I saw Hanna last week. Definitely a story I wish I’d written. Totally up my alley in terms of the kinds of stories I’m
trying to write writing right now….
But it got me thinking about what makes a book or movie Young Adult vs adult. It’s not just about the age of the protagonist. I’ve seen discussions on the topic before that made sense to me and if memory serves the differentiations had to do with the themes explored etc. but I don’t think there are any obvious answers. It might be “you know it when you see it” and it might simply be a marketing decision. Some books, like the Harry Potter series and Twilight and The Hunger Games are clearly YA in my mind, but they get read by a ton of adults. But not all YA stories appeal to adults.
And I think with this current “hot trend” in YA a lot of books/stories are being released as YA that five or so years ago would have been published as adult books, regardless of the age of the protagonist.
Some books that come to mind that have kid protagonists but feel more like adult books to me include: Room, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, and The Book Thief. I recently bought a new YA, Between Shades of Gray, that I’m really looking forward to reading, and I suspect it might fall into that category, too. Certainly the topic feels adult to me, even though it was on the teen shelf at Indigo. (Thanks to new writer friend, Angela Cerrito, for pointing me to this book. Angela’s debut novel The End of the Line has just been released, BTW. Angela’s book it has a thirteen y/o protagonist but an adult sounding subject. Cannot WAIT to read.)
But back to Hanna and whether it’s YA. I did a post a while back about True Grit and how I thought it was kind of crazy that it was being marketed as an adult Western, with Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon as the stars, when clearly, to me, it was a young adult story with Hailee Steinfeld as its star…
Another book and movie that just sprang to mind is The Lovely Bones. I loved that book. LOVED it. And although the main character was young (and dead) I thought of it as an adult book. But I’ll bet if it had been first released now, instead of in 2002, that it would have been released as YA. And they marketed the movie as YA, didn’t they? And it kind of bombed as a movie. I admit I haven’t seen it, which is shocking because I see a lot (a ton) of films and was really looking forward to that one, until I started hearing negative things. Did they tame it down while trying to make it more of a teen story?? Does anyone know?
And then there’s Hanna, with the same wonderful lead actress as The Lovely Bones, Saoirse Ronan. And while this story is clearly about a teen girl, and has fairy tale elements to it… To me it was completely an adult story.
Not sure I fully understand why I think this. Can’t wait to discuss.
Anyone else seen Hanna? Thoughts? We’ve been talking about this over at DWT if you want to join the discussion there.