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Controversial YA Topics


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What's up Forum?


I have a question. 


My second novel is a thriller that follows a naive sixteen year old who finds himself in trouble with some rough folks in Detroit in 1990. While it is centered on teens, there are many adult characters and the content is laced with profanity (this is how we spoke growing up) and instances of violence (it is a thriller). There are also characters that have had bouts with drug addiction (there is no drug use in the book). 


Teens can learn so much from this book, as can adults, giving them the insight on the behavior of the teens and what can be done to help the kids but I am torn between marketing it towards YA or going for adults. I have been researching and there are some YA books with profanity and lewd scenes but those are typically controversial. I was reading how John Green's "Looking for Alaska" is seen as controversial for the language, themes and sex in it. I think The Hunger Games has lots of violence.


In order to keep the story authentic, the language has to remain. I wouldn't say that the cursing is gratuitous (there are "F bombs", the n-word) and the violence is typical of a thriller but does anyone have any opinion on this? The overall reception I'm getting from people I've asked is that teens have all that and more going on in their lives and often look for books that reflect it as long as there is some message to it.


 Any thoughts? 

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Hi @Walkman93


I recently struggled with defining the children's books for this website: https://aalbc.com/content.php?title=Target+Age+Group+Description+for+Children%26rsquo%3Bs+Books


Is the book written from the 16 year old girl's perspective, in a 16 year old voice? If so, YA.


If it is an adult, or and an adult looking back at her 16-year-old self, then adult.


Generally writers start out knowing who their intended audience is -- not after the book is written 😉 Why are you torn now?  Is it a market driven concern?  Adults can and do enjoy reading YA literature and teens often read books written for adults, so don't sweat it too much.


Talk to writers/editors/agents of YA literature. 


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It's basically from his perspective.


I wrote it with a YA audience in mind so I had that figured out. One of my beta readers brought up the profanity and violence and said it might be too much for YA, that's where the concern is coming from. 


My editor said that YA audiences are pretty mature but I just wanted a little more insight from others.


Appreciate the response!

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