Saturday 16 June 2012

Discussion- The new trend in adults reading YA books

"Hello, My name is Sally,
and I'm a YA-oholic"

This is my confession. I absolutely love YA fiction, and this obsession doesn't show any signs of stopping in the near future. I can't explain exactly why I love these books, I only know I can't get enough of them. It's something about the fantasy, the fun, the romance, and the fact they are easy to read. I read for fun, in my spare time after all. I don't need to be lectured at. 

And I like the love stories in the books as well. I feel like I can relate to these exciting new hope-filled new first romances better than to the disillusioned, often bitter experiences of love in adult chick-lit.
I also like the high-school teenagery settings. I was a teenager once and I know what it's like to be one. I can't connect with these high-powered executive women of adult fiction- quite frankly, they intimidate me. Give me a girl who is still trying to find herself and her place in the world. 

Ya fiction is usually fun, light and easy to read. I know I won't be put-off by wordiness or authors who are trying to show off with pretentious displays of complex linguistic metaphors. It won't be overly political, or trying to make a point. Children's fiction has to be grabbing, because it is aimed at an audience that will not read it if it they are not entertained. 

Recently, someone on Formspring asked me if I had ever been critisised for reading YA fiction. I answered with-

Yes. There are a couple of people at work who constantly make jibes at me for only reading "children's books". When I say that a particular teen book is absolutely fantastic, they sneer at it, and say I should read a proper book.That's one of the reasons that I started stalking Goodreads and ultimately set up my own blog- so that I could share books and get recommendations from people who read the same sort of books that I do.

I initially joined Goodreads because it seemed like a perfect place to get new book recommendations, and to chat about YA books online. I was thrilled and amazed to find so many people who had read the same books that I had. It opened my eyes to a whole new world where grown women like me read YA! I have no-one in my "real-life" to talk about "my kind of books" with, and I started my blog because I wanted to join in with this online conversation. And I love it. I'm in contact with so many people of all ages who love these books and don't judge my taste in books- they share them!

Recently I attended a couple of author signings from some of my absolute favourite YA authors. I was a little bit nervous about going to the first one. I kind of expected it to be just me a bunch of teenagers in line- but I was really pleasantly surprised to find that actually, nearly everyone there was my age or older. If I had to guess I would say that most of the room was in the 25-40 age bracket. This trend in adults reading YA has really taken off in a big way in the past couple of years. I have found quite a few online articles talking about this very thing.
YA Book Sales Increasing Despite a General Decrease in Overall Book Sales
From a publisher's standpoint, it is clear that YA books are selling better than their adult counterparts. According to the Book Industry Study Group, sales of YA books have increased by 23 percent since 1993 while adult book sales have decreased in the same time period by one percent. Clearly there are a lot of people reading and buying YA books, and for the publishers this is a good thing.
The bottom line is that YA is more a point-of-view as opposed to a particular age demographic. They are fun, light and easy to digest.,0,1082099.story
It used to be that the only adults who read young adult literature were those who had a vested interest -- teachers or librarians or parents who either needed or wanted to keep an eye on developing readers' tastes.
But increasingly, adults are reading YA books with no ulterior motives. Attracted by well-written, fast-paced and engaging stories that span the gamut of genres and subjects, such readers have mainstreamed a niche long derided as just for kids.
Thanks to huge crossover hits like Stephenie Meyer's bloodsucking "Twilight" saga, Suzanne Collins' fight-to-the-death "The Hunger Games" trilogy, Rick Riordan's "The Lightning Thief" and Markus Zusak's Nazi-era "The Book Thief," YA is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise bleak publishing market.
"I think part of the reason we're seeing adults reading YA is that often there's no bones made about the fact that a YA book is explicitly intended to entertain," said Lizzie Skurnick, 36, author of Shelf Discovery"YA authors are able to take themselves less seriously. They're able to have a little more fun, and they're less confined by this idea of themselves as Very Important Artists. That paradoxically leads them to create far better work than people who are trying to win awards." According to Skurnick, who also reviews adult fiction for publications including The Times, YA books are "more vibrant" than many adult titles, "with better plots, better characterizations, a more complete creation of a world."

Books for teens are designed to hook readers and keep them reading. In most cases, the first 15 pages of a YA novel introduce the protagonist(s), plot, and source of dramatic tension, something that can take nearly 50 pages in a book for adults. The emotions and motivations of the characters are front and center.

All of these articles talk about an increasing number of adults reading teen fiction, whether through word of mouth, or from being interested in what their teenage kids were reading. But they all point it as a positive thing, and an exciting new trend. Publishers report an increase in sales, and enthusiastic emails from women in their 30s and 40s who adore the characters in these books. Many books are now being called "crossover" titles, appealing to both young and older readers.
And many novels written for teenagers are now winning prestigious literary awards as well. Surely this proves that they are not only popular, but that they are GOOD, and are worthy of an audience beyond the narrowness of the young adult population.

However, I also read a blog post from a blogger a couple of weeks back that stunned and upset me. It claimed that adult book bloggers- grown women were influencing the types of books and characters that are meant to be addressed to a teenage audience.

There's a clique of book bloggers who all say pretty much the same thing about the same books: these women (and all the blogs I've seen that fall into this category are run by people who claim to be women) are taking YA away from the kids, and it's causing teachers and librarians problems.
We all know that publishers are in a dither right now to retain their control over their world.  They are up against self-publishing and e-books, and everything's in a whirlwind with no one really able to guess the outcome. They are desperate, and thus they are letting grown women become their "kids."
I'm not sure I completely agree with this statement. I think it hugely overestimates the influence that bloggers have on what publishers choose to publish. But it also the went to say-

Now, it's no secret that lots and lots of women read romance novels for fantasy reasons.  But before Meyer, these romance novels were usually about adult men and women. It is not uncommon now for blogging women to write about "hot" teenage guys.  I've seen discussions about sexy TEEN male characters over and over again.  And we know of the existence of Twilight moms who lust after the young characters in Twilight... And this lusting after sexy fictional teen boys is ruining all the good that Rowling did for kids.Look, I think it's fine if women want to read romance -- even teen romance, even lusting after sexy fictional teen boys.  (I feel a little bad for their husbands/boyfriends, though.)
 Whoa! Hang on! Thanks so much for making me feel like a right pervert now(!). I know in the past I have gushed over characters like Jay in the Body Finder series, Ren from The Tiger's Curse, Adam in If I Stay, and Jacob in the Twilight series, but they are characters! It's not like I go lusting after 17 year old boys in real life! They are fictional characters! I love the way that their personality and actions are described in a fictional novel. I think that Jay is so good for Violet in the novel. Maybe it's more like their essence appeals to my own 17-year old self- that I wish that I had known someone like that when I was that age. I love the fact that in stories we can immerse ourselves in an imagination. I can't explain it, but when I gush over boys in books I am not really connecting them to my real world.

We've got all these women in the book blogging clique influencing publishers now.  They advertise and promote on their blogs, and they all act alike and promote the same things, ignoring other types of YA.  So, desperate publishers kiss up to them and give them more and more of the same stuff.And those publishers are not giving us much for kids anymore.  The kids can go to heck, as far as the desperate publishers are concerned.  If these ADULT women who want to read about sexy teenage boys are buying books and selling books for them, then that is the group to whom they will cater.
What? I actually completely disagree with this statement. But it got me to thinking- am I actually in the wrong here? I love reading YA and I love writing about books I have loved on my blog, and talking and sharing great YA books with other like minded people. But should YA fiction just be for the young adults of the world? Is it okay for an almost 30-year old woman like myself to love these stories? Or should I be listening to the scorn of some of my workmates and go back to reading proper "grown-up books" again? The Man Booker prize titles? But they look so dry!
 Is the new popular trend of YA actually hurting publishing? Are these books worthy, or is the fact that so many adults love these books a sign (as some people have claimed) of "dumbing down"?

Please let me know your thoughts. If you write a response or a discussion post on this subject please leave me a link to let me know.

I personally am going to keep reading the books that I enjoy, regardless. Do you read YA books? Why?

Thanks for reading.

And stop by on Monday, where I have YA author Sherry Soule stopping by, with a guest post to share why she loves YA books, and which authors have had an influence on her.


  1. It all started with JK Rowling and Harry Potter. Recall that HP was meant to be for children. But it didn't take long for adults to get on the bandwagon. YA books are often light reads, but there are those that touch on serious, sometimes painful topics. The point is people are interested in books and reading. And that can never be a bad thing.

  2. I read adult and YA fiction...I think people can read what the hell they like! Young adult isn't children's fiction's for young, erm adults. So yes, I'd be concerned of publishers were changing their kids books to suit adult readers but young adult is aimed at an older audience than Harry Potter (even though many adults read HP unscorned).

    Maybe I take a little offence at people saying all adult books are dry or boring though...there is just as much variety in them as there can be in YA :)

  3. Very interesting post. I think a lot of adult women do read YA, and I think, especially with the rise of paranormal, these books are different than the ones I read when I was younger (ie. Sweet Valley). Thing is I was reading those books when I was in elementary school, I didn't read as much when I was actually in high school. I also recently came across mention of "new adult" which is more college based, perhaps as a way to allow for more mature situations for adult readers.

    I'm not sure what the whole appeal is for YA, but yes, they're usually hopeful and easier reads. As for being attracted to male characters this happens rarely for me. I can see the appeal of a character but rarely find myself swooning (neither Edward or Jacob ever did it for me).

    I'm not really sure where I'm going with this other than to say that I think people should be able to read what they want!

  4. I have to say when I was a teen myself I loved classics. There wasn't a wide range of "Teen" titles as I'm pre-Twilight generation. That and I just didn't have time to reach out and find those titles. I still think we are young adults until partly into our 30s. I mean who cannot relate to that period of time in high school.. we all went through it. I mainly read YA and then some MG and lower since I am a librarian. I think teens themselves are reading more YA these days because they don't just see other teens reading them but adults. They know they are reading great books and so are we. That article is ridiculous to characterize female adult bloggers as basically pedophiles and sell-outs. We get pitched YA because that is what we read. :)

    1. I read classics as a teen as well. I absolutely loved Little Women and Jane Eyre, and I started reading a bunch of Thomas Hardy, Daphne Du Maurier, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens as well. I have read a wide range of fiction in the past- only my current favourite phase is YA fiction.

  5. I think it's important to remember that most authors don't sit down and think "Today I will write a book about teenagers that will appeal to the adult women bloggers." They just write a book about teenagers.

    And conversely there are plenty of books out there that have teenager, or younger, main characters but are classified as "adult" fiction.

    Whether a book is YA or not is decided by the publisher and has everything to do with marketing. When I was a teenager there definitely were not this many books in the YA section. And the ones there were of a reading level that I felt I had passed when I was in grade four. So, I read mostly adult fantasy and sci-fi. Which were mostly about young people, thrown into impossible situations, where they had to discover themselves, save the world, and maybe fall in love.

    Which sounds exactly like what the majority of YA is today.

    With big sellers like Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, etc, it is beneficial to the publisher to market as many books as they can as YA because that is where people are currently looking for the next big THING.

    Ten years from now, this will probably change and I'll be back to reading adult sci-fi and fantasy. The point is, I'll be reading the same type of books. They will just be shelved somewhere different in the bookstore.

    YA Books are not for teenagers. They are for whoever will buy them. They same way that adult books are not for adults. They are for whoever will buy them. A lot of what the article you quoted from implies that people are only allowed to buy books from certain shelves in the bookstore. Try telling teenagers that they can only read books that are meant for teenagers. See what happens.

    In regards to pedophilia implications...I have almost no words. Besides the fact that these characters are fictional and we can picture them in our heads as any age we want (and I so don't picture them looking like teenagers when I read.) people cannot be judged for their thoughts or I'm pretty sure you'd have to arrest every single person for murder. Or whatever.

    People can think/fantasize/whatever they want. That's the beauty of it all being in your head. Judge people are their actions.

    Thank you for posting about this. It was a very interesting read.

    Long story short: Read what you want to read and never, ever feel ashamed of it.

    ...I could say so much more but I'm going to stop here.

  6. One thing to consider is that YA books have a much more diverse range of subjects in one section of the bookshop than other sections - you've got your crime, thriller, romance, fantasy, science fiction etc novels all together. It can be easier to try new things or discover them in that section of the bookshop.

    I don't necessarily think YA fiction is apolitical, though - and certainly not always light or fluffy. It comes back to the wide range, I suppose - there's a really wide range of stuff available within the realms of YA, from the fast-paced light reads to more thoughtful and considered tomes.

    On an unrelated note, given that very often the Twimoms are swooning over centuries-old vampires, doesn't that make them in a *slightly* more acceptable position to be doing so than the teenage readers? ;)

    1. Yes- I shouldn't say that all YA fiction is light and fluffy. I've read some very dark and disturbing reads but I've absolutely loved them- because they are so well written.
      I like the range and the diversity out there.

  7. The fact that the negative blogger practically compared us to perverts is very upsetting. I "swoon" just as much over the kick ass chicks in the books as I do over the guys. Bottom line, a good book is a good book and the important thing is that you´re reading regardless of whether you´re and adult reading ya or a teen reading adult.

    1. That's true actually, I hadn't thought of that! I also say a lot that I loved a girl character because she's so smart and feisty- again, it's a love of the characters- it doesn't mean anything.
      Thanks so much for your comment!

  8. You should be angry and you should be upset... that that blog post made you doubt, for even a second, reading what you love and blogging about it passionately. Other than that, the tone, content, and claimed intent of the post ensures I can't take what it says seriously and won't spend any more time in rebuttal than I did on these few sentences.

  9. Really, catagorizing books into 'young adult' and 'adult' shouldn't set a standard as to what someone SHOULD read. At the end of the day, they're all stories that have the ability to make someone happy, sad... anything. Honestly, the only reason that they should even be catagorized is so younger kids and teens don't pick up a book with loads of mature content that they're too young for; kind of like with movies. Saying that an adult shouldn't read YA is kind of like saying that an adult shouldn't go see a PG-13 movie. At least that's how I see it.

    Which brings me to why I read YA books: Because so many awesome stories have come from the YA catagory. It has nothing to do with "sexy teenage boys." If I wanted to read something sexy, I'd read a romance novel. And its not like we (bloggers, readers) only read books with such characters. That accusation feels nearly sexist, that all we do is care about the romance and the male characters involved. The characters I love reading about? Smart and strong female protagonists, like Katniss Everdeen or Hermione Granger since such characters can strengthen me with their own strength. I like characters that set good examples.

    Sure, there are probably some chicks out there that DO follow the stereotypes explained and "lust" after the guys. But it is so wrong to think that we all do. Every woman, reader, blogger, teen, human being for that matter, has a different brain.

    Lastly, as far as all this being a sign that we're "dumbing down," I highly doubt it. No one reading these books should worry, in my opinion. Seriously, isn't The Catcher in the Rye considered YA (as well as a classic)? Last time I checked, no one who read that book has ever been certified "dumb." I guess it would depend on the type of book. In my world, calling something YA doens't tell me anything about the type of book it is, and I think that more adults need to realize this.

    Anyway, thanks for posting this. You made us all think and defend our books! :)

  10. Her blog was just painful. I mean, how can anyone say that YA books are perpetuating the idea that girls can't be happy without a man? Look at Tris, Puck, Tessa, Clary and Isabelle, Cassia. And saying that there aren't YA books for boys is ridiculous.
    Besides, a lot of adult books are trash. Would it be more acceptable for you to read rubbish adult books? I'm only eighteen, but I will probably read YA books forever.
    And doesn't Perks of Being a Wallflower count as YA? One of my favourite books ever.


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