It’s hard to write a book. It’s even harder to get a book deal. And getting that book off the shelves and into teen readers’ hands? Basically impossible, right?
Far from it, according to Jamie Reno. His Newsweek article, Generation R, puts a new spin on an old topic: teens and reading. Apparently, they like it. Enough that the YA side of an otherwise lagging book industry is, as Reno says, booming.
Contrary to the depressing proclamations that American teens aren’t reading, the surprising truth is they are reading novels in unprecedented numbers. Young-adult fiction… is enjoying a bona fide boom with sales up more than 25 percent in the past few years, according to a Children’s Book Council sales survey. Virtually every major publishing house now has a teen imprint, many bookstores and libraries have created teen reading groups and an infusion of talented new authors has energized the genre.
I can absolutely attest to the infusion of talented new authors. In addition to the books already on the shelves in the teen section of your favorite book store, the 2009 lineup is, as Randy would say, “in the zone! The bomb! The hot one to beat tonight, baby!” and right around the corner. The rightfully-tagged “feast of awesome” hanging out in debut2009 has me counting down the days until next year.
I’m thrilled to be part of a group like debut2009 during this YA renaissance. Like Ally Carter said, our greatest competition as writers is not other writers. It’s bad books. Well-written books that engage and excite readers will get them reading more—more books, more genres, and more authors. I love meeting new writers who are passionate about getting books into teens’ hands. And now is a great time to be involved.
Why is YA so Popular?
The article cites several reasons for the current boom, including:
- increasing sophistication and emotional maturity of teenagers
- new freedom for writers in the genre to explore virtually any subject
- bookstores and libraries finally recognizing this niche and separating teen books from children’s books
- MySpace, Facebook, blogs, and authors’ and publishers’ Web sites allowing young readers to communicate with each other and with authors
- teen books becoming an integral part of today’s pop-culture entertainment menu, tying in to TV, movies, video games, and the Internet
What about adults? I think that’s another factor. With the sophistication of some of today’s teen reads, lots of people outside the intended audience are diving in. Parents and teachers are reading and discussing books with their children or class. Authors are checking out their peers. And adult readers often browse the YA section for something different (guilty!)—a vampire trilogy, a magical world, or an intense YA romance that doesn’t suffer from the over-writing that plagues so many adult books.
Newsweek gives a shout out to my favorite YA author, Sarah Dessen. I discovered Dessen in 2003 after taking a few YA novel writing classes through Lighthouse Writers Workshop and paying more attention to the genre (read: spending a lot of time and money in the teen section at Tattered Cover under the guise of “research”).
Dessen is a great example of how and why teen lit has become so esteemed (even outside of fantasy blockbusters like the Harry Potter and Twilight series’). She’s published 8 books featuring tough issues like abusive relationships, death, divorce, teen pregnancy, eating disorders, body image, and rape. Her books and characters are realistic—no over-dramatizing or talking down about the hard stuff. She tells it like it is and readers relate—and respond—to it. She also has a huge blog following via her LiveJournal site, where she talks about everything from the weather to her dogs to her monthly Tivo lineup.
What do you think? Are you a closet YA reader as an adult? Are you an author in this exciting genre? Do you agree that we’re in the “second golden age for young adult books?”
If you’re interested in YA literature and writing, check out the Newsweek article. It’s long, but worth the read. Over the next few days, I’ll be discussing some of the reasons cited for the boom (while working on revisions for my second book, which I’m even more excited about now!).
On deck tomorrow: Part 2: Writing truths in YA. How Much is Too Much?