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Adult narrators in YA


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#1 Brighton

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Posted 03 August 2013 - 11:52 AM

Can anyone recommend any YA books where the narrator (or one of if it's a multi POV) is an adult. I can find ones where it's an adult reminiscing a story from their teen years, but I can't seem to find any where one of the adults who is an adult during the story not just one looking back, is the narrator. 

 

My latest WIP I wrote the first draft thinking I was writing an adult contemporary, but now having let it sit and looking at it with an eye towards my first revisions I am realizing I've likely written a YA story  (and totally eating my words where I said I never would) and am worried about my choice in POV and narrators. It alternates between 1st person from the POV of a 14/15-year-old girl, and a 40-year-old woman. And at this stage I wouldn't mind completely changing the POV, but I certainly want to decide before I start revising so I'm trying to look and find how others have handled an adult narrator before I decide if I want to axe her narration and either tell just her half the of story from 3rd person, or change the entire thing to 3rd. (The way the story unfolds it would be impossible to tell the entire thing from the 1st person POV of the teen who doesn't even meet the older woman until nearly halfway through, it's sort of set up that they are on a collision course.)


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#2 sharpegirl

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Posted 03 August 2013 - 02:43 PM

Honestly, I'm not sure there are any, Brighton. YA is teen centered for a reason. Because teenagers aren't terribly interested in reading adult POV in books that they know are meant for them and publishers are not willing to buy books like this.

 

You're going to find it almost impossible to sell as YA in trade publishing if you've got a 40 year old narrator. Even if it's just half the narration. My editor was even iffy about me writing a 19 year old character POV and had me age up the 13 year old POV in my next book to 15. The age rules have gotten very strict in YA.



#3 RC Lewis

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Posted 03 August 2013 - 03:14 PM

The only example I can think of is Neal Shusterman's UNWIND series, but it's an odd case. Third person limited, present tense, with 3-4 main POV characters, but it frequently jumps to the POV of side characters for a chapter here and there, including adults. If its more 50/50, though, I'm not sure how well it'd fly, like sharpegirl said.

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#4 Brighton

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Posted 03 August 2013 - 10:16 PM

Awesome. Well that would explain why I had never read one. Maybe I won't bother revising it at all then and move on to something else, or revise it so it's solidly an adult contemporary instead. I had started this intending to write an adult contemporary, but I think the 1st person teen voice and her arc certainly caused it to come out feeling very YA. But adult books are much more wide open in terms of acceptable ages for MC's (the three main characters are 14/15, 25, and 40) so I guess it sounds like I'd be better off adjusting the tone and going that direction, as I don't particularly want to try and be the exception to a strict rule.
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#5 MichaelRC

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 09:47 PM

Yeah, no one has ever gotten anywhere by breaking rules...


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#6 sharpegirl

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 10:37 PM

Yeah, no one has ever gotten anywhere by breaking rules...

 There's breaking rules and there's red flags that indicate you aren't well read in your category. (Not that Brighton isn't. Brighton knows his stuff). But an adult POV in a YA could possibly be a red flag to an agent. And if it was queried, that would probably be the reason behind a lot of rejections.

 

YA has rules as a category, especially in terms of age in trade publishing. Trade publishing has a lot of rules in general. There's some wiggle room, but a 40 year old person's POV in a YA book is most likely not going to be welcome or work for an agent, because it would be a difficult sell to Editors. Agents want books that they love and that they think can sell. Editors want books that they love and that they can get acquisitions to agree on. Acquisitions wants books that editors love and that think they can market effectively and make money off of.

 

But if you're going to break major rules (and trust me, I've tried, I've had friends do the same. Sometimes there's success, sometimes there's failure) you must do it in a very extraordinary way in order to get over the rule breaking hump. And you've got to get a whole lot of people on board with it (your agent, your editor, etc).



#7 spineofiron

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 04:27 PM

Jumping in here to post a similar question:

 

What about adult characters that don't have their own POV? What's the consensus on them in YA fiction? I'm in the early planning stages of my next novel, but for some reason it only occurred to me today that most of the background characters I've jotted down are adults. Besides the main character, her brother, the love interest, and one or two other supporting characters, everyone is 30 or above. The main character and her brother are 17, the love interest is 18, and the "one or two" are around those same ages. Right now, I'm planning for the only point of view to be the 17-year-old main character's.

 

Without giving away too many details, the story definitely focuses on the main character/her brother/the love interest in a historical fantasy mystery (whew, genre blending!). Is it going to be a problem if they're mostly surrounded by adults as their stories unfold?


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#8 sharpegirl

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Posted 13 November 2014 - 06:13 PM

Jumping in here to post a similar question:

 

What about adult characters that don't have their own POV? What's the consensus on them in YA fiction? I'm in the early planning stages of my next novel, but for some reason it only occurred to me today that most of the background characters I've jotted down are adults. Besides the main character, her brother, the love interest, and one or two other supporting characters, everyone is 30 or above. The main character and her brother are 17, the love interest is 18, and the "one or two" are around those same ages. Right now, I'm planning for the only point of view to be the 17-year-old main character's.

 

Without giving away too many details, the story definitely focuses on the main character/her brother/the love interest in a historical fantasy mystery (whew, genre blending!). Is it going to be a problem if they're mostly surrounded by adults as their stories unfold?

 

In my own experience, yes, it is difficult to sell a book that has mainly adult characters, even if they are secondary and don't have a POV. (But keep in mind that I write Contemporary books. It varies from genre to genre). It's one of the big reasons I wasn't able to continue one of my favorite manuscripts a year ago. The Acquisitions Board was like "This is great! But it's not relatable enough because there are only three teen characters in it. We can't market it." My agent even suggested that if I wanted to continue with it, to make it an adult book. 



#9 spineofiron

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Posted 14 November 2014 - 12:54 PM

Thanks, sharpegirl! Your advice actually helped a lot -- new characters are quickly filling in my setting, much more than they were before I asked. :smile:


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#10 Ash12

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Posted 07 November 2016 - 06:51 PM

Sorry I am really late to the scene here--I think an adult can have a POV if it's multiple third person, but I definitely wouldn't recommend this in first person books. An example is in Morgan Rhodes' Falling Kingdoms books where King Gaius has his own chapters (he is not a main POV character but his chapters are important). Cassandra Clare's books also have brief POVs from some of the adults in the series, particularly the last couple of The Mortal Instruments books.






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