A coming of age novel for adults

‘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.

cat_readingYes, 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!

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9 thoughts on “A coming of age novel for adults

  1. I think you have a problem, although you shouldn’t. The people who have power – publishers, agents, booksellers – have decided that every book must belong to one genre and that books about teenagers must belong to the ‘Young Adult’ genre. But they’ve also decided that books about children are for children, and yet there are some very good adult books with child protagonists. So I think you should go for it, but you have to be prepared to argue your case.

    Hope that makes sense. I feel as if I haven’t landed yet!

    • Hi Miriam and welcome back from your latest travels!
      I’m trying to get round it by having an older narrator telling the story of her younger self, though I’m not sure that will be seen as solving the problem. The powers that be might think the novel falls between two genres belonging firmly to neither. Damn it!

  2. Hi Jean, I’m not a writer and although mature (in age) do not consider myself to have ‘come of age’ so I can’t really advise you, I think having the older narrator sounds workable and surely of interest, since we all reflect on our younger days?, it’s good to hear the process of working on it is helping you in different ways, not just the writing skills,…. keeps you out of mischief!

      • Playing the …giraffe? hey do you remember the night before bonfire night used to be called ‘mischief’ night? now they’ve got it all mixed up with Halloween, watch out! I might be round dressed in a black bag to ‘chump’ some wood for the fire, every best wish with the writing. 🙂

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