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January 21, 2014

Guest Post: RED RISING author Pierce Brown on YA vs. Adult


RED RISING is an adult book --- it is being published by Del Rey, an adult imprint at Random House on January 28th. However, the protagonist of the book, Darrow, is 16 years old, and author Pierce Brown wrote the book when he was 23. So what makes it adult rather than YA, and should those distinctions even matter? In this article, Pierce talks about growing up, and how a lot of the issues that affect high school students continue into adult life. So does age even matter, then? Read on!

On January 28th, my debut novel, RED RISINGhits shelves. Since the protagonist is 16 but the book is heavy with adult-centric themes of power, justice and war, I’ve been asked if it’s a YA or an adult novel. Simply put, RED RISING is both.

I wrote RED RISING when I was twenty-three. I was a year out of college, between jobs, coming out of a relationship and completely and utterly confused about what I wanted to do with my life. So, I created a character named Darrow who took control of his life, who saw something wrong with his world and tried to change it without letting the world change him. Funny thing is, in the end he changed me.

Anyone who has ever gone to high school knows what it’s like to be, on a certain level, powerless. Teachers grade us. Coaches set our schedules. Other kids judge us. And, in my case, my parents moved me.  Eight times. That means 10 schools, 9 bedrooms, dozens of cliques, a ragtag variety of bullies, some wonderful teachers and some not-so-wonderful teachers.

Little was constant. I felt a little like a plastic bag being blown around by the wind. But I knew that when I escaped high school, everything would be different. Everything would be better because I would finally have control.

I was wrong.

In college I had more influence over my own life than ever before, but new problems quickly arose. New demands pushed and pulled, and a future spent in some cubicle somewhere started to feel predestined. Like I was meant to be swallowed by the machine. It wasn’t much different after I graduated.

Whatever you’re told, being an adult doesn’t mean you have control. No matter the power you have, the money you make, the age you become, we all feel a little bit at the mercy of something else --- the government, banks, chance, illness, our bosses etc.  That’s what Darrow is dealing with in RED RISING, the fact that any control he thinks he has over his own life is a mirage.  But he does not despair.  Instead he decides to break the chains and live for more.  He sets out to create his own future.

Fact is, we don’t have complete control over our lives.  Never have, never will. That’s ok. The point is, rather, to take control over the parts of our life that we can and live those parts in precisely the way we want.  That is living for more and that is what Darrow is fighting for.  What’s more, writing inspired me to find my own strength.

It’s my sincerest wish that reading RED RISING does the same for you, whether you are a teen reader or an adult.