Tuesday 3 January 2012

Is this really a young adult novel?

Or even a teen, which is how I first envisaged it? Or perhaps a teen / ya / adult crossover as I’m now hoping?
I’ve just finished the fifth edit, which in this case was all about seeing if it really works for its target reader. I think it does – at least, now that I’ve made a few adjustments. Certainly, all of the characters in it behave like young adults. They are somewhat self-centred, think the adults have it wrong but are afraid of responsibility, yet crave it when they don’t have it, and they all take considerable risks. All of this has of course been tempered a little because I’ve had to make the people true to their time. Maybe the novel is young adult because it leaves a lot of unanswered questions. What has actually happened to Clara Lehrs? How did the Special Class get away with it? What will happen at the meeting between Renate and her former classmates? And arguably the story is a Bildungsroman, perhaps the most important characteristic of the young adult novel. In the end, Renate establishes and accepts her identity.   
Does the novel remain teen, though, partly because of the range it covers? Or does that help to make it adult? The story starts off with all of the girls being about 13 – which means it could appeal to 11-year-olds. Sexuality is played down.  One might expect something a little more explicit in a young adult novel. However, for girls of that age in the 1940s Hani’s encounter with two lesbians and later good-looking Peter would have raised eyebrows.  These two scenes would not shock a 21st century 11-13-year-old.
Does the novel raise enough serious questions and make any new comment about the Holocaust to make it interesting to adults? I certainly find what I know interesting enough to share.
I’ve tried to keep a balance between making the characters sound like modern teenagers and keeping them within the restraints of their time. I hope it’s working. I am sharing this with a critique group, so perhaps they’ll tell me.
On this edit, I also made sure I’d kept some details consistent. This feels like a less creative task, but better do that than be embarrassed in front of a publisher later. In fact, I did find that I’d changed “Kurt” to “Gerhard” at one point. So, it was worth the effort.
I shall take a short break from the text now but not from the research. Then I’ll be diving into the next edit – are the characters consistent?     

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