I have written a novel for Young Adults. Well, strictly speaking Red Dragon-White Dragon (May, 2013, Thames River Press), is an historical crime novel for adults, but it was written to appeal to the next generation too. The Eighth Circle of Hell with its emotionally dark and brutal writing is, to my mind, strictly for adults only.
The body count in Red Dragon-White Dragon is over double that of The Eighth Circle of Hell, the writing much more graphic and the protagonist savage and remorseless. So why do I consider it suitable material for younger readers? What are the differences between adult and young adult novels?
Well, this is how I see it:
The theory goes that young adults have a rather limited attention span and are far too impatient and impulsive to read through an adult length novel of 80,000 words plus. I don’t necessarily believe that, (or rather believe it to be an over-simplification, as long as the story is engaging.) Most of the Harry Potter series exceed the suggested 60,000 maximum by some margin and Red Dragon-White Dragon is just over 80,000 words long. I have however deliberately used shorter sentences and paragraphs to make the writing seem less daunting and easier to comprehend.
There is greater freedom in young adult writing for the use of hyperbole. Everything, from the characterisation, to the narrative voice and the dialogue can be larger than life since that is how young people see things. The characters can almost be spoofs of a purely adult offering. Conversely, in a crime or mystery novel such as Red Dragon-White Dragon, young adults (reared on a diet of television) need to have the details of the reveal laid out in more detail than would be required for a seasoned adult reader.
Another suggestion for YA writing is to relax the grammar, thereby creating a more 'youthful' quality to the work. I'm afraid I couldn't quite bring myself to do that; Red Dragon-White Dragon is historical and therefore not wholly suited to relaxed grammar except in idiomatic speech. Besides, it's not really in my nature.
So far as content is concerned, young adults can take a great deal of straightforward violence completely in their stride and even rather glory in it. (Psychological, emotional and especially sexual violence is another matter entirely.) I have duly obliged the former; Red Dragon-White Dragon is a veritable blood fest!