Author Guest Post
On The Verge: When YA Lit Crosses Over Into Adult Fiction
By: Eva Marquez
According to Susan Carpenter from the L.A. Times, adults are increasingly reading YA books with no ulterior motives. Adults are attracted by well-written, fast-paced and engaging stories that span the gamut of genres and subjects, such readers have mainstreamed a niche long derided as just for kids.
But is all YA lit truly YA or does much of it, or any of it, cross over into adult fiction and if so, when does that happen?
According to writer Susan Dennard, there are four key aspects that differentiate YA lit from adult fiction:
1. The voice of the main character
2. The length of the book
3. How the main character views him/herself in the world and reacts to his/her surroundings
4. The depth of the point of view
Keeping those main points in mind, I will argue that my debut novel, Sweetest Taboo is not a YA lit cum adult fiction piece of literature, but rather a YA novel for older YA readers. My logic for this argument is based on the 4 key 'tenets' of YA lit that were set forth above.
First, the voice of Isabel, the main character, is the voice of a, although a-typical and mature, high school student. The story takes off when she's only 15, but follows her through until the age of 19. Now, having a teen MC is not, in itself, sufficient to qualify a book into the YA genre, BUT, the voice of the MC and its sincerity and authenticity is. Isabel is telling her story as she perceives it, from the eyes, perspective and voice of a teenage girl. Sweetest Taboo is narrated by Isabel and not a 3rd person 'all knowing' narrator, thereby giving this story and novel the authentic 'young' feel.
Second, Sweetest Taboo falls neatly into the length and complexity category for YA lit. According to Dennard, the standard rule for word count/length for a YA debut novel is between 50-90K. The complexity of the story needs to be appropriate for the shorter length. Sweetest Taboo in first draft form exceeded this standard by approximately 10K words and included too many competing and complex plots that took away from the main story I wanted to tell, and that was the story about the romance between a student and her teacher. After many revisions and final edits, my debut novel was only 67K words in length and included one main plot, with a handful of complimentary plots closely associated to the main story.
Third, the MC in Sweetest Taboo undergoes a transformation, or a coming of age, in this epic love story. According to Dennard, "YA often moves from a point of self-doubt to surety/autonomy, a point of selfish emotional concern to more selfless," and we certainly experience that as we follow Isabel on her unique and controversial coming of age story. Dennard says that a MC should be "someone who questions if he/she made the right choice and who sometimes hesitates before decisions." In addition, Dennard emphasizes "how a single line of self-doubt, can really hype up the YA feel to your novel." There is no escaping this truth about YA lit, which undeniably focuses on the emotional aspect of being young, of experiencing emotions for the first time, of learning how to deal with new emotions and making (sometimes good, sometimes very bad) choices based on those new emotions, and the consequences thereof. If Sweetest Taboo is about anything at all, it is about this very aspect of moving from adolescence into young adulthood, about being overwhelmed with emotions, with choices, making choices from the heart and then having to suffer the consequences.
Lastly, Dennard says "the average modern YA novel will have a very close first or third person." In essence, Dennard believes that a YA novel is characterized by the reader's ability to live the story as if he/she were in the main character's head ... and that introspection is tightly woven into the action of the story. This essence of YA lit could not characterize Sweetest Taboo any more accurately! The first moment you enter into the Sweetest Taboo world, you enter it through Isabel's eyes and her point of view, and no one else's. The reader lives and experiences the story as it unfolds, but experiences it alongside with her, as if the reader were residing in her head, and in her life, taking those chaotic and dangerous steps with her, warning her with each step, foreshadowing what is to come.
What's missing? Dennard does not address 'content' in detail in her classification of YA lit vs. adult fiction, but she does say that "lots of graphic sex might fly in an adult book, but will usually be considered too much for YA. However, you can include a lot of mature situations in YA as long as you handle it well." How does Sweetest Taboo fare on the 'content' test? It depends on who you ask! Some YA enthusiasts prefer very clean and graphic-free stories that are geared toward younger YA audiences. Others enjoy mature, but tastefully written mature content in their YA reads. This is where the readers make their own judgment and decides for him/herself as to the classification of Sweetest Taboo. Yes, Isabel does have a sexual relationship with Mr. Stevens and although it is described tastefully, it still may be too graphic for some younger YA readers. Yes, the content is of a mature nature, since Isabel tests the waters and finds herself in a much-too-serious physical and romantic relationship with a man that should be completely off-limits to her. However, these are not issues, nor situations the do not creep up in our society, in our lives, in our communities and in our worlds. Isabel's story could be anyone's story, and that's what I, as the author, believe is the most important take-away message from this debut novel.
Decide for yourself ... is Sweetest Taboo truly YA lit or does it cross-over to adult fiction? If so why?
For Dennard's excellent full blog article on YA vs. adult fiction, please follow this link:
About The Author
Her latest book is the YA/Adult Fiction, Sweetest Taboo.
Eva Marquez's Sweetest Taboo Virtual Book Tour Page On Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours
Sweetest Taboo Book Trailer
Sweetest Taboo by Eva Marquez
Publisher: Terra-Mia Press
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Format: Paperback - 296 pages / Kindle - 712 KB
Genre: YA / Adult Fiction / Contemporary Romance
BUY THE BOOK: Sweetest Taboo
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours.
This hadn’t been an ordinary love, though. Not a love between two dear friends, or even high school sweethearts. This had been the most taboo sort of love there was: a relationship between a student and her teacher. Isabel started her high school career as a normal student, but set her sights on Tom Stevens as soon as she met him, and pursued him with an intense – and sometimes reckless – fascination. When he finally approached her after swim practice and told her that he shared her feelings, it was the start of a forbidden and dangerous relationship.
Join Isabel as she makes her way through this dark love story, hiding from teachers, lying to her parents, and defying the authorities to make a life with the man she loves. Watch as she discovers the wonders of love and romance, and the terrible betrayal of jealous friends. And cry with her when she learns the hard truth about life and the people in her world.
Sweetest Taboo is inspired by the true and tragic stories of students who fall in love with their teachers, and live with the hard truths of forbidden romances. In a world full of after-school specials on sexual predators, this touching book seeks a different path, casting both student and teacher in a gentle light, and showing that true love may lie at the base of even the most illicit romance.
My Book Review:
This is a story about a school girl crush that turns into a forbidden taboo love affair between a teenage girl and her swim coach / teacher.
When fifteen year old Isabel Cruz meets thirty-something teacher/swim coach Tom Stevens, she develops a crush and pursues the married father of two daughters. What starts out as mild flirting between student and teacher quickly develops into a relationship that blurs the norm and crosses the line into a forbidden love affair that would last until she turns eighteen years old. Sweetest Taboo recounts an illicit experience told from the point of view of a teenage girl caught in the throes of a forbidden and confusing relationship.
To say that Sweetest Taboo is edgy and controversial would be an understatement, but author Eva Marquez weaves an intriguing tale that is so intense and provocative, it draws the reader into Isabel's story and invokes the full gamut of emotions. This delicate subject matter has become all too common in today's society, but what I love about this story is that the author does not exactly romanticize the taboo relationship, but she does make sure to stress that although the relationship is illicit, it was also consensual. The author thoughtfully demonstrates that love can happen regardless of age or situation. I think that the letter to the reader at the beginning of the story helps the reader make an emotional connection to the story.
Isabel and Tom are realistic and complex characters who draw the reader into their love affair. I thought that Isabel was strong and mature for her age, but there were definitely times when the teenager in her was very evident. As for Tom, I have mixed feeling about him. While I don't doubt his feelings for Isabel were real and sincere, I would have preferred to think that as an adult, he would have utilized restraint and not acted upon his feelings or desire, and would have more respect and consideration for his wife and children. As their relationship progressed, Isabel matured and begun to question the relationship which brought her to make tough decisions in the end. This is what I liked most about the story, because Isabel learned lessons from the mistakes she made when engaging in this type of relationship, and she was able to visualize a future with bigger dreams and goals for herself.
Sweetest Taboo is not your typical romance story, but it is a powerful, compelling, and thoughtful story that is intriguing, requires an open mind, and will definitely invoke a wide range emotions. Not every book will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, but this story will provide you with food for thought in regard to this sensitive subject matter. What you will come away with from this story is for you to decide, but I for one thought that it was well written with sensitivity and understanding. I admire the author's courage to write about this realistic and controversial subject matter.
RATING: 4 STARS ****