davefreer (davefreer) wrote,



To re-quote two pieces from the article:

"I think part of the reason we're seeing adults reading YA is that often there's no bones made about the fact that a YA book is explicitly intended to entertain," said Lizzie Skurnick, 36, author of "Shelf Discovery," a collection of essays about young adult literature from the 1960s and 1970s.

"YA authors are able to take themselves less seriously. They're able to have a little more fun, and they're less confined by this idea of themselves as Very Important Artists. That paradoxically leads them to create far better work than people who are trying to win awards."

(sigh) What sort of odds does anyone want to give that instead of looking at the success in YA and children's books - often being read by adults and saying 'gee... maybe that's what we need to do in the adult market'... there will be a steady drip 'Oh we have to have more graphic sex in teen novels. We need to explore issues more. There really needs to be more political message in these stories. What about bondage?... that'll make it interesting!SM for teens. Maybe even pre-teens. And really if these kids can understand it at first try and not be bored how can it be real literature? Let's find something turgid, tragic and very PC and almost universally hated by kids and give it a major literary prize. We'll SHOW them what they must love.' And YA will follow Adult publishing into the tubes...

To prove my precience, to quote later in the article - 'Many of today's young adult authors were born and raised in the 1960s and 1970s, when YA began to move beyond the staid, emotionless tales of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys in favor of more adventurous work from Judy Blume, Madeleine L'Engle and Robert Cormier. Now, they're turning out their own modern masterpieces.' (run away, screaming, holding hands in a cross) Has no-one pointed out to this writer that Harry Potter - the start point in this success -- is an Enid Blyton style boarding-school hijinks book with a bit of magic? That was so unpopular that it flopped with the reading public didn't it?

Oh well. Back to writing something which is explicitly to entertain (for adults but accessible to most YA readers) and which will never win a literary award, and um, have quite a lot fun or at least wry humor in them. I'm a small midlister. Publicity is minor and my publisher seems to face huge distribution hurdles - still my paperbacks have consistantly sold 80% - 90% of what is available (which is a LONG LONG way above industry standard - especially if you compared apples with apples. Simply looking at the gross sales numbers is comparing porcupines with the volume of methane on Saturn. Really revealing.) But from my sell-through alone this little set of home truths is obvious. A large number of readers (the ones bouying those YA numbers) - especially in rough times - like to be entertained. They actually WANT something familiar with a little twist or addition - a boarding school story with magic. They don't want new for the sake of new - what they often want is 'new' old... They want escapism. They want books that re-affirm their own values and leave them uplifted and feeling the world could be better place tomorrow. Yeah, there are the few who will want grunge, a pot of message, and a hopeless crawl into a corner and die of misery literary masterpiece. Yes, you will get an award for it. But you won't grow your readership. If you want a message or artistry in writing (and Terry Pratchett for eg manages both AND fulfils the criteria above) you need authors who can stealth them in, so they do not detract from entertainment but enhance it.
here endeth the rant.
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