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Do You Read Young Adult Fiction?

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer: Teen books can be great reading for adults, too. [via The Journal of a Writer]

Quoth the article:

“Young adult” is the name of the relatively young and fast-growing genre of books that are geared to readers ages 12-18 or 14-18. But the readership of YA may have less to do with age than the name suggests.

“I personally think there’s a fine line between YA and adult fiction,” said Cindy Egan, an editorial director at Little, Brown. “I’m 37, and all my friends read YA books.”

As I’ve previously noted, especially when reading David Gerrold excellent Dingillian Family series, the young adult fiction of today contains many more mature themes than the YA fiction of yesteryear. This is also mentioned in the Inquirer piece:

[Bookstore owner Jan] Orts said the discussion about what makes a book YA is always controversial for booksellers. “It used to be content. Sex, incest, drugs, abuse, all used to be adult themes only – but that’s no longer true.”

Yep, I think young adult is something more of a marketing term these days than an accurate reflection of content. From that perspective, buyer beware.

But I also think this raises the age-old issue of “Art vs. Entertainment”. Some people dismiss YA fiction as not worth their time. Perhaps they think it’s not “literary” enough. Perhaps it’s not “challenging”. (See our discussion on literary snobs.) I say “Bah!” Dismissing books as drivel is different than choosing not to read something not suited to your tastes. Personally, I enjoy reading the occasional young adult novel. (I am currently reading Scott Westerfeld’s Midnighters #1: The Secret Hour and liking it.) The “YA” label may not guarantee literary and challenging – although that’s becoming less the case these days and, the flip side, who says all non-YA fiction is always challenging? – but it still fun. Remember that, folks? When reading used to be fun?

How ’bout you? Do you read young adult fiction or avoid it like the plague?

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

11 Comments on Do You Read Young Adult Fiction?

  1. A well written book is a well written book, no matter who the target audience is. Read Brian Jaques Redwall books and tell me he’s not a great story teller. Interestingly enough I seem to notice most genre YA book these days are Fantasy, not Science Fiction.

  2. I’ve enjoyed the movies, and have decided to break down and read the HP series. I just finished the first (which I had read, back when the first movie came out).

    Otherwise…how do you define YA fiction? Some F/Sf classics from the past could be considered YA.

    Is the Hobbit YA? Narnia?

  3. The big problem with finding good YA fiction is that they insist on shelving it in the YA section. 🙂

    OK, I know that’s a bit of a joke, but to be serious, it sometimes gets harder and harder to determine what is YA and what isn’t. For example, look at JUMPER by Steven Gould. An excellent novel, originally published as a regular Tor SF hardcover. A few years ago, they repositioned it in a new edition as a YA book. Now, had the book been released as YA from the start, how many of us would have heard about it and known to pick it up? It probably would have never been on our radar.

    That said, there is a difference between stories for much younger children (such as up to age 8 or 9) and stories for the YA market. But a good YA book is generally a good book, period.

    In short, it’s all marketing and categorization.

  4. I enjoy juveniles but not Young Adult, if you take my meaning. Books labeled ‘juvenile’ from the 50’s are refreshing, because occasionally I want to step out of the cultural sewer, and into some tale where I do not need to hear about bestiality, incest, drug abuse, wife-beating. Book labeled YA from the current day do not afford this relief.

    Now, when I am in the mood for incest, parricide, and bloody murder, there is always George RR Martin. I am not saying good books cannot be written on these themes. But the insider’s opinion in the industry seems to be that the label no longer means anything: YA does not mean PG.

  5. Personally, I will read just about anything that looks interesting. I have read a fair amount of “young fiction” between books I have read to my son, audio books in the car, and stuff that looked interesting. In many cases, the material is a little more tame and fantastical when compared with more “adult” novels, but in almost every case I have been pleasantly suprised by the books.

    Eoin Colfer and Terry Pratchet both write books that are young adult fiction and are targetted for that audience that is in the 10 to 14 range. Artemis Fowl and The Supernaturals do a fine job of mixing action with a decent moral story. The Wee Free Men and Hat full of Sky by Pratchett involve a young girl as our protaganist, and are awesome books that I believe all kids should read since I felt it spoke alot about learning who somebody is.

    Ultimately, I agree with what Kevin and Mr. Burnstein stated above – a good book is a good book, and where its shelved should not matter.

  6. (Tim, just FYI, it’s Burstein, not Burnstein.)

  7. Forgive me, it was a very late night for me last night and I managed to get both names wrong. Thats two for two for me. I would like to apologize to Mr. Burstein for managing to totally mangle your name. Now Keith on the other hand – I simply had you confused with Kevin…

    That will teach me to blog before morning caffeine… And I was agreeing with you all – don’t persecute me for my spelling issues. Lest I am forced to speak at length about corpse fouling and undead time travelling nazis…


  8. Forgiven. It’s just that I’m seeing my name being misspelled a lot recently. For example, a blog that asked me to contribute answers to a bunch of questions managed to mis-spell my name three different ways, and I had to email them each time. I’m afraid to go back to see if they’ve done it again.

    Another person who used to have his name misspelled a lot was Isaac Asimov, and much of his work, although marketed to adults, appealed to the YA market. (See what a good segue this is?) Asimov himself even wrote an essay about that, in which he said that he made a point of writing stories that could be enjoyed by an intelligent teenager as well as by an adult. I think it’s no accident that a lot of 12-year-olds got some of their first exposure to SF through Asimov’s works rather than through works explicitly marketed towards the YA niche.

  9. I would read a YA book about undead time-travelling Nazis, especially if it were written by Isaac Asimov. Perhaps a sequel to END OF ETERNITY where the benevolent robots turn out to be behind the Seldon plan after all? It could be called FOUNDATION AND NOSFERATU-REICH.

  10. Tim, I’m 45 years old, and people have been calling me “Kevin” ever since I can remember. For some reason they remember “name starts with a K” then guess Kevin. Shrug.

  11. Like you, I have a 10-year-old boy. He likes to read, but mostly atlases, science and nature stuff, and the Screech Owl series (mysteries involving a peewee hockey team. Canadian, eh?). We have read Harry Potter together, and some other associational stuff. The other night, though, we started reading Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones together, which I found when unpacking from our move. And he’s loving it.

    I’ve read and loved Chabon (Summerland), Pullman (His Dark Materials), Gaiman (Coraline, Wolves in the Walls) and more, but I despair of finding more actual Science Fiction than Fantasy out there. Gould, Gerrold, probably a few more, but nothing like a few decades ago. And it’s worse for the younger set (my other boy is 7); I’d love to be able to get picture books that are SF instead of fantasy, or beginning readers that are legit SF instead of that namby-pamby mixture, like the dumb books whose titles I can’t remember where the protagonists use pseudo-science to solve mysteries involving ghosts. Indeed, I’m working on a picture book with Jim Beveridge, so we’ll see if there’s even a perceived market for it.


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