Teens acting like adults?

Call me crazy, but that’s a trend that seems to be popping up lately. There have been many YA novels published where the teenage protagonist acts like an adult. What started with TWILIGHT has now become a trend — the teens are not only acting more mature, but they are parenting the parents.

This trend has gone beyond just the pages of YA books to television and movies. You can see an example in the TV show Castle, with the teenage character Alexis Castle. In the very first episode, her father offers her a drink, which she refuses because she’s too young. The grandmother is even more immature than the father — they mention how they can’t leave her unsupervised or else she’ll throw a wild party. As the series continues, Alexis often provides the voice of reason, and is very responsible for one so young. She even grounds herself for telling a white lie to her father.

Mature Teenager + Immature Parents = Freedom

This is the perfect formula for crossover fiction, or fiction that appeals to more than one defined audience, and in this case both a YA and adult audience.

While some may have an issue with this trend, I think sales have proven that there are many that go for that type of thing. I personally love it — after all, that’s the kind of teenager I was.

For TEENS, they love that the teenagers have freedom from the parents (who are often more like teenagers themselves) and have some adult power without the full weight of adult responsibility. The adults are too busy acting like teenagers themselves (or college students) that the character has found “their own space,” which is something every teen wants. From a literary prospective, this allows a teen to have an experience that goes beyond high school.

For ADULTS, it is a little more complicated. They can connect with the responsibilities weighing on the character (as they do household chores of cooking dinner, ect); yet, since it is YA character, those responsibilities are considerably lighter than any adult. (Let’s face it, all my friends who were weighed down with 5 AP classes a semester and several after school curricular activities are now working 80 hour weeks — life just gets crazier.) While a YA character might have to make food for themselves, they don’t have to change a diaper, drive kids to school, or fulfill the needs of a demanding job.

So is this a trend reflecting on our society today, or just something that is becoming more prevalent? Whatever the case may be, this has opened a new area for writers, because ultimately, it is the connection to the reader that is important. While many authors think they should ignore the reader and follow their muse, they tend to forget the whole point of the book is that reading connection. But crossover fiction has really brought to focus that readers want something that can connect to.

Check this Friday Analysis for a deeper look at crossover fiction.

If you are looking for some crossover fiction, here are some great examples:

THE BODY FINDER by Kimberly Derting

FEED by M.T. Anderson

THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak


SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyers

9 thoughts on “crossover fiction: ya and adult markets explored

  1. I hadn’t heard of CASTLE. What channel/when is it on? And great post. I hadn’t consciously dissected this idea yet, and I think you’re absolutely right. It’s a “new” solution for getting rid of the parents. Have you read LINGER yet? SHIVER’s sequel definitely turns all this on its head since the parents “wise up” more than the main character would prefer.

  2. Castle is a fun show. Glad to know I’m not the only one. That and Burn Notice.

    Great post- I’ve read several books with ‘adultish’ teenage protagonists- the MC in ‘Impossible’ starts out as a very believable teen, and by the end of the book sounds like a twenty-five year old, though less than a year has passed, but the things that have happened to her make it real.

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