‘A coming of age novel for adults’ is how I would describe my novel-in-progress. The main character is a teenager. She therefore lives in a teenage world with teenage friends. Does that mean the novel is aimed at the young adult market? No. It’s for adults. I never saw any problem in that when I gave myself a pat on the back for finishing the first draft.
My first inkling of ‘the problem’ came when I Googled ‘coming of age for adults’ and I found that Google insisted on changing ‘adults’ into ‘young adults’, I suppose because ‘coming of age’ is usually linked with the teenage or ‘young adult’ market. Why? Well, a teenage protagonist is likely to be someone to whom teenagers can relate.
Yes, but, we wouldn’t say a novel with an African protagonist is aimed specifically at Africans or a novel with a male protagonist is aimed only at males or a novel with a wizard as the main character is aimed at wizards. Does Stevie Smith’s poem ‘The Galloping Cat’ require a cat reader because the narrator is a cat? (OK, I’ve got silly now, but I hope you can see my point)
I remember how a friend of mine, an avid reader all her life, complained when she reached her seventies that there weren’t any novels for older people. It’s probably true that there is a need for more novels with older protagonists, but surely an older person (or anyone for that matter) can enjoy novels in which the protagonist is not the same age as themselves.
So, to get back to novels with a teenager as the main character, can’t the novel be written and marketed for adults (not young adults)? If teenagers read it as well, fine, but need it be slotted into the ‘Young Adult’ section in bookshops? A crossover novel sounds like a good idea but I find the definition of ‘crossover’ to be a novel which was written for teenagers but which adults can also enjoy. So that’s not quite what I have in mind either.
I wonder what makes a novel ‘young adult’ or just ‘adult’. Surely there has to be something more than just the fact that the main character is a teenager. My main character has an identity crisis and so, too, it seems does my novel!