Monday, June 13, 2011

Who Reads YA?

(credit)
by Jemi Fraser

I've recently heard some people talking about not wanting to write YA because they think the market is too narrow. Is it?

Young Adult fiction is aimed at young adults. Obviously. But are young adults the only ones reading YA?

You might be surprised at the amount of people who are NOT young adults who are reading YA. If you visit book bloggers who review YA, you’ll see a lot of adults are reading and enjoying YA. A lot of these people are writers, but not all of them. So why are so many adults reading YA?

Our teen years are powerful. There are a lot of emotions in those years. We learn who we really are and what that truly means. We learn what makes us strong, what devastates us, what we can push ourselves to accomplish. Most of us have our first loves and our first broken hearts in these years. Many of us find our career choices and start aiming for those stars—which we know are within our reach.

Seriously, what’s not to love?

On the other end of the spectrum, there are a lot of kids who are definitely NOT YA age who are reading YA books. Is this a bad thing?

I don’t think it is. When I was in grades 5, 6 and 7, there were no YA books. I was finished with most kids’ books by that time and looking for more. So I read adult books. Most of what wasn’t appropriate for me to read went right over my head. The rest of it opened my eyes to the adult world. Which wasn't a bad thing.

These days kids who are ready to read beyond MG books have a lot more choices. When the Twilight books were at the peak of their power, every single girl & about 3/4 of the boys in my class read them. At the time, I was teaching 10- & 11-year-olds. Today I have kids in that same age group reading Hush Hush, Shiver & Linger, Pretties & Co., Vladimir Tod, Beastly, the Mortal Instruments series, The Summer I Turned Pretty, Speak & many more.

Do all of my students read these? Nope. Actually only a few. And even when those kids rave about the books, the others (who aren’t ready emotionally) aren’t interested. Kids seem to find books that fit their emotional/maturity level quite easily. They might try a page or two, they might even skim a few pages to make it seem like they’re reading it. But they won’t read it. (In another post I'll talk a bit about the censorship issue for kids.)

So, if you’re ever tempted to think the YA market isn’t as wide as some of the other markets, I hope you remember you don’t need to be a young adult to enjoy YA fiction!

Have you read a lot of YA fiction? What’s your favourite YA book?

71 comments:

Riley Redgate said...

So much to love about this post! I totally agree that kids will find their own reading level quite easily. (And also, there are so many kids that just don't read at all... gah.)

My favorite YA book? Jeez that's tough! A book I think everyone my age needs to read is Thirteen Reasons Why. A book I doubt everyone my age will want to read, or even enjoy, is The Knife of Never Letting Go (actually, that entire series) - but I recommend it feverishly anyway, because those might be my favorite books of all time. Legit.

Jemi Fraser said...

Riley - thanks! There are so many incredible YA books out there now, it's hard to choose just a few. I totally forgot to mention the Hunger Games trilogy which several of my kids have read as well. Thanks for the tips!

Amy said...

Wonderful post! :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Thanks Amy! :)

Teresa aka Journaling Woman said...

Great post! I still read MG and YA books. I like hanging onto my youth. Oh wait...there it goes.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Very interesting, I think people of any age if they find the YA BOOK to their liking will read it,

Yvonne.

Laura Pauling said...

That's impossible to pin down my favorite! But I did just read Revolution by jennifer donnely and it was incredible!

Mason Canyon said...

Great post Jemi. I would think the YA market would be a growing area. As you said, young children are reading older material and YA would be so much better for them than jumping right into adult reading. I also think YA books give adults a chance to remember and revisit their own youth.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress
Freelance Editing By Mason

Old Kitty said...

Wonderful post to highlight the joy of YA books and its wide readership!

My favourite YA is from my youth! SE Hinton's The Outsiders! Take care
x

Yvonne Osborne said...

Hello Jemi!
I've probably read YA books, not even realizing that's what they were. I started reading "adult" books when I got tired of Nancy Drew. She was never that interesting. So-called adult books were much better, though as you say, what I didn't understand went over my head and I plowed forward, loving every minute of it. I've recently read two books I really liked which are probably considered Young Adult: The Giver and Hunger Games. My own novels could probably have crossover appeal. This whole genre definition game is a bit befuddling.

Jan Morrison said...

OK - I'm an old person. When I started reading as a young adult or late teen or whatever the heck we were called - there was no YA. There were books that young adults seemed more interested in but it wasn't pigeon-holed that way. Coming of age stories (Bildungsroman) were written for all to enjoy - adults read Anne of Green Gables and teens read DHLawrence if they got away with it. We weren't marketed to like teens are now. I have mixed feelings on the whole thing. Sometimes a kid won't read something they are very likely to enjoy because it isn't 'theirs'. I still read some YAs or at least books that are marketed to them but without predjudice.
Jan Morrison

Suzie F. said...

I prefer reading YA to adult fiction and I'm a mother of 4.

Some of my favorites include the The Hunger Games trilogy, Anna and the French Kiss, The Book Thief, Speak, and The Adoration of Jenna Fox.

Christopher Hudson said...

When I first saw the title of this post, my reaction was, 'Nobody' ... then I saw YA referred to young adult ... oh. Anyway, my wife is a big fan of Harry Potter ... so I agree with your theme.

Talli Roland said...

I think the YA market now is HUGE. I don't read a ton of it, but I do pick up a book every now and again.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Young adult books weren't really around when I was a kid, so I went straight into adult fantasy and science fiction. I don't read young adult though, because high school is not something I want to remember!

cherie said...

Great post, Jemi.

R.C. Lewis said...

I read a ton of YA ... more than I read "grown-up" books these days, actually. Part is because it's what I write, and part is because I like to read what my students are reading and chat with them about it.

My current favorite is Unwind by Neal Shusterman. It had that can't-put-it-down quality, and freaked me out near the end (not easy to do). I usually find myself steering away from a lot of bandwagons, but I really loved a lot of things about Divergent by Veronica Roth.

Hmm ... some might come to the conclusion that I like my YA slightly twisted. And maybe that's true. ;)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I've written five YA books, but my interest lies in other genres now. And over half of my fan base are adults!

Stephanie said...

LOVE YA!!! I alternate between YA titles and chick lit/contemporary romance/women's fiction. I love a great coming of age story!!! Some of my favs: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The DUFF, Summer Sisters.

Angie Sandro said...

I read YA. I got hooked on it when my daughter reached the age where she wanted to read some of the books, and I wanted to make sure they were appropriate for her.

Now I love it too.

Jean Oram said...

I do read YA.

In the past couple of months, I've read "The Lightening Thief" (awesome), "The Hunger Games" (the first book was the best of the trilogy) and "The Book Thief." All are great books that have an appeal that extends to those outside their teen years. I think that is the beauty of some of the YA these days. It's good for teens and it's good for adults.

(Sarah Dessen also rocks the YA world--if you ask me.)

Jemi Fraser said...

Teresa - I'm pretty sure my youth went scurrying along with yours! I do like the emotions and excitement of the age level!

Yvonne - I agree. There are so many well written books in the YA division. I think there is totally something for everyone! :)

Laura - I agree - there are so many great ones! I've got Jennifer's on my wish list!

Jemi Fraser said...

Mason - Agreed! It's fun to visit or revisit our youth and all the joys and emotions that swirled at the time!

Old Kitty - Thanks! I'm loving reading so many great YA books now! I love the Outsiders. Hinton did such a great job showing the culture of the time and portraying the emotions! :)

Yvonne O - Yes -- Hunger Games is definitely YA. I think The Giver would probably be listed as MG. I love both those books. I read The Giver to my students often - it's such a fabulous book!

Jemi Fraser said...

Jan - terrific point. Getting through the prejudice is often difficult. I tend to read pretty widely & I encourage my students to do the same. I especially encourage them to get beyond the gender bias in books.

Suzie - those are some GREAT books! I haven't let my students read Book Thief yet - they need a note from parents to borrow it - but it's an amazing book!

Christopher - you made me laugh. I tend to say YA all the time and assume everyone knows what it means. Sorry! :) Harry Potter is another terrific book enjoyed by people of all ages!

Jemi Fraser said...

Talli - I agree. There are so many fabulous new YA books coming out these days! I've read a ton - they're very popular.

Alex - High school was not a happy place for a lot of people! Maybe going back to read about it might give people some better thoughts about it! :)

Cherie - thank you! I appreciate it :)

Jemi Fraser said...

RC - love it! Absolutely nothing wrong with a little bit of twisted :) I started reading YA because of my students too - and MG. I've found so many terrific books that way.

Diane - that's interesting! It's interesting how many adults like YA. At first I thought it might be mostly teachers and writers, but so many good books have enticed a much wider audience.

Stephanie - those are good ones! I like to read widely too. I tend to go from one genre to another when I'm reading. I find lots of interesting authors that way!

Jemi Fraser said...

Angie - that's awesome! I've had a few parents of students tell me the same thing happened with them. Quite a few started with either the Harry Potter series or the Twilight Series & haven't stopped since :)

Jean - those are GREAT books! The Lightning Thief has created a lot of enthusiastic readers in my room this year! A lot of YA is like the old onion analogy - lots of layers. You can read it from a lot of different perspectives & that probably attracts a wider audience.

Meagan Spooner said...

I definitely read adult fiction as a kid, possessing no patience for the titles aimed at my "level." Now, I often feel like I'm revisiting the books I wished I'd been able to read when I was a kid, especially because MG and YA fiction is so varied and diverse now.

Mostly, I just really like stories aimed at teens. There's such a rich backdrop of shared experiences there that you get dropped right into the tension and drama without any effort.

Rosalind Adam said...

There was no such genre when I was a YA but I remember finding great YA level books to read in spite of this. I've more recently started to read YA books with my writer's hat on but so many are just 'a good read' that I wonder if being given the YA tag is a help or a hindrance.

Jemi Fraser said...

Rosalind - great point! I think the YA category is so popular now, it's probably a help. But if that doesn't continue it may not stay the same. I hope no adults are missing out on some fabulous stories because they don't read 'kid books'!

Susan Fields said...

I prefer YA over adult books, both reading and writing. And my 11-year-old daughter has read many of the books you mentioned - I belive she and I are at the same reading level. :)

Laura Marcella said...

My favorite YA books are oldies, before YA was even YA: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and anything by Judy Blume for teens!

Jemi Fraser said...

Susan - I know! I started reading YA & MG because of the students in my class - but I love it! There are so many great stories!

Jemi Fraser said...

Laura - I love the Outsiders! It's a great story - wondeful characters. And Judy Blume writes some incredible stuff - I think Deenie is my favourite for that age group.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Very good point, Jemi, about kids only being interested in books that they're emotionally mature enough for. No one wants to read books that they can't relate to, and this applies to children, too!

Jemi Fraser said...

Elizabeth - it certainly does. People who don't know kids don't understand how intelligent they are and how easy it is for them to find appropriate books! :)

Jean Oram said...

Those onion layers are exactly what makes those books so great, Jemi. It's something I've been trying to do in my own work--and it can be hard to do! Lots of thought, editing, and tweaking to get them right. Of course... if I planned it all out ahead of time... it might save me time in edits! But then... it wouldn't be as much fun.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Excellent post, Jemi, and I agree with you. YA is not just for teens anymore. So many of us read it because we love it, in spite of being WELL beyond our teens. And, like you said, many MG readers are moving beyond their own genres. My favorite? Hmmmm.... Today it's DIVERGENT.

Jemi Fraser said...

Jean - LOL :) I totally agree. I have an idea for a trilogy of romantic suspense novels that's been tickling my brain for years. But the interconnectedness terrifies me - and I only know the ending because I don't outline or plan it out... Spooky stuff!

Jemi Fraser said...

Shannon - Thanks! There are a lot of us (& not just writers) who enjoy YA though we're definitely not the target audience!

I've got Divergent at the tippy-top of my wishlist! Can't wait to get it :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Meagan - sorry - somehow I missed your comment. Either it wasn't there & Blogger was tricking me ... or it's been a typical Monday... :)

Excellent point. When you pick up a YA book, you tend to know a bit of what to expect - emotionally.

I loved sharing all these wonderful books with my students too!

Arlee Bird said...

So far I've only read Perilous by Tamara Hart Heiner and that was because I reviewed it as part of her book tour. I liked it and I will probably read other YA novels in the future. They seem to be some good stories and are written in an entertaining fashion.

I'm less concerned about the narrow market (I don't think it is narrow) than I am about possible over-saturation of the genre. There seem to be an awful lot of YA books out there.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Jemi Fraser said...

Lee - I agree - I don't think the market is narrow at all. There are a LOT of people reading a LOT of YA. And the wide variety of genres helps more kids get interested in reading or helps them find more books they adore. At least that's my hope!!

It will be interesting to see what happens in the future - YA is huge right now. I, for one, hope it continues! :)

Lisa Gail Green said...

Oh my goodness! YA is LIMITLESS and so forgiving of trying new things. That's part of why I love it. :D Wonderful post, Jemi!!!

Julie Musil said...

Jemi, you are so right! I also read adult books when I was young. Heck, I think I was 12 or 13 reading Danielle Steel books. I love reading AND writing YA. My 14 year old and I are reading the HUNGER GAMES series together. My 11 year old twins are not interested in these books at all. It's all about Diary of a Wimpy Kid for them. What you say is true...they'll gravitate toward what they're ready for.

Jemi Fraser said...

Thanks Lisa! I love your comment about how tolerant the category is to new ideas. That's so true - and it fits in with how teens can be as well!

Jemi Fraser said...

Julie - thanks! I really believe that - and I've taught a lot of kids over the years! The kids in my room are all over the Wimpy Kid series as well - what fun books!

Medeia Sharif said...

I love it when a book spreads like wildfire throughout my student body.

I appreciate the range of YA and all the topics (tough ones, too) that it covers. That's why I read so much of it.

Jemi Fraser said...

Medeia - I agree - it's so exciting to watch kids clamour to be the next one to read a book!

I agree - YA isn't afraid of anything. It will tackle any topic - and in doing so, it will reach out to a lot of people!

Glynis said...

Jemi, I have recently read a few YA sent to me by friends. I love them!

Laurel Garver said...

I think what makes the genre so appealing is that it explores that 'cusp of adulthood' phase that kids wonder about and adults look back at with appreciation/wonder/horror/what have you, depending on how great or tough their experience was. It's such a crux moment in one's life and that builds in drama.

As for faves, I find myself frequently re-reading The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. I also really loved Deb Caletti's Wild Roses and Honey, Baby Sweetheart.

N. R. Williams said...

I agree with you. Harry Potter was YA. It was also amazing. My senior mother originally turned me on to Harry so you can see by that, lots of people read YA. I have a YA voice but my characters are in their twenties. I've heard reports that publishers are thinking about a new genre called, New Adult. Regardless, I would still be unpublished if I hadn't jumped on the e-book band wagon because of this. Great post.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium

Susanne Drazic said...

Great post, Jemi.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Narrow market? Sheesh. Between the young adults, the tweens, and the ADULTS reading YA, I don't think there could ever be enough books written. LOL!!

I love the Hex Hall series and the Ally Cater Gallagher Girl series so far.

Megan Frances said...

It's heartening that YA is the one literary genre that's thriving. Today's young adult readers will grow up to be adult readers.

As a kid, I read adult books too. We should all read what we hunger for, regardless of the designated market.

Jemi Fraser said...

Glynis - there have been some AMAZING YA books recently. I've read a bunch I would highly reccommend! :)

Laurel - exactly! I love the thrill of discovery of self and life during this phase of life. There are so many interesting aspects to explore!

Jemi Fraser said...

Nancy - I loved the voice in your book! It certainly appealed to me :) Harry Potter is an excellent example. When it first came out, our staff read it faster than the kids. Everyone loved it & couldn't wait to pass it along!

Susanne - thanks! I appreciate it :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Jennifer - I agree - I think the market is huge at the moment! Those are excellent choices - I've got Demonglass on my wishlist at right now -can't wait to see what she's up to next! :)

Megan - I couldn't agree more! That's why I have such a wide variety of books in my classroom. I hope to help them find THE book that will hook them into being lifelong readers!

Margo Berendsen said...

Wow, amazing statistics about Twilight! I didn't realize that the boys were reading it too. But its a shame that teens didn't keep reading other stuff after it... "only a few" you say. :( This 40 year old lady now reads mostly YA, thanks to Twilight opening up that whole new world for me.

Margo Berendsen said...

Oh yeah, I forgot to add: A Northern Light is my current YA favorite! Though Speak will always be up there too.

Jemi Fraser said...

Margo - actually those boys kept reading - many of them have read Hunger Games, Vladamir Tod, Leviathan, Outsiders... It's in my current class that only a few read that far above their level. I have 10 & 11 year olds, so YA isn't aimed at them.

I love Speak - I'll have to try A Northern Light! :)

Lynda R Young said...

It's a huge market not a narrow one. People beyond teens love YA fiction because it's so relatable. Great post, Jemi.

Jemi Fraser said...

Lynda - Thanks! I agree that the market is huge - especially right now. All adults have been through those years, so we definitely can relate! :)

Theresa Milstein said...

I think the readership of YA is diverse because on their own, many of the books are appealing to a variety of ages. I also know many parents (myself included) who often read what their kids are reading.

You are right, when I was a kid, I went from kids chapter books to adult because the YA section was paltry.

And I agree that these kids often pick up these books when they're emotionally ready.

Jemi Fraser said...

Theresa - excellent point! A lot of parents like to read books with their kids or before their kids read them. Then they're hooked! :)

Emotional readiness is so real - I'll have to discuss it again in more depth one day!

Leslie Rose said...

Twilight & New Moon went like wildfire through my 5th and 6th grade girls. You are so right that it is a maturity issue with younger kids reading YA, but it's also a case by case basis. I talk constantly with parents about "spots" in some YA novels that they may want to Help their MG readers understand. Most parents welcome the chance to actually talk lit. with their kids. The first time I saw the book SHIVER was in the hands of a grandmotherly type sitting in a doctors waiting room. YA lit. covers a larger age span than it is given credit for.

Jemi Fraser said...

Leslie Rose - love it! So much YA is making its way into the hands of all kinds of people! I do the same with the kids in my class - we have a lot of conversations about the books and the whys of why they may or may not enjoy them.

Stephen Tremp said...

Great post! I still remember reading Mystery By Moonlight by Mary C. Jane and doing a book report on it. That was back in the day when people did not have PCs or word processors.

Yep. Did it all by pencil, cleaned up mistakes, then either typed it on Mom's electric typewriter or wrote it real nice using a pen. Remember those white slips to insert over typed mistakes, then retyping over them?

Jemi Fraser said...

Stephen - thanks! :)

I do remember!! I had one high school history teacher who wouldn't accept any essay if those strips had been used. He'd hold each page up to the light and give it back if he could see any white sections. Didn't like him much!

Lynn said...

I completely agree that YA fiction can be read by adults. One YA author called his book a 'cross-over'; his book able to be in the adult market. My favourite YA books are realistic fiction however, I did enjoy the first book of the Hunger Games series. And, honestly, I thought the series was Adult until my daughter corrected me!

Jemi Fraser said...

Lynn - I know a lot of adults who read YA along with adult level books. It often depends on the mood of the reader :) I do like realistic fiction too - I tend to like a lot of genres. So many good books out lately!