What’s YA Got To Do With It?

An author friend tweeted this the other day from a conversation with YA writers: “It’s a good book, even though it’s adult.”

The humor comes from the fact that for years readers and some authors who write adult fiction have looked down on YA writing. Most of us know how the big hitters -- Harry Potter (post book 1)/ Twilight,/Hunger Games -- paved the way for YA dominance. It’s the fastest-growing category and often takes up more floor and shelf space than any other fiction group.

And it can be argued that’s partly because YA is a category and not a genre. But let’s not get lost in semantics. If you follow Publisher’s Marketplace (and you should if you’re looking for an agent or hope to work as an editor or agent), you’ll see an abundance of YA sales amidst the non-fiction.

So the question I’m most often getting asked on panels and in interviews is why do you think YA fantasy and dystopian has become so popular for so many adult readers? Lenore blogged here about how YA dystopian novels differ from the adult versions (hint, think happier endings on the YA versions), but that answers a different question.

What are your thoughts as to why adults are reading more YA than ever before?

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Laura Pauling said...

I find the pace faster and the writing cleaner. The adult novels - not all of them - are bogged down in all the things they tell us not to include - backstory, telling, long descriptions. YA in it's purest form is terrific writing - of course depending on the writer.

Mary Frame said...

I think YA is popular for the same reason - to use a cliche - so many people love to "relive the glory days" of their youth.

The age group - 14 to 19 - is an interesting time for everyone. It's the twilight between being a child and being an adult. It's when we experience our first love, first job, first time out on your own, first car, etc. and it's set against the dramatic backdrop of hormones and high school. And it's okay to be angsty!

YA is a great escape, IMHO. That's one of the reasons I like to write it ;)

Sarah Nicolas said...

I agree with Laura about the faster pacing and writing style. But also, I think teen novels feature characters that are still developing as people. So many adult novels have MCs that start the story jaded or broken and people - especially in this economy - don't want that. As teens, adult readers get to experience so many things and emotions for the first time, again.

This is a theory of mine and I don't really have any evidence to back it up except for antidotes, but I see a lot of adults who read YA also read paranormal, scifi and romance, which have similar characteristics when it comes to pacing and clean writing.

Unknown said...

Time commitment
My children can interrupt me while reading a YA and I don't lose the story. I can easily get back in without having to stop at a chapter break.
I also like the way the emotions are betrayed as well as the depth. When you are a teen it seems you feel everything more deeply. You don't hold any part of yourself back. Everything is the first time for them and it seems like the last as well. As adults we always have an eye out for consequences and never forget our responsibilities. I like reading YA because it helps me remember.
YA also is more fictional. This sounds bogus but when I read an adult novel I don't feel as far from reality as I want to be. All these things really do happen and it is scary. When I read YA I feel a barrier between myself and the fictional world. I can experience all the emotions without it leaking into my reality. I can be horrified that a group of young kids were thrown into an arena to kill each other but not worry it will happen to my kids.
Yep, I don't like to read it. There is less chance for me to run across it in a YA than an adult, especially since I like romance.

Stephsco said...

When I think of adult market or literary dystopian I think of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which is very bleak, or genre fiction like sci-fi that I think some people get intimidated by, or don't bother to visit that section of a bookstore. With YA, you find those books mixed in with everything else. I think it's a more open category, and with younger characters, their journey is more hopeful, usually involves romance, and is less bleak.

Taffy said...

For me, YA is popular because there isn't a lot of symbolism that I have to figure out. It's all there in the open.
YA seems to be more upbeat, even when it's a dark subject. Like the stories are made to inspire and give hope. Not so much in adult fiction.

VikLit said...

I think Stephsco above has it right, I think with adult dystopian is definitely seen as genre fiction. With YA they are all together on the shelf so they are more likely to be picked up. I think huge crossover novels like The Hunger Games help people turn to YA and not feel 'embarrassed' about reading something they feel they are too old for. YA dystopian are a pacey exciting accessible read and more and more adults are realising this.