Monday, July 2, 2012

How Old is too Old?

How old is too old... that is my question du jour.
Specifically I'm wondering about the implications of having a (semi) adult as the protagonist in a Young Adult novel. My protagonist, Nell, is 21... so still in the technical range of the YA readership (13-25 I think) but do teenagers really prefer to have protagonists their own age? Or do they sometimes like to imagine ahead to what comes next?
I've been pondering other YA books that have adult protagonists, but most of the ones I can think of are in books that are the last of a series, so the protagonist will be eleven in book one, but twenty eight in book three or five - I'm thinking L.M Montgomery's, Ann of  Windy Willows, Emily's Quest here, or Tamora Pierce's In the Hands of the Goddess Series, when Alanna starts out as a page in Book One and ends a fully fledged knight in Book Four.
Robin McKinley's protagonists tend to be in the 'cusp' age - Outlaws of Sherwood, Beauty, The Hero and the Crown, but is she marketed at YA or is she cross over?
Michelle Coopers Montmoray series * again start as teens and grow to adulthood in the course of the series. Tara Moss's The Blood Countess has a character who is clearly beyond school, as well... but are these the exceptions that break the rule?
In writing Dragons' Nests I was inspired by Diana Wynne Jones Castles in the Air and Howl's Moving Castle - I wanted to write something with the same fizz to it, the same sense of the impossible seeming completely possible. The characters there, are, again, in the 'cusp.' But... when I think of these characters... maybe I do think 19 rather than 21? Does it matter? Let me do some Googling...
Am I just trying to talk myself around because I have no desire to go back to school? (Shiver.) Don't make me relive high school.  Noooooo!
And I want stuff to happen that can't happen if the protagonists are too young. I want travel, weddings and careers in my series. The next book in the series Bella is supposed to be inviting all the Griffins, Mermaids, Pixies, Dragons etc to her sisters wedding and dealing with the problems of Mermaid attendance. (Large amounts of sea-swimming water required)
Basically, I want a frothy, fun series.
And the teen years are hard. (Or at least in my book they are, I should take a poll)
The twenties are fun. You can do stuff. Open shops, travel, explore, party. You have mastery.
Or should I look at it as an experiment - how much freedom can you give an imaginary teen and still have them believable? Self-Mastery....

Should I try to make my protagonist younger... could I? would the story still work? would the series still work? Would I still have fun?

*Reminder to self - go back and read the first book. It's lame to only read the last two books in a trilogy. Especially when you loved them so! 


  1. I vote for travel, weddings and careers. I want to see the sister grow up and be adults - but then again that would then be my reading preference... hmmmm

    1. I think I'm voting for travel, weddings and careers too... it's just so much more fun than homework & school bells!

  2. ditto Ingrid. I actually think the market is oversaturated with books with teen protagonists--the interesting stories are in the 20s. Even TV and movies have mostly moved there, other than novel adaptations. Where teens used to watch Buffy grow up and face her teen-demons, now we have 20-somethings and their whole new set of adventures. Even the Glee kids are about to graduate. Go for the story you want to tell, and that will be right!

    1. Aw... This makes me feel a lot better. I was wavering... Thankyou!