Jump to content

Why are so many adults reading YA and teen fiction?


Recommended Posts

  • Replies 61
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Personally I think that publishers and promoters are too quick to slap a category on a book. It seems that every book nowadays has to be slotted into a specific category, there now seems to be no General Fiction around, its either Young Adult, Adventure, Chick Lit., LGBT or Science Fantasy. Recently in a local bookshop I saw Orwell's 'Animal Farm' on the Young Adult shelf.

Fortunately those who love to read know that the classification put on a book is not always a sign of what that book is about. If something is good people we read it no matter what classification it is given. I was ten when I first read 'On The Beach' and it has always been one of my favorite novels. When I got to secondary school at eleven I was told it was not a children's book. Maybe not but it was a good book.

Link to comment

Agreed, Bruin, the subject of a book little matters if it is well written. I read adult level books as a child because the subject matter fascinated me. I went on Civil War bend for a while when I was ten and tried to read Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor...without a dictionary I would have been lost.

But interesting that Nigel should mention On the Beach by Nevil Shute. I read that when I was 12 and it scared the hell out of me. This was a time when schools put students through those ridiculous atomic bomb duck and cover drills. I remember sitting on the floor under my desk and wondering if Mr. Shute's predictions would come true. And now with all that conflict in the Middle East...who knows?

I see nothing wrong with reading young adult books...someone should read them if the kids won't. After all, isn't much of what we post on AD aimed at the same demographic? I don't know the ages of those who read my stories but at a guess they are well past youth. Perhaps I should say they are young at heart and the comments I receive tend to bear that out.

Link to comment

It's ironic that in this day when traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores are being replaced by online merchants, we still worry about giving books a category so the bookstores will know where to shelve them. But the truth is that the publishing industry itself works in those same categories, with different editorial teams and even imprints for different genres.

I think writing teacher Randy Ingermanson offers a couple of helpful insights that serve to explain this phenomenon.

First, he argues that the main purpose of fiction -- at least, the kind that lots of people buy and read -- is to give readers a powerful emotional experience. It seems to me, given the emotion-drenched nature of young adult years, that it would be hard not to include lots of emotional issues and experiences in this genre.

Second, Ingermanson asserts that even though authors would like "everyone" to buy their books, the best marketing approach is to target the book for a very specific audience, making sure that book simply delights that audience and excites them into telling everyone else about it. Thus, even if the Harry Potter series was initially targeted at 11-year-old boys, as Ingermanson contends, those boys wasted no time in telling the rest of the world about the series. And they were ripping good yarns; I was lined up with everyone else on publication day ready to buy my copy!

I have also heard that young adult fiction is among the most difficult genres to write successfully, because the young adult audience has exquisitely keen BS and phoniness detectors that will immediately howl at anything inauthentic, contrived, or condescending. I suspect, therefore, that anything that passes this kind of test is likely to be of good quality by "adult" standards as well.


Link to comment

I too read On The Beach when I was young. I don't remember how old, but certainly younger than 15. I too was deeply moved by it. I'm sure it wasn't recommended for young readers back then.

My main purpose in writing is so young gay boys can find stories they enjoy, show them that they're not alone, show them possible futures with happy endings, and occasionally to give them a lesson in moral behavior or of practical value. I don't know—I have no way to know—but just from what mail I get, I have to assume most of my readership is men. I'm a little surprised that that segment of the population finds my writing attractive because it isn't aimed at them. But, if they are interested in gay teen romances, I can see that finding it on the internet is a lot more private than buying books like that in a bookstore.

But I agree with what was said here already. If something is well-written, I think it can find an audience of any age.

Oh, and the book that I kept a dictionary by my side when reading wasn't Andersonville. It was The Count of Monte Cristo. What a great book. What a lot of words I learned!


Link to comment

I don't find this surprising at all. A lot of childrens and young adult books are for escapism, and that's something all of us want or need at various times. Putting yourself into a different world, maybe one where we're young again.... Why wouldn't adults want to read that?

Link to comment

I don't find this surprising at all. A lot of childrens and young adult books are for escapism, and that's something all of us want or need at various times. Putting yourself into a different world, maybe one where we're young again.... Why wouldn't adults want to read that?

My thoughts exactly. :icon_thumleft:

Link to comment

The place to witness the impact ‘Young Adult’ books are having is in small public libraries, which tend to shelve fiction by genre.

‘Mystery’ has always led in circulation figures for adults. ‘Romance’ tends to be a close second, I suppose because library patronage by adult women far exceeds that of adult men.

‘Science fiction/Fantasy’ when shelved as a separate collection is a big draw for teens. However, many teens are often without incentive to read if they do not have an interest in science fiction or adult-style fantasy (i.e. Anne Rice). They are too old to want be seen in the usually separate rooms housing the juvenile collections, and find little there to interest them anyway.

That dynamic has changed remarkably over the last couple of decades as ‘Young Adult’ fiction became established as a genre. It is now a significant area for library acquisition and typically is provided separate shelving and display. Most librarians have been quick to recognize that writing at this level is what is bringing teens and young adults back into the libraries.

Link to comment
  • 1 month later...

We read them because they are generally very well written and certainly entertaining. Most of them are written to show gay people as somewhat normal and usually of good character. Most of the situations are realistic and something that many of us have faced in the past. Not only are they enjoyable but they often make me think of what would I do in a similar situation. Although I am getting close to retirement (not quite close enough) I don't think you ever get too old to learn something. A lot of the situations make me think of how I respond to my partner and often give me insights into perhaps a better response to a situation.

With the Harry Potter books there were plots and sub plots. There were somethings that I suspect younger readers missed and at the same time probably some things that we older readers missed as well. That doesn't mean that they were not totally enjoyable for a multitude of ages.

I have read a large majority of the works by the authors who post here. Regardless of there targeted audience I have thoroughly enjoyed reading them.

Link to comment

Welcome and Hello, James. You join two august groups: 1) The AwesomeDude forum; 2) The increasing number of personages on this forum named James.

Colin :icon_geek:

Link to comment
  • 1 year later...

In the US at least, the term "Young Adult Fiction" has replaced the term "Teen Fiction" for the most part. The process began at least 5 years ago when SCBWI (the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) changed their general categories to include an older audience. Their marketing gurus evidently learned that high schoolers associated "Teen Fiction" more with middle school blech and were seeking edgier stories with, frankly, more sex, drugs, violence, and other good stuff. With these topics in a more direct role, older audiences also have turned to reading the materials, hoping perhaps to restore pieces of their youth without being treated like kids. In the ensuing years, "Teen Fiction" has gone mostly by the wayside so the SCBWI fiction hierarchy runs Picture Books, First Readers, Chapter Books, Middle School Books, and then Young Adult.

And with good writers, stories, characters, and the dose of greater reality in Young Adult fiction, older readers see a bit more of their past glories from their dotage and their dull, dreary, lives. :icon1:

Link to comment

And with good writers, stories, characters, and the dose of greater reality in Young Adult fiction, older readers see a bit more of their past glories from their dotage and their dull, dreary, lives. :icon1:

Also the writers are not trying to write the great literary novel, they are writing something that can be read.

Link to comment

If you go on Amazon and search for "young adult" (not gay-themed) notice how many of the stories have a female protagonist.

I subscribe to the yalsa-bk list. YALSA is the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association. The members of the yalsa-bk list are mostly librarians and teachers in middle and high schools. The list is for book discussion and invites subscribers to discuss specific titles,as well as other issues concerning young adult reading and young adult literature. Subscribers will also learn what has been nominated for Best Books for Young Adults, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, and Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Young adults, especially those who belong to book discussion groups, are also welcome to subscribe and to discuss books they are reading. There are often requests for books with gay themes. Anyway, some of those who post on the list are concerned that boys/males purposely do not read books unless they are forced to do so for a class. Because I love to read and I love to write, I'm concerned by this trend. It was apparent when I was in middle and high school (2000 to 2007). I was considered a geek because I did read a lot and not just what I had to read for my classes.

There's a book I read last month, Lit Up by David Denby. The subtitle tells what the book is about: One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-four Books That Can Change Lives. The blurb reads:

A bestselling author and distinguished critic goes back to high school to find out whether books can shape lives.

It's no secret that millions of American teenagers, caught up in social media, television, movies, and games, don't read seriously-they associate sustained reading with duty or work, not with pleasure. This indifference has become a grievous loss to our standing as a great nation--and a personal loss, too, for millions of teenagers who may turn into adults with limited understanding of themselves and the world.

Can teenagers be turned on to serious reading? What kind of teachers can do it, and what books? To find out, Denby sat in on a tenth-grade English class in a demanding New York public school for an entire academic year, and made frequent visits to a troubled inner-city public school in New Haven and to a respected public school in Westchester county. He read all the stories, poems, plays, and novels that the kids were reading, and creates an impassioned portrait of charismatic teachers at work, classroom dramas large and small, and fresh and inspiring encounters with the books themselves, including The Scarlet Letter, Brave New World, 1984, Slaughterhouse-Five, Notes From Underground, Long Way Gone and many more. Lit Up is a dramatic narrative that traces awkward and baffled beginnings but also exciting breakthroughs and the emergence of pleasure in reading. In a sea of bad news about education and the fate of the book, Denby reaffirms the power of great teachers and the importance and inspiration of great books.

This is a book that I couldn't put down. You can get it on Amazon (U.S.) for the Kindle for $14.99. I paid that price and it is worth it. But if you go to your local library you should be able to find it; or request it; however you do it, buy or borrow this book. It's definitely worth reading.

Colin :icon_geek:

Link to comment

Thank you for that recommendation, Colin. I’ll look for Denby’s book.

It seems to me that one important part of the reason so many teens turn away from reading is because their teachers are selecting and requiring books that are out of touch with today’s realities for young people. Books by dead white men written in the nineteenth and even the twentieth century may be important to our understanding of our literary history, but I believe they fail to resonate with the experiences and the interests of most teens today.

Link to comment

If by that, James, you mean they don't involve video games, then I agree. That's where they tend to get their private entertainment, instead of books as so many of us here did when of that age.

I read then, as now, for the excitement of the tale, the escapism it provided, the ability to inhabit other characters more alive and intrepid than I was, to have adventures I'd never have dared pursue myself. I think there's a lot of that in the video games they play. And the game-makers have made it so easy for them to escape that way. They don't even have to turn a page.

What games don't do is let them pace themselves, let them use their imaginations, let them dream. I too think there's so much more they get from reading than games. Maybe, though, the answer is we just have to find a way to write better stories that will lure them from their devices. Good stories still have that ability.


Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...