What Makes A Book Young Adult / YA Versus Just Adult?

What’s the difference between YA and adult books? Find out what makes a book YA and why it’s important.

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Today I want to talk about YA or Young Adult books and more importantly the differences between Young Adult and just plain Adult. In the last few weeks I’ve been a little more involved with twitter and the whole book blogger community than I’ve ever been before and seen lots of great reviews for books I’ve both read and some I haven’t but I just can’t help it, it’s really starting to irk me the way so many people call an adult book YA just because it has teenage characters in it.

While it’s obvious that teenagers feature heavily in YA books and are usually the main protagonists (rare if they’re not) it doesn’t mean that every novel with a teen-aged main character is a YA novel. It’s like saying every novel with kids as our main characters is a children’s novel or perhaps Animal Farm featuring just the animals should be read by animals or kids because animals are usually in kids picture books right?!

I know plenty of you might be saying, is it really that big a deal? Well to me it is. It’s not just that I have my own opinion on what makes a YA novel YA but I know of plenty of bloggers who stick more rigidly to certain genres and some might not want to read YA books at all, so calling an adult book YA is making those readers miss out on a great book. The reverse is also true with some YA readers wanting to read only YA books and being disappointed when the adult book they’re reading doesn’t turn out to be the YA they expected.

So today I’m sharing my take on what makes a book YA and how they’re different from adult books. I may be wrong…I may be right…Stick around and tell me what you think. If you’re a reader, blogger or even a writer/author…this is what (I think) makes a Young Adult book…

The target age of YA or teen books is about 13-18 (though some darker books are suggested for 15/16+), although in reality there’s always a little give on both edges of the age group. Knowing books are marketed to this age group means that books have to appeal to teenagers. Of course plenty of adult books appeal to teens too but the reason YA books are so called is that they speak to teens. YA books published today by traditional publishers (no offense meant but many indie books are mis-marketed as YA) don’t only feature teens but they have to be written for teenagers. It’s not enough to stick teenagers into the book and say it’s YA, the book has to be something that teens relate to whether they’re the issues or the feelings in the story (I’ll get to that in a minute).  

Oh, but just to confuse some of you, some YA books don’t even have teen protagonists! ‘Max’ is an excellent novel written by Sarah Cohen-Scali it’s about Max a child who’s been born as part of the Nazi Eugenics Program. He’s the narrator of his story and the book is very dark with Max spouting out some nasty Nazi beliefs and ideals.  Although Max is just a kid, the whole book is marketed as YA.  Why? Because Max’s mind is that of a teenager.  He’s learning the world from a teenagers point of view and the whole book has a teen voice.

Max is an excellent book by the way and I’d recommend it to older teens and adults.  Very dark but they should read it in schools it’s that good!  I don’t have a review on this blog for you but have reviewed it in the past on my old blog (if you ever find it 😉 )

YA novels have to have a ‘teen voice’.  A teen voice is basically how the book reads. YA novels are often written in the first person narrative because it gives you that teen perspective right away. Teenagers are new to the adult world. When adult books are written with teens as the characters they usually talk about teens and, even if the characters in the stories are new to events and stuff that happens in the book, it’s all described from an adult perspective, the perspective of someone who’s been through it before. Take Caraval for instance. Plenty of people mark this as a YA novel just because Scarlett and Tella are in their late teens. Even though Scarlett has very little experience in relationships and is new to many of the experiences in the wonderful world of Caraval, the whole book isn’t written from a teen mind. If Caraval was a YA novel then Scarlett would be more concerned with social interactions, potential embarrassment and there’d be more focus on certain moments such as her interactions with a certain male character. She’d act more awkward with these new experiences thinking about them from a teenage perspective.

Caraval is a really good novel by the way (you can read my review here ), a great fantasy that many teenagers will enjoy reading but what makes it adult is the fact it doesn’t speak with a teenage voice. And that’s okay. It’s still a stunning book and more than appealing to teens, but YA books have to have that teen voice, that teen perspective or else it doesn’t fall into the category of YA.

A lot of YA books focus on teen issues and in fact many adult issues too such as, growing up, body changes, sexuality, sex, drinking, racism and even drugs. Not all novels have to focus on these subjects but YA novels are far grittier than kids or middle grade books and even many adult stories. Teenagers are new to all these experiences so YA books often deal with a lot of these gritty topics because teens want to read about them and because it’s all new and different to them. It doesn’t mean all YA books are filled with sex, drugs and alcohol. Plenty are in fact pretty mild and deal with simpler issues such as ‘fitting in’ and some even have a more ‘fluffy’ feel with happy endings and funny stories but YA novels WILL focus on teen issues of some kinds, the issues that affect teenagers every day, and they have to be told with that ‘teen voice’.

The pacing of YA books tends to be fast. Although all books are different YA books tend not to slow down too much with deep long and flowery descriptions. Most YA novels, even long ones, will have fast moving action and most of the text with focus on the action rather than long descriptions of the setting.  Teenagers are, by default, living crazy busy and fast lives, so it fits that books written for them and about them should keep up this fast paced feel.

YA novels are evolving all the time. Even the YA books I used to read when I was a teenager (hello those massive piles of ‘Point’ books on the shelves! 😮 Anyone remember those? ) have a different feel to today’s more grittier and faster paced stories. However YA books have always remained books about teen issues written for teens.

Many people wrongfully attach the YA marker to books that should be called adult. In fact many books on amazon today are categorised as YA by their authors (sorry I’m thinking of indie authors here. Nothing against some of you or your books but some books really shouldn’t be called YA). Once you start to read a lot of genuine YA books you’ll start to pick up on what makes it YA versus not. There are vast differences in the way these books feel and read. It doesn’t mean that adults can’t enjoy YA or that teens can’t enjoy adult books. But let’s start labelling them the right way.

If you want to read a typical YA novel just check out some of the big name publisher’s websites for YA books.  A lot of publishers print for the YA market these days and yeah I’m biased because they send me books but I’ll say Walker Books is a big YA publisher!

This is my idea of what makes a book YA and it’s the same view as many I’ve read online on this subject. You might disagree and I’m happy to hear what you think makes a novel YA. Do you read YA books?  Does having teen protagonists make the book YA for you? Is it the pacing or the subject matter? Let’s have a discussion and learn something new! Tell me what you think, I’m excited to know if you agree with anything I’ve said?

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#BookReview: Things To Do With Dad by Sam Zuppardi #MPBooks

A fun picture book with the surprise that there are virtually no words!

Things to do with Dad book coverTitle: Things To Do With Dad

Author/Illustrator: Sam Zuppardi

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

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Description: To Do: Wake Up, Make Breakfast, Do The Chores, Have Fun!

My Review: This is a very fun and rather simple picture book. This picture book is surprising as there are hardly any words at all and yet the story is told so well. The book starts with a boy and his father having fun making pancakes for breakfast. But then Dad looks over at the list of things to do, such as wash the dishes , hoover the carpets, etc. The dad sets off on completing his to-do list and with every double page you see him washing the dishes, for example, while his son plays separately from him, but in the same room. The boy tries desperately to get his dad’s attention but his dad, even though smiling at his son, keeps on doing his chores.

Some lovely and fun illustrations.


It’s hard not to give away the rest of the book but it is such a simple idea it’s impossible not to. The boy decides to resolve the problem by re-writing his dads chore list and calling it ‘Things to do with Dad’. After that the chores are still done but at the same time the dad and son can play and have fun such as exploring the jungle, instead of watering the plants.

So easy to understand without words 🙂


This book is very fun and a perfect gift to give for Father’s Day. The book has thick and glossy pages with some great illustrations that are very simple, looking like kids drawings, and yet hold some fun details too. I really like this book, it’s really a feel good story, so simple and yet the dad and son having fun while still doing the chores can remind both kids and their parents how much fun it can be to do the small things if you make them into an adventure. The fact this book has no words other than the chores listed makes this extra special too as it shows just how powerful some simple images can be. I’d definitely recommend this book whether for Father’s Day or just any day of the year. It doesn’t have to be exclusively for kids with dads either!
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

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#BookReview: The Cherry Pie Princess by Vivian French & Marta Kissi #MPBooks

A very fun fairy tale children’s book

The Cherry Pie Princess book cover
UK book cover

Title: The Cherry Pie Princess

Author: Vivian French

Illustrator: Marta Kassi

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: MG/children’s Fiction

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Description: Princess Peony has a bad feeling that her father might be a tyrant.  She doesn’t want to believe it, but he has a nasty having of throwing people in dungeons…

There’s a royal party coming up, and the king’s in an even worse mood than usual.  He flat out refuses to invite the wicked hag, which can mean only one thing: TROUBLE!

My Review: This is a very fun story for kids and one which I would have adored reading myself when I was younger.  Princess Peony is different to her family, the King, Queen and her six sisters.  During a Royal visit to the library Princess Peony, the only one of her sisters to show any interest in the books there, borrows a recipe book.  But Princesses aren’t supposed to bake and when her father King Thoroughgood finds out, it is only the start of Princess Peony’s troubles.

‘The Cherry Pie Princess’ is well written and really fun.  It’s like a new fairy tale story with a bit of humour thrown in.  It’s easy to get into this children’s book right away and although it is not a specifically funny book, the names of some characters and the illustrations inside will make you smile and laugh.  The story is quite simple but surprised me as I didn’t know what was going to happen.  Although the story follows Princess Peony at the beginning it also briefly follows some seemingly random characters like the Fairy Godmothers and a Hag.  All these characters stories later entwine to make a really good ending.

Cute illustrations at the start of the book

The illustrations are funny and have enough detail for me to really like them.  There are illustrations throughout the book, in black and white and there’s are illustrations on every other double page.  The pictures really lend to the story and are really well drawn, I especially like the image later of the cat sitting in the tree.  The ending of the story is a really good one and even though it’s predictably happy, I still didn’t know how everything would get resolved or what would happen to Princess Peony after a spell was cast!  (can’t say more or I’d spoil it!).

Some of the funny images that can be found throughout this book

I think kids will love this story, particularly if they are into fairy tales and although girls might be more inclined to enjoy this book, given the title and the cover, I’m sure some boys would too as Peony herself isn’t overly girly in her personality.  Adults might also enjoy it as I did.  I’d definitely recommend this book to others, given the fact it’s like a fairy tale it also has a little lesson that some characters have to learn but it’s all told in a really fun way and I’ll certainly be on the lookout for more Vivian French books after I’ve read this one!
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

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#BookReview: Release by Patrick Ness #MPBooks

An interesting novel from the award winning author Patrick Ness.

Release book cover
‘Release’ UK book cover

Title: Release

Author: Patrick Ness

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: YA, Contemporary (slight paranormal fantasy too)

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Description: It’s Saturday, it’s summer and, although he doesn’t know it yet, everything in Adam Thorn’s life is going to fall apart.  Relationships will change, he’ll change, but maybe, just maybe, he’ll find freedon in the release.
Time is running out though, because way across town a ghost has risen from the lake.  Searching, yearning, she leaves a trail of destruction in her wake…

My Review: Oh dear. I’ve never read a Patrick Ness novel before this one however the cover and the blurb really intrigued me and I had high hopes for an author who’s so well praised. It’s a big shame though that this novel just isn’t what I expected it to be.

The description of the novel is a bit cryptic but the book basically focuses on Adam Thorn, a teenager living in a small town in America. In just one day so many things will happen that his life will change forever. The blurb doesn’t say though that Adam is gay, with evangelical Christian parents who disapprove, as well as a father who is a minister of their church and the story is mostly about him dealing with this fact, struggling with his parents, and with his own feelings. There is a secondary story in this book but I’ll explain more about it below.

The book starts with Adam heading off to get some flowers that his mother has told him to. I’d like to say that this book was easy to get into but it wasn’t. The descriptions at the start of this novel are a bit old-fashioned for my liking. I’m used to YA novels with fast and easy narration but this felt very distant at first and I was worried the rest of the book had this almost flowery/purple prose type of description. However I persevered through the beginning and the writing did get better to read, or I got used to Patrick Ness’s style.

The first chapter is a pretty mundane one describing Adam and his basic situation. Halfway through the first chapter there is a break and the second story is revealed and from then on there are two stories being told, Adam’s and that of a strange spirit. Adam’s story forms most of the pages of this book but the Sprit story jumps in every now and then. There is only a short mention at the start of the book on who the spirit is and the stories stay unconnected until the last pages. The Spirit story is an odd one as it doesn’t really fit in with Adam’s at all and even down to the last chapter, Adam’s story is resolved and in a way that was satisfying to read and although the sprit story is resolved too it feels like a separate paranormal tale that didn’t need to be a part of this book.

I didn’t warm to Adam’s character right away but as the story unfolds you learn more about his struggles both externally and internally. The story is very contemporary and though there is love and sex in the story it isn’t really a romantic one. The sex in the story is actually pretty graphic, reminding me of ‘Forever’ by Judy Bloom which the author says helped lend inspiration to this novel. There is also occasional swearing with a few uses of the s and f word.

The Spirit story is a strange one as I’ve said and feels like a whole different book. Not only is it a paranormal story but it’s also a bit fantasy with a Queen who’s a very old spirit and a faun who follows her around the town. Their story is about a girl who died, something which is mentioned at the start of the book, but the writing in this story is over descriptive and at times didn’t make much sense. The Spirit story is very short when compared to Adam’s story and feels like it was added to the book as a way to bulk up the size of it and I would have preferred this story to have been developed to be longer and more detailed itself, forming it’s own book than jumping into this one.

Adam’s story is interesting and I do like the ending of this novel, the way his story concludes, however the Spirit story really spoilt it for me and I would have preferred this to be made into two shorter stories rather than join a paranormal story with a contemporary one which just didn’t seem to work at all for me. I’m not sure if this book will appeal to everyone. It depends on the tolerance for detailed gay sex scenes and the over descriptive writing. While I enjoyed Adam’s story overall, the way he deals with things and the ending which I certainly preferred to ‘Forever’ this book just doesn’t have the re-read appeal for me. While I’ve enjoyed quite a few YA books which deal with sexuality, sex and finding yourself, and I do like the fact this book tackles gay relationships openly, I think I would have preferred a longer tale about Adam, perhaps see what happens beyond where the story ended but this didn’t happen and it was quite a short read for me (I read it in one day but didn’t feel compelled to get back to it when taking a break). so a neutral 3 feathers for me.
-Thanks to Walker Books for providing a free copy.

What do you think?  Have you read any books by Patrick Ness?  Is this a book you’d be interested in?   Please do comment 🙂  You can also find me in these places: 

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#BookReview: Let’s Go To Nursery! by Caryl Hart & Lauren Tobia #MPBooks

A fun picture book for kids entering nursery!

Let's Go To Nursery! book coverTitle: Let’s Go To Nursery!

Author: Caryl Hart

Illustrator: Lauren Tobia

Publisher: Walker Books (Walker First Experiences)

Genre: Baby/very young books

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Description: Let’s go to nursery with Billy and Bee!  There’s SO much to do, and SO much to see!  Billy is shy but Been helps him have fun, so come with us now and let’s meet everyone!

My Review:

This is a great hardback book for very young kids to enjoy.  ‘Let’s Go to Nursery!’ is a fun rhyming book with some great images and rhymes.  The pages themselves are like thick shiny card so could take a quick wipe if they get a little dirty, the pages corners are also curved making this book easy and safe for toddlers to handle.

Some detailed illustrations

The story of the book is a simple but very fun one.  Bee is a confident girl while Billy is quite shy and together, along with Bee’s sister Boo, they all go to nursery and enjoy themselves.  The book’s pages are filled with fun rhymes, there isn’t one page that doesn’t have rhyming on it, even the back cover blurb has rhyming and it’s all in the same simple style which makes it easy for kids to understand what’s happening in the story.  I really enjoyed the story, even though Billy is shy and a little wary, Bee’s confident nature makes him enjoy the nursery, and when something happens to upset Boo, Billy is there to make her feel better.  The whole story has a lovely feel to it and would make me feel more confident going to nursery (I remember being very shy, like Billy, when I went to nursery myself).

Easy to read text and fun images

I really like the pictures in this book, they are all very nice and clear, not too abstract but there’s also some detail in many of the pictures which could make for a fun extra as kids and their parents can point out all the other things that are happening in the nursery.  The ending of the story is a happy as all the kids go home happy.

This is such a simple book but I really think kids will enjoy it as well as some adults sharing this with their kids.  It actually brought back some fond memories I had from my time in nursery and I think it would make a great book for kids who might be nervous about attending, giving them a positive experience to look forward to.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy

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#BookReview: Caraval by Stephanie Garber #MPBooks

Review of the magical and mysterious Caraval, a book everyone wants to read this year!

Caraval book cover
UK book cover

Title: Caraval

Author: Stephanie Garber

UK Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Genre: Fantasy

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Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.
Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.
When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

My Review: I’m not sure how to start this review. I absolutely loved this book, once I got into it, but wow the ending was quite a shock and left me a little speechless and just a little bit annoyed.

Caraval has really been a hyped up novel this year and I couldn’t help but want to read it after hearing so much about it. The story follow Scarlett and her sister Tella who live on the small isle of Trisda but their life is marred by their abusive father who enjoys punishing the girls for any wrong-doing. For years Scarlett has been writing to the mysterious Master of Caraval to ask for tickets to the magical show but never hears back until days before her arranged wedding to a man she has never met. When tickets arrive though there is an opportunity to finally escape their abusive father so the girls go to the island where Caraval is taking place. However as soon as they arrive Tella goes missing and Scarlett must take part in the game in order to find her sister.

At the start of the book I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. We’re quickly introduced to Scarlett and Tella along with a scene showing how brutal and twisted their father is, but despite the fast pacing of this novel and the simple descriptions I just didn’t get into this book from the very beginning. The scene didn’t feel as threatening as I thought it should and the general story up until Scarlett reaches Caraval felt almost too fast paced and I didn’t get a feel for the characters until later. However despite my initial thoughts, this story soon drew me into the magic and from then on I was hooked.

The story is told in the third person but follows Scarlett as she searches for her sister with the help, or not, of the man who brought her to the island. The world of Caraval is an interesting and really mesmerising one. It’s like a magical and dark circus show that happens at night and Scarlett quickly becomes involved in the game/performance. The magic in the story and the overall Caraval is like the old fashioned circuses that existed in Victorian times. Just like a magical act, this book is filled with surprises and twists and I’m so happy that I didn’t see any of them coming. I’m very good at spotting twists in stories and often don’t find myself surprised but this book had me hooked as I really didn’t know what was going to happen next and the story kept up this pace of twists and turns right until the end.

The ending of this book is really good. It finishes really well with surprises revealed right until the last pages and it was really satisfying to read, however the epilogue is where I felt annoyed. Something simple happens but it sets up the story for a book two, leaving certain questions in your head and though I’m eager to read book two, when it is released, and there’s nothing wrong with the ending, I’d rather have had a book two without the mini cliff-hanger ending that this epilogue created.

The book has nothing offensive in it though given the dark and twisted nature of some characters I would recommend it for teens and older. Despite the many, many reviews calling this a YA novel it is not. Teens will enjoy this book and some characters are younger but this book is a general fantasy story and not specifically a YA book which usually has more specific appeal.

Caraval is everything it’s hyped up to be and I’d certainly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading a story with lots of twists and magic and for those who enjoy stories with a historic setting. Although the book takes place in a fictional world the timeframe is the past and it just added to the magical feel of this tale.

What do you think?  Do you want to read this book or have you already?  Please do comment 🙂  You can also find me in these places: 

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#BookReview: Mrs Mole, I’m Home! by Jarvis #MPBooks

A hilarious kids picture book with little mini jokes adults will love!

Mrs Mole, I'm Home! book cover
Mrs Mole, I’m Home!

Title: Mrs Mole, I’m Home!

Author, Illustrator: Jarvis

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

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Description: Morris can’t find his glasses…anywhere.  And now he can’t see…anything.  Not to worry.  Morris is positive that his instincts will lead him home!
But just how good are Morris’s instincts?

My Review: This is such a funny book! Morris Mole works at a restaurant but when it’s time to go home he misplaces his glasses and decides it’s not that difficult to burrow his way home without them. As the front cover and the title show, Morris pops up assuming he’s home only to have burrowed into another creatures home. The rest of the book follows a predictable path of Morris repeatedly popping up in various different places thinking each time he’s home when he’s not.

The first pages of the book

This is a brilliant picture book and definitely has appeal to both kids and adults. The repetitive nature of the story will appeal to kids, it usually does, and the fun illustrations add a lot of humour to the already funny story. The copy of the book I have is an A4ish sized paperback with thick, colourful pages inside but papery rather than glossy. The pictures are quite simple and yet detailed in a way that there are little things to spot within the image that you might miss at first glance. The illustrations also feature funny things that only adults will really ‘get’ such as the name of the restaurant where Morris works or the titles of some books.

A closer look at another page of the book

The story is funny right to the end and although has a happy and predictable ending, there’s a twist on the last page which make me smile. I really like picture books like this and I would certainly recommend it to others but I do have a personal issue and that is the red colour used on both the front page and the first couple of pages inside the book. The colour is lovely but when I view the book in low light, that particular shade contrasts with the blue next to it in such a way that I squint every time I look at it, especially the book cover as the red feels like it’s almost ‘dancing’ It’s not a big issue but something to be aware of if you have sensitive eyes like me and plan to view this book in a low light atmosphere. Overall though a great and very funny picture book worth reading!

And this is where the real funny starts in this book! 😀

-Thanks to Walker Books for providing a free copy.

Do you like the look of this book?  Is it something you’d enjoy or are you thinking of buying?  Please do comment 🙂  You can also find me here, but apologies for not recently visiting some of them – will do so soon ❤ : 

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