What is the Format of a Young Adult Novel?

Young Adult (YA) literature, defined for readers aged 12 to 18, tackles a spectrum of themes found in adult fiction. The format also addresses issues relevant to adolescent life making the genre a bridge between children’s literature and adult literature.

Defining Young Adult Novel

Characterizing a Young Adult novel is amorphous due to the fluidity of its constituent terms “young adult” and “literature”, with their contexts shifting as culture and society evolve. In essence, Young Adult literature tends to focus on issues pertinent to young readers aged approximately 12 to 18.

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History of Young Adult Literature

Young adult literature was originally used by librarians during World War II to help young adults transition from children’s literature to adult literature. Over time, YA novels evolved from primarily featuring romantic love stories to examining more comprehensive aspects of adolescent life. For example, the iconic “The Outsiders” by S.

E. Hinton.

Genres and Themes in Young Adult Literature

1. Realistic Fiction: Young adult novels set in a real, contemporary world.

2. Fantasy:: Novels that feature make-believe worlds or magical elements. For example, the “Harry Potter” series.

3. Science Fiction: Imaginative content delving into future technological or societal developments.

4. Historical Fiction:: Stories set in the backdrop of a specific historical period.

5. Romance:: Novels that focus on romantic relationships.

In addition to genres, Young Adult literature is known for containing coming-of-age stories. There are narratives about self-identity, life and death, and individuality. Often, these novels deal with real-life experiences and societal functions in a manner that is easier to grasp for young readers.

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Problem Novels

The young adult genre also encompasses ‘problem novels’ – a sub-genre that focuses on overarching social problems such as poverty, drugs, and pregnancy. These stories resonate with adolescents as they depict relatable situations, offering therapeutic value, and broaching mature storylines.

Young Adult Vs. New Adult Fiction and Children’s Literature

Young Adult literature targets readers aged 12-18, whereas New Adult (NA) fiction focuses on protagonists in the 18-29 age bracket. NA fiction frequently explores themes such as leaving home, developing sexuality, and negotiating education and career choices.

In contrast, Children’s literature or middle-grade novels feature protagonists aged 10-13. These books are usually shorter in length and less mature in theme and content compared to YA novels.

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Use in Classroom

Young Adult literature is now often integrated into classrooms to increase student interest in reading. Use of YA in classrooms is linked to higher levels of student engagement, increased levels of self-confidence, enhancing personal development, and encouraging a desire to read similar books.


Young Adult novels encapsulate wide-ranging themes and genres, designing literature that appeals to the evolving perceptions and experiences of young adults. They bridge the gap between children’s and adult literature, offering a greater depth of understanding and relatability for young readers. Despite criticisms surrounding the genre’s content, Young Adult literature continues to expand and diversify, enriching readers’ understanding of the world and themselves.

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