When I decided to write Sunset Rising, my first obstacle was figuring out the age group of the YA genre. Some define the age group as 12 to 18, while others define it as low as ten, and some as high as 18 to 25. Wikipedia reports that 55% of YA readers are over 18 years of age. In the end, I had to decide what age group I was writing for and I came up with this rationale: YA is sixteen and over. While this may seem like an arbitrary decision on my part, it’s not. I’ll explain.
During the time I was struggling to define the age group for YA, my 13 year-old daughter came home from school and told me about her day. She and her friend Birdie (yes, it’s a made up name to protect her real identity) were hanging out on the school grounds watching the popular boys when one of the boys suddenly started vomiting. The other boys walked away in disgust, but didn’t stay away for long. They returned to the scene with a stick in hand and started poking at the steaming pile. Grossed-out and yet fascinated all at the same time, my daughter and her friend watched as the boys dissected the contents of their friend’s stomach.
When the boys got bored of poking at it and left, Birdie urged my daughter to come with her to check it out too. My daughter is a bit squeamish about barf and didn’t want to get too close, but she went in support of her friend and kept a respectable ten-foot distance. Fearless, Birdie went right up to it and reported back to my daughter that it was indeed chunky and had a really weird color. It also stunk. With their curiosity now satisfied, the girls went in search of the boys to see what else they were getting up to. Why? Because at thirteen, these are the popular boys and the girls see them as eligible dating material.
Now let’s consider how a sixteen-year-old would have reacted to seeing someone barf on the school grounds. I’m going to guess that the vast majority of sixteen-year-old girls would avoid the pile of barf, and maybe even one or two them would seek help for the sick person. The sixteen-year old boys would probably not have the urge to poke it with a stick, although they might take a peek and profess loudly to each other whether or not it was chunky. Boys would do this for the same reason that when someone announces he farted, they all have to sniff the air to confirm the claim. This is mature behavior for boys since they rarely change with age ;) While some girls may be turned off by the boys’ behavior, by sixteen they have come to accept it as normal, quirky behavior; in other words, a guy thing.
My point is by the age of sixteen, most individuals have gained enough experience to start making some mature decisions. They recognize gender differences and are beginning to accept them… in fact, maybe even embrace them. They are leaving their childhood behind to embark on becoming an adult. And most societies do recognize sixteen as the age of initiation into adulthood. Western culture celebrates the sweet sixteen birthday, Spanish celebrate the cuinceañera, and other cultures see sixteen as an appropriate age for marriage. So, when I wrote a Young Adult novel, I did it with the understanding that a YA is 16 and up.
February 2024: Desperate to find refuge from the nuclear storm, a group of civilians discover a secret government bio-dome. Greeted by a hail of bullets and told to turn back, the frantic refugees stand their ground and are eventually permitted entry. But the price of admission is high.
283 years later… Sunny O’Donnell is a seventeen-year-old slave who has never seen the sun. She was born in the Pit, a subterranean extension of the bio-dome. Though life had never been easy, the last couple of months had become a nightmare. Her mom was killed in the annual Cull, and her dad thought it was a good time to give up on life. Reyes Crowe, her long-time boyfriend, was pressuring her to get married, even though it would mean abandoning her father.
She didn’t think things could get any worse until she was forced upstairs to the Dome to be a servant-girl at a bachelor party. That’s when she met Leisel Holt, the president’s daughter, and her fiancé, Jack Kenner.
Now Sunny is wanted for treason. If they catch her, she’ll be executed.
She thought Leisel’s betrayal was the end. But it was just the beginning.
“Sunset Rising” is Book One of a series.
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Genre - YA Science Fiction, Dystopian
Rating – PG-16
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