What is the best POV to use in a young adult novel?

Author Name
Answered by: Julie, An Expert in the Fiction Writing - General Category
POV is the acronym for narrative "point of view." Choosing the best POV can make or break your novel, so it is important to consider your options carefully! In short, first-person is the best POV for young adult fiction -- or at least the most frequently used. Third-person limited is the second most popular POV in young adult fiction. Third-person omniscient is also possible, but rarely used.

You can think of POV as similar to the camera’s position in a movie. Almost all fictional works employ either first-person POV or third-person POV. (Second-person POV also exists, but it is rarely the best POV to try because it is awkward and unnatural.)

In first-person POV, the reader experiences exactly what a single character experiences. The POV character (usually the protagonist or main character) speaks directly to the reader, using the pronouns "I" and "me." It's as if the camera is inside the head of that character, looking out on the world through that one person's eyes. The reader sees, hears, feels, and thinks only what that character does. First-person point of view is the best POV for most young adult novels for several reasons.

First-person is a natural POV for young adult fiction because it allows the reader to experience the protagonist's feelings and perceptions directly. When done well, first-person allows the writer to capture the reader's attention with a unique, engaging voice. Good first-person narration allows readers an intense and seemingly unfiltered sharing of the main character's story. For these reasons, many authors consider this the best POV to appeal to young adult audiences.

Examples of first-person POV in recent young adult novels include Suzanne Collins's "Hunger Games" trilogy, Rick Riordan's "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series, and most of Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" series. (The faux-diary form, as used in Laurie Halse's award-winning "Speak," is a subset of the first-person POV.)

Third-person limited point of view is the next most popular choice for young adult writers. It is the best POV for certain stories because of its greater ability to describe the world outside the main character. To return to the camera metaphor, you can think of third-person point of view as using a camera positioned outside of the main character's head (rather than within it, as in first-person POV). The easiest way to recognize third-person POV is that the author uses third-person pronouns like "he" or "she" to talk about the main character(s). In third-person POV, the narrator does not refer to any of the characters as "I" or "me."

Most young adult novels written in third-person POV choose the "third-person limited" point of view, in which the author sticks very closely to one main character and that character's perceptions. If narrative POV is like a movie camera, then the camera in third-person limited point of view is generally positioned just above and behind the main character's shoulder. It sees what the protagonist sees and follows him or her closely throughout every experience. However, it may pull back slightly at times to include the protagonist in its frame rather than seeing exclusively through one person's eyes. For example, J.K. Rowlings's phenomenally successful Harry Potter books primarily use third-person limited POV.

Although the third-person limited POV lacks the natural immediacy of first-person POV, it is the best point of view for some stories. For example, a novel written in third-person POV can more easily show how others perceive the main character and can describe the world around the protagonist with less interference from the filter of personality that is built into first-person narration. If something important happens to or near a main character who is too oblivious or self-absorbed to notice it, for example, third-person limited may be the best POV. Also, the third-person limited is the best POV for authors who want the freedom to employ vocabulary, knowledge, concepts, or turns of phrase that the main character might not use.

There is one last POV option for young adult novels: "third-person omniscient." In this point of view, the camera is not only outside of the main character, but is capable of almost a "god's eye" view: like a movie director with a huge Hollywood budget, the omniscient narrator can take advantage of a full range of "camera tricks." This is the best POV if you want to show the world of the novel from a combination of distances, "camera positions," and viewpoints.

For example, you can first pan across an entire city or neighborhood, then describe a particular adolescent boy from the outside, consider that same adolescent from his mother's point of view, summarize how the kids at his school see him, and finally zoom all the way into the protagonist's perceptions. In sum, the omniscient narrator can know (and tell) everything about the characters, the story, and the fictional world. For these reasons, third-person omniscient may be the best POV for multi-generational sagas and sweeping epics.

Despite the intoxicating freedom of third-person omniscient narration, this is rarely the best POV to appeal to young adult readers. First, this omniscient POV lacks the immediacy of both first-person and third-person limited -- and young adult readers crave intensity! Further, this is seldom the best POV because it seems old-fashioned to contemporary readers. Most importantly, third-person omniscient is the hardest point of view to write well. The endless possibilities of narrative distance, diction, and vocabulary can make it difficult to craft a coherent narrative voice.

Even if telling your story demands access to the thoughts and feelings of multiple characters, you need not resort to the sticky wicket of third-person omniscient. The best POV option for such situations is often a shifting point of view, in which you alternate chapters or book sections told in two (or more) characters' points of view.

Author Name Like My Writing? Hire Me to Write For You!

Related Questions