One of my critique partners is a dedicated reader of Young Adult fiction. I mean as in, reads nothing else. Thanks to her, I’ve read far more YA in the past two or three years than I would have thought possible. Finally, about six months ago, I reached saturation point. I thought if I saw one more sixteen- or seventeen-year-old heroine who discovered magical powers and a new mysterious boy in school with whom she must join forces in order to save the world….I would scream. And yet every month when I put together my list of new releases, there are more and more and more and more YAs.
What are the adults reading? God help us if it’s only 50 Shades of Grey. (Okay, to be fair I haven’t read it. I’ve read a few excerpts. Don’t even get me started, but there are better-written erotic novels out there.)
But of course it isn’t just 50 Shades of Whatever. It’s also YA. Why do so many adults read YA? Because it’s not just the tween set that has propelled this genre into such prominence. I have a few theories:
1) The curiosity bandwagon. Harry Potter. Twilight. Hunger Games. These YA series have gotten so much media attention that everyone wants to see what the fuss is about, and it’s only been exacerbated by the movies.
2) Perpetual adolescence. At the risk of sounding like an old fart, by the time I was 18, I was hell-bent on leaving home and being an adult. Being a teenager and hanging around the parents until I was in my 20s would have sounded like sheer hell. Yeah, it’s a different world now, better in some ways. But nobody wants to grow up. Why is that? I have no idea. I think this article goes a bit far, but makes interesting points.
3) The publishing industry. If you see Publisher X make bazillions of dollars on a Young Adult series, then Publisher A, B, C, and Z are going to look for their own YA megaseller. Authors watching the sales listings see that almost the only books publishers are buying are YA, so they all rush to write their own YA books. And on and on it snowballs until, in a recent month, there were 125 new releases in speculative fiction, and more than 70 of them were YA.
So, I asked my friend why she, in her late 20s, wants to read about teenagers, and her rationale was much more thoughtful than mine. Here were some of her reasons: it’s a “pure” time of life when people are at their most emotionally raw, when they’re trying to learn who they are and who they want to be, when they’re discovering their physical as well as intellectual and emotional powers and limitations. So it makes for good drama.
Recently, I read that YA is on the decline, and that the new emerging genre is “new adult”—where the heroes and heroines are 18-22-year-olds. Which sort of sounds like an extension of adolescence to me.
What are your thoughts? Are you a fan of YA? Are you getting burned out on it? Why do you like or not like it?