sure cool is still cool ;)

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  92. Dina, I've been looking forward to your post! But I was gone all day, so I'm late in arriving. :)

    Thanks so much for the great info. I LOVE reading YA and have written some as well. Your post will be very helpful!

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  93. Dina, this is such a wonderful and informative post for anyone interested in learning about YA. I love YA. I have enjoyed all of Melanie's books. I listened to Hunger Games on audio. And I really loved your Dauntless. There are several young ladies I know who will be blessed by your series. I hope you continue to write many more YA novels and I'm praying you reach a lot of young girls!

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  94. Dina!

    I'm late (blame it on #Speedbo) but WELCOME to Seekervlle!

    Your books look fascinating and I love your perspective. I'm called to write MG and we deal with these issues as well, but romance? I just say that May is spayed and leave it at that. ;)

    Seriously, because of Seekerville, I do make an effort to infuse what Godly relationships SHOULD look like. We all know so many families these days are struggling. It's kind of nice to see what things might look like through the challenges.

    (And Julie, you'd be wrong in thinking "they aren't.") Believe me in most all YA and even MG they ARE unless they are written from a Christian perspective. It's one of the main issues that shoved me into Indie. I was literally nauseous at what was being slobbered over by NY agents/editors at an SCBWI conference in Nashville several years ago. So knowing that authors like Melanie and Dina and Sandra Byrd, etc. are writing from a Christian perspective is encouraging... and that they are being traditionally published.)

    Dina, as you mentioned, not all kids are dealing with all these issues, but you can bet they know other kids who are. It can be a great resource too.

    We're all about those serious issues, wrapped up in lots of adventure, with a Christian worldview.

    I also endeavor to write with boys in mind. There seems to be a dearth of wholesome? virtuous? honorable? literature for young men so we have an audience there as well.

    And it's just FUN.

    Thank you for this post. Would love to be in the drawing! Write on!!

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  95. Thanks, Missy. Interesting that you write YA also :)

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  96. Suzie, thanks for your encouragement and prayers, as well as all of your help on this series!

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  97. K.C., I agree no need for romance in middle grade. I have had a few reviewers complain that mine contained romance, but I think they must have mistaken it for middle grade for some reason.

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  98. Hi Dina,

    I'm not sure if you're still checking in. I'm so sorry I missed this discussion yesterday.

    I've been SO looking forward to this book ever since you first mentioned the sale.

    You said - "If you are a Christian writer, what could be better than introducing these challenging sorts of issues from a godly perspective?"

    and

    "I think as secular teen fiction becomes darker and more liberal, the market for Christian teen fiction will continue to grow."

    Both of those statements give me hope. As a 4th grade teacher, I see kids reading books that really trouble me. Not that there's anything wrong with the books, but the idea that they are tackling some serious topics at 9 years of age, and without proper guidance. I'm encouraged by the trend toward Christian YA. I really hope it continues.

    Count me in for the book, though I'll read it anyway.

    Mary

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  99. Thanks, Mary! I'm excited that this trend is growing too. As a mom of three, I'm happy to be writing books that can help to form a future generation. There is something so exciting about that.

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  100. I love the All American Girl series by Meg Cabot and anything by Tamora Pierce.

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  101. Carolyn, I volunteered in my kids middle school library one year, and I remember Meg Cabot being super popular.

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  102. I have read all of Melanie Dickerson's books and I think they are listed as YA. I also just read Jody Hedlund's
    "An Uncertain Choice" which is "Teen Fiction". I enjoyed reading Staci Stallings books which are YA/NA as well. I would love to win Dauntless

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  103. Becky, glad to find another YA fan. Those are some great books :)

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  104. I don't read many YA books since I am well beyond that age. However, I love Melanie Dickerson's fairy tales. I give them to my 20+ daughter but I read them too. I'm not sure why they are considered YA but that doesn't really matter to me. They are just great books. I think Dauntless is another book I'd enjoy. Jody Hedlund's newest book, that is YA, also sounds really good.

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  105. Pam, I think you'd be surprised by all the great YA books out there.

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  106. As a middle school teacher and a YA author myself, I read a lot of YA . . . All the Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, Divergent, you name it. But I have to give a shout out to a couple of my ACFW peeps who do great YA: the afore-mentioned Melanie Dickerson and Jessica Keller, who now writes her YA under the name Jess Evander. Really looking forward to the second book in her Timeshifters series coming out soon. And I'll have to check into Dauntless now!

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  107. I like Shannon Dittemore and I LOVE Bonnie Calhoun.
    There are many others. I'm reading Storm Siren now. Twilight, own the series. They put the films to shame. Harry Potter, I've read that. C.S.Lewis -Narnia series I love. Not sure that's now YA, but it still rocks! The Hunger Games, watched all the films so far but I haven't read them. Thank you for the chance at Dauntless.

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  108. Amy, I just looked at that Timeshifter series. Looks really interesting.

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  109. Carol, Harper Collins is doing some really cool YA right now. I've been impressed.

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  110. What a well-organized and thorough explanation of YA in a single post! I never got over my love of MG and YA fiction, and I still read more teen novels than I do adult ones. Through prayer I was guided (perhaps driven) to write for teens later in life. A helpful book I purchased was Wild Ink. As far as favorite YA fiction I've read goes, one recent favorite is the debut novel of A.J. Cattapan, Angelhood.

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