Writers create out of our own experience--frequently. So it stands to reason that even books within the same genre are not going to be cookie cutter perfect--they're not going to follow the same rules. And yet it was clear to me after my recent seminar experience that some agents will reject books that don't fit genre norms.
For instance, one group of agents reading my query and opening pages commented that in young adult, the parents have to go. That really struck me. In my books, while the parents aren't central, they are definitely part of the story, because they are part of my main character's struggle. So much of young adulthood--which in the publishing world encompasses readers of high school age--is comprised of the coming to terms with parents that the idea of their absence is really absurd. And it's not hard to find examples of YA lit that include parents or parental figures as central characters.
I don't really think that the majority of agents would reject a truly intriguing story simply on the basis of breaking these so-called genre rules, but for some, it might give them pause. On the other hand, most of the agents were intrigued with the idea of a new twist on any genre. So it basically comes down to walking a fine line between being wrong and being groundbreaking.
What do you think? As a writer, what genre rules do you see, and do you view them as unbreakable? As a reader, would you not pick up a book because it had some differences from other books in the same genre?