In a review of a book called The Local News by Miriam Gershow, the reviewer mentions asking another YA author (Blake Nelson) about his definition of the YA novel.
In the spirit of casual conversation he said, "Anything with a teenage protagonist. Anything."Ah. Beg to differ. Plead, actually.
Now granted, it was casual conversation. You can't expect airtight arguments over coffee or pedeconferencing down the street. But I feel as if that's just too simple. By that definition, David Copperfield and Great Expectations are both teen books because David and Pip go through the teenage years in the course of the novel. Yes, we make teens read them. But are they teen books? I don't think so.
Betraying my soft white underbelly (what do you expect, it's winter), I have to admit that I myself have no good definition for YA. Teenage protagonists do dominate. Prominent themes include coming of age, identity, relationships (especially first relationships). But does that mean you can throw all that in a pot and call anything that gets ladled out a teen book? I don't know.
Tell me what you think.