Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why Not YA?

The YA (young adult) book market is thriving. In fact, some literary agents are only accepting YA manuscripts. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins and the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer are two publishing phenomena that drive the rush to find YA authors and their potential blockbusters.

Teens and young adults are savvy buyers and want literature written for them about the issues important to them. This means that authors must know how to talk (write) and behave like teenagers. It also entails skillfully addressing once-taboo subjects like sex, drugs and homosexuality because those are part of the teenage experience.

When I was a teenager (a hundred years ago), I read what was assigned for English class (books like Lord of the Flies and 1984) but not much else.

  • What books did you read as a teenager and were they written specifically for a younger market?
  • As an adult, do you read young adult novels? Why?


  1. I recall reading the Black Stallion and Nancy Drew series. Also books from Judy Bloom, S.E. Hinton and Madeleine L'Engle. A couple years ago, my friend Mark Hardy wrote Nothing Pink, a YA coming-out story published by Front Street. I don't usually read YA novels b/c the topics/voice doesn't appeal to me, but I am interested in reading those written by friends!

  2. Nancy drew mysteries: three a day, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Ghost in the Swing, A Wrinkle in Time, Pippi Longstocking, Little Women, Little Men, lots of science fiction short stories and novels, like Bradbury's The Illustrated Man, Interview with the Vampire, Lord of the Rings, and many more I can't remember. these last few not really YA so much I spose.

  3. How could I forget Nancy Drew? But would today's teenager read those books or thing they were for younger girls?

  4. As a pre-teen (5th-6th grade) I really loved the Babysitters' Club and Sweet Valley High series. I know they've done some work with the first series, trying to update some of the technology references to make it more applicable to today's youth.

    Still, when many of today's youth are already sexually active (or at least knowledgeable about it), it's hard to imagine them getting the same joys out of reading about relationships in this comparatively tame manner.

  5. I read C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle.

    You know, as a parent of many young adults, I really wish that some GOOD writer would make an effort to write some GOOD piece that didn't involve sex and drugs because those really aren't necessarily part of the teenage experience these days. Sometimes I think that adults assume that every teen is sexually active or taking drugs, but I know many, many aren't and don't who would like to read something *well-written* that didn't involve those subjects. Honestly, my kids have all resorted to the classics because most contemporary YA fiction doesn't interest them.

    But I guess sex and drugs are what sell, even in the YA market. Sigh.

  6. I was a teen right when YA lit was beginning to become popular (late 90s-early 2000s), so I was definitely reading stuff that was written for my age group at the time - I like to say now that I never grew out of it. Ironically, for all the complaints about so much sex and drugs in YA books, I read them because I find there to be less emphasis on sex than in the adult novels I attempt to read. In so many adult novels, sex permeates even minor points of the story, starting right from the description of characters and how attractive they are. In YA, when sex does appear, it feels much more organic.

    I do agree however that sex and drugs aren't integral to the teen experience, and am always happy when I find YA novels that eschew or at least de-emphasize romance.

  7. I was always an avid reader - but not really sure what I read at what age. Here are some of my favorites that I remember:

    Prydain Chronicles - Lloyd Alexander
    The Westing Game - Ellen Raskin
    Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
    Sherlock Holmes (The entire Canon multiple times)
    The Great Brain series - John D. Fitzgerald

  8. @Angela and @TrueVine. I didn't mean to infer that sex, drugs, homosexuality are part of every teen's *personal* experience but that teens are exposed to those themes daily -- in highschool, the media, their friends. And those themes don't have to be in every YA novel. A writer must first tell a great story -- the rest should unfold naturally.

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