. . . either for tragedy, comedy,
history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral,
tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral . . .
Polonius, Hamlet, 2.2
First, as cliché demands, the good news: my novel Today, Oh Boy has been accepted for publication, which, of course, delights me. Already my mind is running riot with unreasonable aspirations. No, I’m not dreaming of PEN awards or Pulitzers. We’re talking commercial fiction here, a narrative devoid of deeper meanings, a plot concocted to distract, not to enlighten. No, I’m not rehearsing acceptance speeches but wondering who is going to play the protagonist Rusty in the Hula Netflix TNT USA Network Apple TV adaptation.
You know of any skinny redheaded sixteen-year-old actors with acne?
And now the potentially bad news. The publisher (who shall remain anonymous for now) has classified the novel as Young Adult. Here’s a quote from the acceptance letter:
“The characters fit nicely into their setting, embodying the south of the past and making the story stand out against a typical high school drama. The Board was keen to comment on the dynamic writing style and believes the story has the potential to excel within its genre.”
But the thing is, I wrote Today, Oh Boy for literate adults, not for tweens. Here’s a sentence from the novel describing one of the characters, AJ, who has cut school in the middle of the day and just finished smoking a joint with his dropout friend Will Waring:
“While Will has been daydreaming and tuning out his mother, Weeza has been quizzing AJ about his dismissal from school, essentially perp-walking his thoughts right out of lotus land into the dingy confines of a Raskolnikovian closet.”
Of course, I know whoever the editor might be will definitely ax “Raskolnikovian closet” because no tween or teen (or typical adult for that matter) has read Crime and Punishment and therefore won’t recognize the allusion to its agoraphobic protagonist pent up in his impoverished toilet stall of a rented room. But, hey, I like the way it sounds.Read it aloud: Rask-KOL-ni-KOV-ian closet.
And to add insult to injury, I don’t dig YA novels, have only read a handful because I taught 7th and 8th grades in my earlier teaching career. Although well-crafted, The House on Mango Street and The Giver aren’t up my alley. I’m not an admirer of To Kill a Mockingbird for that matter.
I’ll admit, though, that Today is difficult to classify. In one sense, it’s historical fiction because it takes place in a real place, Summerville, SC, in the year 1970, which in the Hula Netflix TNT USA Network Apple TV adaptation will require period clothing and vintage automobiles.
In another sense, it’s a souped-up Greek comedy sans chorus: it takes place in one day and essentially in one setting with continuous action.
It’s got a gruesome death, stolen goods, drug use, kung-fu fighting, and a highspeed chase.
So, what are we dealing with here? A historical-romance-Greek Comedy-Mystery-Action Adventure?
If it were up to me, and I was forced to ram into a sub-genre, I’d call it Pulp YA.
If I had self-published, I could have had full autonomy, but now my brainchild is under the authority of others. They say they’ll work with me, but the contract also makes it clear that they have the final say-so. Chances are Today, Oh Boywon’t be sporting the cover below when you buy it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or better yet, from your local independent bookstore.
 I did read the Classic Illustrated version of C&P when I was ten or so and didn’t enjoy it.