19 September 2014

Book Realizations, Part Two

So with all of the negative feedback I got from my PitchWars entry, I came to a few realizations about my book. The first was something I pretty much knew the whole time, and the second is something I've thought and thought about but didn't realize I had made the wrong decision until I got this feedback.

First of all, my query sucked. This is mostly because of procrastination. I waited way too long to even look into what PitchWars was, and so was scrambling to write a query just a few days before the deadline. I struggled to cram everything I thought I needed to say about my book into a short, concise query. My novel is a bit complicated and I found it hard trying to figure out what I needed to say about it.

But I also think that maybe the way I was trying to sell my book isn't the way I should be selling it. Maybe what I thought was at the heart of this story isn't the most important thing to tell. I may need to totally reassess how I want to pitch this book, and what I think is going to make people want to read it. Judging by the feedback from one mentor, I really don't think I got the right point across in my query, although that could also be subjective. It could also be that the concept just didn't appeal to her.

Here is the second thing--my big, giant realization: my book is not Young Adult.

It still feels weird saying it. Yes, my main character and narrator is fifteen. And no, it is not told from an adult perspective, like if he was thirty and looking back on these events. It reads like a fifteen-year-old is telling the story. And yet, it can't possibly be a YA book.

I've struggled over this decision for a long time. Obviously, I made the wrong choice when I submitted to PitchWars. Genres are always changing, and just because a book has sex or swearing in it doesn't automatically mean it can't be YA. But I also think it depends on the story itself. There is a bit of a coming of age element, but I also have a narrator who doesn't really give a crap about that sort of thing. He doesn't necessarily find himself throughout the course of the novel--maybe he learns a few things, but there's nothing earth shattering. He doesn't really learn a lesson, which is usually important in Young Adult fiction.

I've always had a hard time calling my book YA even though my main character IS a young adult. But it's about more than just the age of the character. It's about the story more than anything else. So by calling my book YA, I made a bad decision, but I guess one that ultimately led me in the right direction. I made the wrong choice, so now I know what the right one is.

I'm not sure which is harder, trying to sell a YA book with adult themes, or an adult book with a teenage narrator. I've been trying to research some examples and I'll I've got so far is The Catcher in the Rye, which I love, of course, but I think it might be really pretentious to use that as a comp title in my query. Then again, there's a huge part of me that wants to call my book "Catcher in the Rye meets Lolita" so freaking bad! But I really don't think that will impress anyone.

So what do you think? Have you read any adult novels with younger POVs? Because I would love to read them!


  1. Try Melvin Burgess "Bloodtide". Or just read the low start reviews! Young adults loved it, adults thought it was disgraceful and not for young adults at all. But Melvin was well known for writing YA with adult themes like his other story Junk. One had prostitution in it. Bloodtide has underage sex (14 and 30) and incest between twins. The story is gruesome and in my teens it was the best thing I ever read!

  2. I typically read adult series-fantasy, so the age of the narrator is negligible. Like Codex Alera--the main character is 15 in the first book. I also know Vin is pretty young in the Mistborn series.

    I don't read enough realistic fiction to comment on the reception of a young narrator in other circumstances, though. Sorry.

  3. There's a book called ROOM by Emma Donoghue that's told from the POV of a five-year old boy, but it's an adult novel.

    I have a WIP that I've described to people as "As I Lay Dying" meets "Steel Magnolias" but set in Maine.

    And Catcher in the Rye meets Lolita sounds pretty intriguing to me.