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