Last night I had an interesting conversation with a writer named Shirley. We had attended a screenwriting panel and are both aspiring writers.
Shirley is adapting a script she had written, turning it into a novel. She has tried to shop it around as an adult novel, but didn't have any takers. She wondered if maybe it was more of a young adult novel.
The idea of it being a YA novel had been suggested to her before. I mentioned that the novel I am writing was a YA fantasy novel, and mentioned that I thought her themes sounded like a good fit for a teen audience.
I haven't read her novel, but the idea had occurred to me from her description. She's now mulling that idea.
All this is to set the stage for something I was thinking about as I wandered the grocery store at 10:00 last night:
Movies often aim for a PG-13 rating to increase their possible audience. R ratings by definition exclude the under 18 set. PG-13 is seen as still interesting to adults, unlike PG or G, which are "for kids".
At the book store, there is a similar sorting. The children's section is like G and PG movies. The YA section is like a PG-13 movie. The rest of the store is adult by default.
Now, just because a book isn't in the YA section doesn't mean a teen can't read it, so in that way the sections aren't exactly like movie ratings. But consider the number of adults who read books from the YA section (The Hunger Games, Twilight). There are many books I have read that I was surprised to find in YA - The Art of Racing in the Rain, for example.
There are the examples of children's books that get read by adults as well (Harry Potter), just as there are G and PG movies that adults enjoy. But that YA section is pretty popular just as PG-13 movies are pretty popular.
Writing something that is appropriate for and appeals to young and old can certainly expand your audience. And even if it doesn't, if it only appeals to younger readers, isn't it better to have your story out there, being read, than to have it collect dust in a drawer?
Now I just need to finish my novel so it can find those readers.