I finally convinced my sister to read Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and she came home one day after reading it and she asked me “Did you know Kaz was 17?”
Subconsciously I probably did. Out loud, it just sounded weird. He is the head of a renowned gang and is suppose to commit a heist of one of the most secure prisons in the Grisha world which is a pretty heavy burden for a 17 year old if I do say so. I think in my head, he was around my age (22) although I inadvertently make a lot of YA protagonists my age in my head especially in YA fantasy and scifi because if I’m to be honest, I sometimes think YA protagonists are a little young in proportion to the things they have to do. This is more in regards to YA fantasy because in YA contemporary, the protagonist is usually dealing with real life problems while in high school. If any older, it would just be New Adult, more or less, although there are obviously exceptions.
Because I was curious as to the number of protagonists belonged to which age category, I made a little infographic sampling a number of YA books and the ages of the main protagonists, their age on the left and their pictures on the right.
*Books chosen pretty much randomly out of the YA books. This is a very small sample of YA SFF out there and is not an extensive representation of the genre as a whole. I know I’ve forgotten a lot, books like Shadow and Bone trilogy, Bitter Kingdom trilogy, Clockwork Princess, Twilight etc. etc.
*Included only YA fantasy and scifi
*All pictures from Google images.
*All ages found on their respective Wikias. There may be some discrepancies.
First of all, I think it’s worth noting that these people–kids–essentially have pretty intense responsibilities and have already gone through a lot in life. Sharzhad already has her best friend killed and has already found her true love. June has a freaking government position basically while the other officials are adults if I’m not mistaken. Katniss is the face of a revolution. Caelaena is considered the best assassin in the land. And of course, Harry defeats Voldemort at the old, old age of 17. 17.
That’s pretty crazy if you think about it. I understand in fantasy that usually kids grow up faster than usual because the world they live in is usually very harsh like in An Ember in the Ashes. But still it makes me wonder why these ages were even chosen. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Caelaena to be a little older in order to really be the best assassin in the land. Sixteen is definitely the most popular age in YA which is understandable especially if you live in America. Even Veronica Roth once mentioned that she chose to make Tris 16 because it’s sort of a coming of age age, an age where everything changes and you are faced with a lot of decisions. But what does it say when the peak of your experiences in life happen in your teenage years?
I suppose in many ways I find it unbelievable because of my own experience. I mean I didn’t know what the heck I was doing when I was 16. I was young and very naive. I suppose the age debate in YA can go both ways. It’s true that I could have found some good role models who have a greater maturity level (for the most part) and are faced with life and death situations that I don’t have to think about but could still help me with my own decisions. Also, the sense of power and control that we have as teens isn’t very much so to see these protagonists take control of their lives and discover who they are is very gratifying. On the other hand, what is up with all these kids that apparently rule the world and all the adults are just really dumb entities that are just there.
It’s also worth noting, even though I don’t know what to make of it, that most of the female protagonists are on the younger end of the age spectrum, most being 16 and 17 with none that I can think of being 20 and older and still be considered to be YA. Most of the male protagonists are on the older end of the spectrum. Making this infographic also made me realize how odd some of the relationship age differences are. For example, Cress is 16 but she’s in a relationship with Thorne who is 20. And most weird is probably Rose who is 17 but becomes romantically involved with Dimitri who is um, 24 (lol).
The teen years are very different from your 20’s and in my opinion should not be interchangeable but oftentimes, when there are YA adaptations turned into movies, the actors are usually a lot older than their supposed age in the books and sometimes the characters’ ages are even changed in order to correlate more with the actors’ ages. For example, Four is suppose to be 18 in the books but he’s 24 in the movies, a significant age gap. Percy Jackson, played by Logan Lerman, was suppose to be 12 in the books but changed to 16. I’m not sure how old Clary Fray is suppose to be but the actress playing her in Shadowhunters is 20 and the actor playing Jace is 26 which is at least 3 years older than they should be. The show looks like a bunch of 20 year olds hanging out instead of teens. And most recently, Jacob from Ms. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is suppose to be 16 but he’s played by the lovely
Asa Butterfield who is 19 (although to be fair, Asa looks really young). I understand that there’s a bunch of schooling issues that go on with child actors but one wonders what it would be like if they had cast actors that were the correct age or would it have been too jarring to see?
I suppose it all comes down to realism for me. Some characters could be 16 but are very mature. I think what is off-putting to me was the fact that a lot of the characters surrounding these very young protagonists are actually adults. It’s realistic to me when it comes to Harry Potter because he always has guidance from the more experienced people around him and you can feel what a burden he has at such a young age while dealing the usual “teenage stuff” like crushes, homework, and first kisses; although I do admit it’s a very first-world teenage experience. In many ways, I could interchange these protagonists’ age to something older because their experience is not specific to the teen years like Harry’s is. Scarlet could very well be a 25-year-old instead of an 18-year-old who goes off with Cinder and company to defeat Levana. But what do I know? I mean there are 16 year olds who have gone to the Olympics and have been to war so maybe I’m just too narrow-minded to get out of my own experience.
I know that this post literally gave no answers to the questions I posed. But I want to know what you think about age in YA.
- Are these YA protagonists too young to be saving their worlds?
- How do you feel about the age gaps and the ratios of girls and boys on the age spectrum?
- Are some of these ages realistic to the story?
- I didn’t mention this in the post because it’s too broad a topic but what are your thoughts on the uneven amount of violence versus the relatively chaste sexuality of YA protagonists? Is it an age thing? Societal?