1. What are the determining factors or characteristics that make books like this YA and not regular adult books? It just sounds pretty “adult” to me the way you describe it. Were there many books categorized as YA back in the 80s/90s when we were of the YA reading audience age?

    In about 6th or 7th grade I remember mostly moving from kids books to the regular grown up section. Then again I’m not sure my taste in books was typical so I might have been missing something… :-). I spent a couple years as a young teen reading thru the science fiction section of our small town library mostly alphabetically (I only made it thru C…lots of A, B and C last names in that section!) before moving on…yeah, I was a pretty big nerd!

  2. Amy


    I’m reaching waaaaay back in my memory here, but I believe the YA genre is a fairly recent phenomena. One of the characteristics, of course, is the age of the protagonist. Although their ages are never given, I picture both girls in this novel to be old teenagers. Julie left her Swiss boarding school and went to college early due to the war. Other than that, most of the time in YA fiction the characters are learning to navigate an adult world. Honestly, the girls in this story are adults in the responsibilities they are given. I read a review somewhere that said that this one will likely appeal to adults more than teens, and I’m somewhat inclined to agree. Whether it’s because if the amount of detail or the lack of most teen issues (I.e. Maddie and Julie have no time for typical teen “angst,” though they have plenty of questions a bout life, and there is only the slightest whiff of a romance), I think only the most determined of teen readers would persevere through this one. There. I didn’t answer your question, did I? 🙂

  3. I have this one on hold at the library and hope to pick it up tomorrow. Even more so now that I’ve read your review. I wonder if YA vs. adult has to do with marketing more than an author’s intentions. It’s kind of like the difference between music that is marketed as “Christian” vs. music that is by bands that happen to be Christians but don’t market themselves that way. I’m betting that publishers have decided that adults won’t read books with teen protagonists so they get put into the YA market. Although I have to admit that’s just a guess on my part and I have no real knowledge of the book publishing/marketing business. 🙂

  4. I actually hadn’t even been thinking about the “obvious” part about the age of the protagonists. That makes complete sense…that and the marketing angle, as Alice mentioned. I have become so accustomed now to reading children’s literature (and enjoy it so much), that I forgot that most adults would probably rather read about other adults… 😉

    Given the huge success and adult following though of things like Harry Potter, Hunger Games, etc…it seems there are plenty of adults who will in fact read about younger protagonists.

  5. And so I think my curiosity is piqued enough that I will read it too…I just added myself to the request queue at the Library. And I will get Unbroken again and try to finish it this time (I think not reading that one in the middle of the night will be the key to that book for me, because I really do want to find out what happens!). My kids are fascinated by WWII era planes right now and ask every day to watch more documentaries, so I can pick up some complementary reading material for myself too.

    • Amy

      Kirsten, yes! Unbroken is a must-read, and I think you will enjoy Code Name Verity, too. Let me know what you think!

  6. The biggest criteria for whether a novel is young adult or adult is whether the publisher labels it as young adult. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it is appropriate for all young adults, or even that it will be enjoyed by young adults, but it does put it in the “young adult” category. You can usually tell because the metadata on the online book sites will have “Young Adult” or an equivalent age range listed.

    Beyond that, my understanding is that it’s not the age of the protagonist that matters as much as it is an authentic YA voice and YA perspective on the world. For example, a book with a teen protagonist, but written in such a way that the protagonist is described from an adult POV or with adult sensibilities (perhaps in a way that is less than respectful to teens) wouldn’t be a good example of YA.

    There is very little that can’t be included in YA in terms of content these days. Of course, that makes things difficult for teens who don’t want to read excessive language, violence, or sex, and makes reviews like this one very helpful in selecting books.

  7. Thanks for this review. It looks like something my daughter would love, and yes, of “good quality,” by which I mean skillful, beautiful prose that is more than just a listing of plot points, and themes that are uplifting rather than pandering or trashy.

    Also, thanks for the reminder about The Book Thief, which I own and love! I’ll recommend that to her as well.

  8. I just finished it two days ago, but I keep picking it up to re-read parts, realizing, “Oh, now I see how that fits!” It is such a well-crafted story, and I love that!

    With that said, however, I really struggle with the ethical issues it raises, and I don’t remember that being the case with The Book Thief. I’ll be pondering this one for a long time, but I might only recommend it with reservations.

    • Amy


      I don’t think I’m a deep enough thinker right now to really ponder the implications, although I DO think it’s very thought-provoking, even disturbing, in the end. It IS a well-crafted story, that’s for sure!

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