Straddling The Fence

This is one I can’t figure out.   Some of my favorite books, SECRET LIFE OF BEES, ELLEN FOSTER, CROSSING BLOOD, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA  were written from the perspective of a young narrator.  They ranged in age from eight up to fourteen years old.  These books were read by adults, and young adults alike and to my knowledge, there wasn’t any question as to who might enjoy reading them more – they crossed into both genres.

Initially during the submission process of my first book, THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE, there weren’t any questions as to the genre from my editor, ( or my agent, John Talbot (  I wrote it as literary fiction, with a narrator who is eleven years old.  She deals with some bad “stuff,” physically and emotionally.   The book was submitted to top editors in NY.  I’m talking Jamie Raab, Pamela Dorman, Jonathan Burnham, Trish Todd, and Amy Einhorn, to name a few. 

As time has gone on, and the book hasn’t sold, my editor suggested perhaps trying a few young adult editors.  My agent agreed, and why not, considering the books above?  So, some of those were added into the mix.  Based on a few who provided some feedback, they came back and said it reads more adult, more like southern memoir.  (yes, like all writers we do tend to use our own personal experiences to think up what goes on in our books…but most of what happened to DIXIE is pure tee fiction – thank God – right?)

Anyway, so some think of it as adult and some YA, and therefore it’s straddling the fence.  And I’m like, really?  Who cares?  Why does this matter?  What about Twilight series?  And Hunger Games?  And what of the success of the books I mention above, with their young narrators?  Adults and YA have enjoyed them, hence the NEW genre I’ve read about known as “New Adult.”

So, I have to come to a conclusion that despite getting some great feedback from the publishing editors, like, “lyrical, poignant, strong voice, accomplished writer, commendable job, heartbreaking, funny and wise characters…”  there must be something about the book that isn’t striking the right chord, and I won’t even try to figure it out because it’s too subjective. 

The good news is, it is still on submission, so there is still hope.   The feedback has meant a lot to me, yet has confused me as well.   So, while I wait to see if someone else “gets it” like my agent and editor did, I’m still scratching my head, while sitting on this fence over here. 

What about your story, does it fit nice and neat, into a recognized genre?

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