3rd Person POV in Young Adult – How to do it and successful examples
The Young Adult (YA) section has been increasingly popular in the last decade, with many books being enjoyed by adults well beyond the original 12 to 18 year old target demographic. Prime examples are The book thief, Throne of glass series Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Childrenor and the Pretty Little Liars series.
An overwhelming amount of novels in YA are written from a 1st person POV (point of view), since publishers and readers often claim that this is more fitting as it creates a more immediate connection to the main character and allows for an almost cinematic experience.
|1st Person||Feels natural, closer connection to protagonist||Can only describe what protagonist experiences||I woke up in the morning and walked to the door.|
|3rd Person Limited||Ability to narrate beyond one character, protagonist does not have to be present in every scene that is narrated||More distance between reader and protagonist||Sam woke up and walked to Lisa’s room. He hesitated before knocking, afraid she was still sleeping.|
|3rd Person Omniscient||Narrator is outside of the story and can thus enter the mind of any of the characters||As above for 3rd person limited. In addition it can easily get confusing and diffuse the flow of the story||Sam woke up in the morning and tiptoed to the door. He was unaware that Lisa had already been up for an hour.|
However sometimes it is better to tell a YA novel from a 3rd person POV. It could be that the story is too complex to be told from a 1st person POV, which is a very restrictive writing style as you can only describe what the main character is seeing/hearing/experiencing.
The other main reason to use a 3rd person POV is when you have multiple POVs. There are some novels that have used the 1st person POV for multiple characters successfully, however it can easily get confusing. If the two, or more, voices are not very distinct the reader can lose track of who is narrating when. Of course it becomes increasingly harder to use 1st POV the more narrators you have.
Finally, there are writers who prefer to use 3rd person POV.
If any of these reasons are true in your case then the question is how do you prevent your novel being rejected by an editor/readership that is used to the 1st person narrative?
First of all make sure that the novel meets all the other criterions of the YA genre: fast-paced, emotional, not yet mature characters that are trying to find themselves and figure out the world, identity related tensions and realistic adolescent issues (drugs, alcohol and sex).
Secondly, read successful YA novels that have been written in the 3rd person POV and compare them to Adult novels in 3rd person POV, so that you get a feel for the difference and what is acceptable for a younger target audience.
Since most YA books have been written in first person, I have compiled for your convenience a list below that includes only young adult novels written in 3rd POV. Please note that I have not included the Harry Potter series since it is considered a children’s book, although the later tomes in the series do deal with adolescent issues and are definitely worth a read to get a feeling for how the great J.K. Rowling engages younger readers.
YA Fantasy & Sci-Fi
The wrath and the dawn (series) by Renée Ahdieh
The winner’s curse (series) by Marie Rutkoski
Air awakens (series) by Elise Kova
Fallen (series) by Lauren Kate
Graceling (series) by kristin cashore
Throne of glass (series) by Sarah J. Maas
Truthwitch (series) by Susan Dennard
Wicked lovely (series) by Melissa Marr
Chase the dark (YA/UF series) by Annette Marie
Smokeless fire (series) by Samantha Young
The mortal instruments (series) by Cassandra Clare
Lady midnight by Cassandra Clare
Tithe (series) by Holly Black
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Uglies (series) by Scott Westerfeld
Pretty little liars (series) by Sara Shephard
Truth or dare (series) by Jacqueline Green
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell