The demise of young adult novels

Last month one of the agents at the Wylie-Merrick Literary Agency posted a thoughtful insight into the future of young adult novels.

Have you noticed … that the books propping up the industry (Twilight, Harry Potter, etc.) are YA crossovers? Not only do young readers read them, but adults do as well. Editors are now desperate to find … books they can market initially as YA that will attract the adult audience. Given that the last five years have brought about a trend toward more mature YA with older protagonists, what does that say?

Good-bye YA? by Wylie-Merrick Literary Agency

The author goes on to say that young adult literature hasn’t been around all that long. I would agree with that. I was born on the tail-end of the Baby Boomers and when I was a child the age group for children’s books went up to 9-14 and then you moved straight on to adult books.

According to the lecturer in children’s writing at Sherylyn’s writing classes, young adult books now go up to around 26 years of age.

Sherylyn says I often write young adult novels. Roland in Shared Memories, for example, is 19 years of age. Tanner in Mathi’s Story—the novel I am currently working on—is 16. The writing style is suited to young people as well. Our writing ends up with a reading grade of 6 or 7.

And yet … the other protagonists in both Shared Memories and Mathi’s Story are older. Kym, the other point-of-view character in Shared Memories, is the head of the local army. Jee Lim and Yashua, in Mathi’s Story, are both adults.

People have also commented on how suitable Not So Simple After All is for its young adult audience. The point-of-view characters in the story are a retired mercenary and a renowned sorcerer. Do they fit the young adult demographic?

All of these stories were written for an adult audience, not for a young adult audience.

Many would agree that young adults themselves find tagging a book as ‘young adult’ an automatic turn-off, and that if they know a book is a young adult novel they will not read it. I From my own experience I have found that the main group who purchase young adult books are my own peers—either for themselves to read, or as gifts for young adults.

If editors are seeking more and more crossover books that appeal to adults as well as young adults, then the logical conclusion is that the young adult novel is doomed, because if there is no dividing line then surely the novel is just a novel and, by default, an adult novel anyway.

I don’t think the young adult novel is doomed, but I do wonder if the trend is publishing is swinging back the other way.

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