Writing Crossover Young Adult Novels
I believe that young adult novels should appeal to readers of all ages. It may not appeal to both genders, but I definitely feel it should appeal to all ages. The publishing industry says that a book is children’s, young adult or adult based on the protagonist’s age. But as an adult, I find myself more drawn to young adult books and when I was in high school, I read all adult books. As backwards as it sounds, that’s the kind of author I want to be. That no matter how old my protagonist is, I can have an adult reader as well as a teen reader. They may both get something different from it, but I think it boils down to having a great plot and strong characters, regardless of age. There are some key steps I took with my most recent release to make sure it would appeal to readers of all ages:
1.) I didn’t point out that it was a young adult novel. Obviously for certain reasons, we mention it in our query letters and the bookstore may house it under that category for the sake of attracting your target audience. But truthfully, I think pointing it out is what makes some adults think it may be filled with immature tones. If you just write a great story around a strong character, regardless of age, I think it will appeal to all readers.
2.) I made sure my character was mature. No matter how immature your parents try to tell you that you were when you were a teenager, you don’t have to write about an immature character. In fact, I don’t think teens even want to read about an immature character. Even in teen novels, the protagonist has a sense of maturity about them that makes them come off adult like in their teen world. They end up making their own decisions in the book. That’s why you end up rooting for them.
3.) I didn’t leave out the adults. Adults have a place in a teen novel. This may be a matter of opinion, but at the end of the day, if your character is sixteen, there are realistically things that he/she still can’t do. Even in fiction, you have to keep some things realistic. For instance, in A Song for Jordan, Jordan needs a parent’s signature to take a summer internship. The adults in the story may not be the highlight of the story, but they actually help aid the story along.
4.) I made sure it had sequel potential. I definitely feel like any of the adults in this book could have their own story. Honestly, in the beginning, it wasn’t mapped out that way. But as I continued to write, I wanted to make sure that should my readers want more, I would be able to give it to them from different angles. Of course, that would change whether it is YA or not, but it could still work.
5.) My plot has two sides. Jordan isn’t the only one with a story in my novel. Jordan’s mother, Melissa, has a story as well. And readers get to read about it. They then get to see Jordan’s character in a better way. It’s only after we learn more about Melissa that we get to really understand her and Jordan’s relationship. And Melissa’s story is woven throughout the novel. It’s just not told the same way Jordan’s is. It’s definitely more ambiguous. But either way, it works for the story.
I think some of these things happened by accident for me. Once I started revising, I realized that this is exactly what I wanted. I encourage writers that write young adult books to try to appeal to adults as well. I wouldn’t recommend it if it causes you to stress or changes your whole story. But I definitely would give it a try. There are some agents who are actually looking for manuscripts like this, especially with the YA market being so tough to break into. So don’t close yourself off to just the teen market. See if your story can fly higher.
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: December 15th 2012
Mya Kay’s A SONG FOR JORDAN is a story that will take you along an emotional and mental journey with Jordan Crystal Myers as she searches for a father that her family hates. Everything fifteen-year-old Jordan Crystal Myers knows about music comes from her father, from arranging notes to playing several different instruments. One day, she’d love to meet him.A musician who left her mother, Melissa, when she was born, Jordan longs to have a relationship with the man that gave her the gift of music. Even knowing that her grandparent’s wanted her mother to abort her and that her mother doesn’t want her to find him doesn’t stop Jordan from asking questions.A bi-racial teen already facing the pain of being mixed in an image driven society puts her search on hold when she lands a competitive music internship in Atlanta with SyncDeep Music Group, a label run by one of her favorite musicians. For the next six weeks, Jordan gets to arrange music, play and network with some of the music industry’s biggest artists. Two weeks before the internship is over, she’s abruptly fired and finding out her mother is the reason behind her termination causes Jordan to lose all hope – until she realizes she may have just found what she’s been looking for all along.All the lies she’s heard come to light in this gripping tale that will leave your heart wrenching for Jordan as she searches for the one thing she longs for most. A SONG FOR JORDAN will leave bitter mothers who keep their children away from their fathers feeling sorry for the pain they’ve caused.
June 8, 2009
Daddy, wherever you are, I just want you to know I’m not mad. I would do anything to have a relationship with you. I’ve been searching online for you and I can’t seem to find anything under the name mom gave me. Please –
Jordan, your breakfast is getting cold! Get down here now!”
Geez mom, do you have to yell?
Jordan knew better than to say it out loud to her mother, so she thought it instead. Frustrated, Jordan sighed heavily. She closed her eyes and tilted her head back. Her mother had just interrupted yet another letter that she was writing to her long lost father.
I guess it’s not a big deal. It’s not like I can find him anyway.
She had been doing it for the past year now – writing letters in a journal. She kept them in a drawer, locked, in hopes of one day being able to give it to him. Pushing back from the desk, she threw her pen down, slammed the book shut and threw it in the drawer. Locking it in one swift move, she tucked the key in her pants pocket and walked over to her closet. She could feel the cool summer breeze through her open bedroom window. She could see the little goose bumps raised on her arms as she quickly glanced in the mirror. Reaching for a jean jacket to throw on over her tank top, Jordan closed her closet door so her mother wouldn’t see the new pile of junk on the floor.
She ran her fingers through her new do. Her mother had finally let her cut it. It was now short in the back and long in the front. It was tapered nicely and her honey blonde streaks reminded her of one of her mother’s paintings, strips of yellow showed the rays from the sun over the top of a building or bridge. Her mother wouldn’t let her get the whole thing colored yet, but Jordan flipped her hair and smiled, pleased nonetheless. Grabbing her bag, she walked toward the door before her mom yelled again. But not before she took a look at her men.
Well, they weren’t really her men, but she loved her Louis Armstrong and John Coltrane posters. Half her room was flooded with the greatest musicians of today and yesterday. Hip-hop legends, pop stars and even the greatest of all time, Prince, could be found covering every inch of paint that used to be her walls. Her keyboard sat right near her desk and her bass guitar was leaning on the wall behind her closet. She admired the mural painting that plastered the side of her wall near her large window. It was coated with musical notes, every instrument, from woodwinds to strings, microphones and all kinds of other musical paraphernalia.
“JORDAN CRYSTAL MYERS! NOW!”
“Sorry mom,” she said brushing her mother’s cheek with a kiss as she rushed into the kitchen. Grunting, her mother pointed to the table, signaling for her to sit down.
It was a demand more than anything else, but she knew what it was about. I thought she forgot. Jordan reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out the cell, reluctantly handing it to her mother.
“You’ll get it back once school is out,” her mother said.
“Don’t ‘mom’ me. You know the rules” she said. “You’re lucky I’m still allowing you to go to this Christopher Jordan show. The phone is mine until school’s over.” She squinted at Jordan. “Don’t push it.”
Her mom turned on her heels before Jordan could say another word. Wanting to put up a fight,
Jordan thought better of it. I refuse to miss this show, so I’ll just have to make it through these last two weeks of school without a cell phone. There was no doubt Jordan loved her mother Melissa. She was smart and beautiful. She watched as her mother pulled at the hem of her skirt, checking for any loose strings. Taking a lint brush, she rolled it over the sleeves of her suit jacket. Jordan could brag to the boys at school who always boasted about their father’s blue collar careers about her business savvy mother.
“I have a huge meeting with a client tonight after we go shopping,” she said, turning back to Jordan, and fixing her nutmeg lipstick in the compact mirror she held. “We won’t have long in the mall, so I’m giving you an hour tops.”
A huge success in the world of design, her mother ran one of the largest architecture firms in Maryland. Mumbling okay, Jordan went to work on her pancakes. Her mother had found her Bluetooth and had already started her morning calls. Wonder if she notices I don’t have on my school uniform. Of course she didn’t. Jordan realized her outfit didn’t consist of a blueprint diagram or a million dollar contract.
“Yes, hold on, please.”
Still stuffing her face, Jordan watched her mother click over to take another call. Annoyed, Jordan rolled her eyes in the air in frustration, she wondered if any of her mother’s clients had a family. If they did, then they must’ve ignored them as much as her mother ignored her, since they didn’t seem to mind calling during breakfast. Wasn’t breakfast supposed to be family time?
“Yes mother, I got it,” Jordan heard her say. Jordan could feel the tension rise from the pit of her stomach when she realized it was her grandmother who was calling. She was sure the chair could feel how stiff she’d become. Throwing her Ipad and her PDA into her briefcase, her mother continued in a hasty voice. “Jordan and I will be over sometime next weekend. Yeah. Okay. Got it. Love you. Talk to you later.”
Clicking back over, her mother finally took a seat at the counter, ignoring the questioning look in Jordan’s eyes. Shuffling through more papers, she jumped up again to throw more things in her briefcase. Disappointed that they would be headed over her grandparents for the third weekend that month, Jordan played with the remainder of her food. She loved her grandparents, she did, but her last few Saturday visits hadn’t been too memorable. She had been able to find out a little more her dad, but not in a way she would’ve liked.
Last weekend during their visit, she had just run outside to get something out of her mother’s car. She hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, but right when she was about to step back into the den, she heard her mother mention her father. It made her pause in her tracks. She knew if she stepped into the room, they would stop talking.
“Evelyn, just let it go,” she heard her grandmother say. Her grandparents only used her birth name when angry. “She’s always going to asks questions about him, but it’s your job to make sure she doesn’t find out anything.”
“But mom, she has the right to know.” Jordan could tell by the way her mother’s voice cracked that she had been crying. “Even if I don’t want anything to do with him, what happens when she turns 18? I can’t tell her she can’t find him.”
The next voice
Jordan heard was her grandfather’s.
“Evelyn Faith, what would possess you to even keep a child by a black man?” he whispered. “You should’ve taken our advice years ago. Now, don’t get me wrong,” he paused, and
Jordan was sure he had puffed on his cigar. “We love that little girl. But your mother is right. Let it go!”
Jordan didn’t know where they had come from, but she saw the tears from her eyes land on the sweater she had grabbed for her mother. Sliding down the wall like the rain had started to do on the windowpane just five minutes ago,
Jordan sobbed on the floor until her mother came out to see what had taken her so long. Lying about cramps and a headache, her mother took her upstairs to lie down and brought her some tea and Midol.
The music coming from her cell phone brought Jordan back to the present. Jordan turned to see if her mom would answer it. Looking down at the screen, her mother hit a button and turned the phone off. Scowling, she turned back in her seat to finish eating. Stuffing the last pancake into her mouth, she listened to her mother chat on and on with yet another one of her clients. When it came to her clients, she was all ears, talking on the phone with them day and night, leaving just enough time for her to grab the last half of any of
Jordan’s recitals. I can’t even get her to sit and talk to me for more than an hour in the same house. Jordan tried not to act spoiled. She understood that her mother had to put food on the table and maintain their home, but there were times Jordan just wished she’d slow down.
In two more years, I’ll be outta here.
She hated thinking that way sometimes, but it’s what kept her from crying. Her mother would take her to the orchestra or to a play every once in a while, but their time spent together was strained whenever her mother picked up a new client. And since her ad ran regularly in the Silver Springs Times, that was quite frequent. Once I find my dad, I probably won’t mind so much. Jordan’s mind always wandered to her father. She kept him there just so she wouldn’t lose what little hope she had in their non-existent relationship. She knew a few things about him that kept her hope alive.
Like the fact that he was a musician when her mother met him. She knew that because of the picture of him and her mother at a nightclub from when they were dating. That picture. All she kept thinking about was how mesmerizing her mother’s face had been in it. She had one of those smiles like the women who batted their eyes in the romance movies and her hand was resting on his face, like she was about to reach out and kiss him.
From what Jordan knew, he hadn’t given her mother a chance to make any decision. He ran out on them once he realized that she was keeping the baby. But somehow,
Jordan didn’t believe that story – at least not all of it. The way her mother kept her in the dark about certain aspects of his life to keep her from finding him – not to mention that eerie conversation a few weeks ago – Jordan knew there was more to the story. And she vowed to one day find out the whole truth, even if it meant leaving her mother to do so.