Are Adult books threatened by YA?

Are Adult books threatened by YA?

This is not a post about whether adults should be reading YA, but rather a look into why YA dominates the current market.Is YA eclipsing Adult books?

Are Adult books threatened by YA?

The short answer is yes. A glimpse at my TBR (to-be-read) shelf on Goodreads confirms that. And I don’t think I am alone. If that doesn’t convince you a quick search online will show you that currently, YA books top the sales statistics and although this could be argued that they not purchasing for themselves, the majority of buyers are adults.

Categories and buzzwords

Before YA became a category (It’s not a genre!), a buzzword and sometimes sadly a condescending sneer, we read what we wanted to. Admittedly books aimed at the YA market a few decades ago were few and far between, think The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Ask Alice, but these were enjoyed by all, alongside adult novels. 

The publishing industry has exploded in the last few years and there are more books published in a year that could be read in any lifetime. It’s all too terrifying to think of the great books we’re not going to have time to read.

Books are now extensively categorised and marketed in different niches. I am known for blurring the lines so it’s no secret I don’t like this. I have never pretended to be pretentious and only read top quality literature. This doesn’t mean I don’t, I just don’t read these exclusively because I believe we should read what makes us happy (yes even sad books can make our souls happy!).

With more than ten years experience in school libraries, I have been exposed to a wide range of books targeted for different age groups. During this time I started making a point of reading more YA to be able to book talk and recommend books to teenagers who according to our statistics were reading less than any other students. Now? Even though I am not currently working in a school 90% of the books I read are YA

Why do I read YA?

So why am I reading YA? Because I am addicted want to. When I am reading for pleasure I want to read what I like.

I believe the appeal of YA books comes down to the following:
Fast-paced, emotional, intense, exciting, the feels, realistic, relatable, dramatic, risky

In comparison adult books often seem slow, boring, tedious, monotonous, tired. Even highly anticipated books built up with media hype, such as the recent The Girl in the Train fall flat when put against the furiously expanding YA category.

Disclaimer: Obviously my opinion on adult books is a generalisation and not all YA is good, but there are many excellent YA reads which can be found on Goodreads or better yet from the recommendations made by honest bloggers & reviewers.
The blogs I recommend can be found on the drop-down menu under ‘About Me’ in the menu above. 

So here’s the question…  Is YA eclipsing Adult books?

Can Adult books keep up? Should we be worried?

Perhaps the key is in marketing?

I am hoping rather than squashing down those adult’s who, like me, happily read YA in public there can be a spark of change coming from the book industry themselves. Perhaps the key is in marketing?

The pre-publishing hype for YA is phenomenal, and in my opinion, it surpasses any other category. When, as a book blogger, I request an advance copy (ARC) of a YA title I already know a great deal about it. Book bloggers are always tuned to the new-book-radar. Listening to the quiet murmurings that a debut has reached the publishers or an established author is working on a new book. I anticipate the cover reveal, debate its aesthetics with fellow bloggers. I have read quotes, advanced reviews and seen book trailers. But when I browse the forthcoming adult titles I am frequently confronted by titles and covers I have never heard of…

Let me know what you think.

Further reading for those interested in the YA debate:
CNN:  A brief history of young adult literature
The New York Times: When Authors Take Risks, That’s Not Kid Stuff
New York Public Library: How did YA Become YA?
School Library Journal YA: A Category for the Masses. But What About Teens?
The New York Times: The Great Y.A. Debate of 2014
The Slate Book Review: Against YA
The English Journal: Young Adult Literature: The Problem With YA Literature
The Guardian: Why are so many adults reading YA and teen fiction?

12 Comments

  • Heather

    I think that the YA community tends to talk about the same books at the same time so it seems like that book is everywhere. I’m more of a fan of adult books and I wish we were as enthusiastic as YA bloggers. But the adult market is so spread out that most people are talking about different books. You never get that overwhelming support behind a single book or series.

    • That’s so true. Is the YA market smaller? I think it may be so more emphasis on each book, but I still think marketing is key. With the right marketing campaign any book will hit record sales in the beginning, but won’t sustain the sales unless the book is well written,

  • Cait @ Paper Fury

    oooh, this was very interesting! I totally agree with what you said about the marketing! Like I’ll maybe hear a bit about one or two adult books in a year? Mostly this is because I only hang out in YA circles, I guess.? But it IS strange that the only time I see adult-book-hype is generally because there’s a movie coming out of it or something. I do think adult books could be marketed better. I’ve read some incredible adult books (adult fantasy FTW) but YA is what I love the best. It IS so fast-paced and emotional and risky and exciting and humorous. <3 Just what I need while reading!

    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

  • Mareli Thalwitzer

    Hi Sue! I’ve been contemplating this debate myself for a while. And yes, YA does seem AND proof to be ever more popular. Will that mean that adult fiction will be nevermore? Nope. But I agree completely with you, marketing does have a lot to do with it. And not only Netgalley and Goodreads and those guys, but the whole blogosphere in itself. Most books that travel on the blog are YA and fantasy. Maybe it’s a generation thing?

    Personally I still mostly read adult fiction, but do love a great YA novel. Even the new Deon Meyer tends to have strong aspects of YA in it!

    Great discussion.

  • Puput @ Sparkling Letters

    Great discussion! 😀 I’ve seen this topic being discussed for a while and almost all of them agree that YA is getting more and more popular each day! I think it’s because YA covers a wide range of interesting topics and almost everyone could relate to it. I mean, most people have experienced what it feels to be a young adult and that’s why reading a character that age seems more appealing 😛 YA also has that perfect dose of cuteness/seriousness, which is kind of missing on adult books. Most of adult books I’ve read (which aren’t that many) have more serious vibes… But I like trying out new things and as I get older, I’ll probably try reading more adult books 😀 and last but not least, thank you for featuring me as one of your favorite bloggers! That’s so sweet and I’m totally honored! 😀

  • Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    This is SO accurate, Sue! I think one of the biggies IS marketing- and the fact that the YA community is SO enthusiastic. By comparison, the adult book community seems so much more… subdued? And I think that does hurt. Even before I started reading YA (because like you, there was no such thing really when I was younger), a lot of my adult friends did- and were the catalyst for me finally trying The Hunger Games 😉 They were SO excited about the YA books they’d been reading, but generally apathetic about most of the adult titles (not ALWAYS, mind you, there are of course a few gems they had loved too, but as a whole). Then when I started reading YA, I found that I was enjoying reading SO much more- and was reading better books more frequently.

    I think another reason that YA is so popular is because it DOES appeal across the board. It’s got themes that appeal to every age range, it doesn’t just cut off at a certain age. But (and knowing this from when I was young), I was not really into adult books at a younger age. I found them generally dull. Again, not all! But more often than in YA.

    I think too, if I was writing a book (which like, I guess you could say I am, but slowly hahahha) which community would I rather be a part of? One that is excited and full of life and vigor, or one that is just generally… there, status quo? I choose the former, of course, which is why I blog about YA books- and want to write them, too. Plus, I feel like you can explore so many themes in YA books that apply to everyone, but that some people consider “young”. Like you said, adult books DO seem to feel monotonous and tired to me- I think you nailed it. Of course there are exceptions, but as a rule, it’s why I am hesitant to even try unless I know the author or have heard great things from trusted bloggers! (Speaking of, I am SO honored to be on your list of bloggers, thank you!! Talk about being in great company, too ♥)

    FABULOUS post, Sue!!

  • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    First off, thanks so much for linking to my blog. I feel honored to be listed there with Shannon and Cait because they are huge favorites of mine as well. I actually hadn’t heard of Sparkling Letters, but I will definitely be checking it out now based on this recommendation!

    You say SO many things in this post that are absolutely true for me. I have often tried to branch out into adult books (after all, I’m over 40!), but I have to confess that more often than not I find myself a bit bored. I simply gravitate toward YA. And I definitely agree that YA books get a lot more hype, so I know a lot more about them when I pick them up and I’m more excited for them. (PLUS, they often get prettier covers—and I am not ashamed to admit that when it comes to first impressions I USUALLY judge a book by its cover!)

    Are YA books going to overtake adult books? Well, probably not. At least not completely. But I do think the genre (wait, I know it’s not a genre – the category) is growing in leaps and bounds, and that makes me very happy. More amazing books for me to read!

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