Ender's Game

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Wed Mar 26 18:36:10 EST 2003

On Wed, 26 Mar 2003 21:43:17 +0000, hallieod at indigo.ie wrote:

>Way too late for the discussion, but I finished this recently and had 
>a question.  IIRC, both Melissa and Dorian said at some stage that 
>_Ender's Game_ wasn't a YA book, and possibly that Card himself had 
>said so.  As I read his comments in the introduction, it certainly 
>seemed at least implied that he did consider it written for a YA 
>audience, though not necessarily exclusively.  Interestingly, the 
>copy which was released over this side of the world as a YA book 
>didn't contain the introduction.
>So I was just wondering - aside from the obvious (too violent and 
>grim for younger kids) - what was it that made people consider this 
>an adult book?  Not even entirely un-topical, because of the Deep 
>Secret mangling and re-issuing.

Young adult fiction differs from adult fiction for several reasons, only one
of which is content (and in my opinion that's pretty far down the list).
More importantly, there's a difference between books one can read based on
one's ability level and books that are specifically written as young adult
titles.  In other words, the term "young adult fiction" should be viewed in
the same way we see "romance" or "science fiction" books--a category that
defines a kind of literature, and not a guideline to reading age.

When I say that _Ender's Game_ is not a young adult title, it's not because
I think kids shouldn't be reading it.  It's because the way it's written,
the way the story is told, the characterizations and the timelines exclude
it from the category of young adult fiction.  The one thing that does NOT
define young adult fiction, quixotically, is the age of the reader.  A young
adult reading and enjoying _Watership Down_ does not make that book a YA
title.  The members of this list reading DWJ do not make her books adult
fiction (as I know our average age is definitely not in the teens).

The definition of YA fiction is slippery, and you'll be hard pressed to find
two experts who exactly agree with one another, but there are a few
generally-agreed-upon characteristics.  I culled these from my YA lit class
and from discussions with lit professors at the local universities, and
they're not in any particular order of importance:

1. Singularity of plot line
2. Age of protagonist
3. Well-defined themes
4. Importance of character development, particularly growing up or learning
to change
5. Relative simplicity of prose style--NOT overly simplistic
6. Age-appropriate content (not really very important, given that nobody
agrees on what "appropriate" for an age means; but many mainstream YA books
feature teenagers in typical (or atypical) home and school situations)

I can't remember any others, and not every YA book has all these elements.
I'm sure there are other things that matter....

This is a kind of fiction that is peculiarly slanted toward change and
personal development.  In the worst examples it is didactic, a how-to manual
for growing up.  In the best examples it is far more subtle, encouraging
broadness of thinking and exploring a wide range of possibilities.  You
probably have heard that the best YA fiction is that which can be read by
adults as well as teens; that's because there are some things we never stop
needing to learn, no matter how old we become, and when adult fiction
presupposes that the reader has already learned them, there's something else
to fall back on.

Anyway, that's what I was talking about.

Melissa Proffitt

If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning.

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