Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why Are We Obsessed With the Young Adult Genre?

I've heard many theories on why paranormal stories are so popular these days, but I'm not sure if there is any specific answer on why they are so popular. Most of them, it seems, fall into the Young Adult category. In fact, Young Adult has taken the world by storm. I was riding in the car with my husband a few weeks ago and we started talking about my book, The Breakaway, which I've been trying to decide if I should switch from Adult genre to Young Adult genre. It could go either way depending on how I write it. So that got me asking my husband why on earth Young Adult is so popular amongst adults right now. Why aren't they reading in their own genre?

One of my husband's answers was because adult readers are lazy and most Young Adult novels are simply easier to read. However, he doesn't read much Young Adult, and neither do I (although I have been reading much more lately than I ever have).

So what is the appeal? Is it the subject matter? Do adults really have a fascination with coming-of-age stories? First love? Turning into something we're not (vampires...)? Is it because Young Adult is more straightforward to read because it's written for a younger audience? Because I've read many, many Adult books that are just as straightforward.

Help me out here! Give me your thoughts.


  1. I don't know about everyone else, but I love reading young adult books for one reason. Most of them are CLEAN! Nothing ezplicit, nothing I wouldn't be afraid to let my teens (when I get them) read. With adult novels, it's hard to find clean books. I'm not one of those parents who says I can read that, but my kids can't. If it's not appropriate for them, then it's not appropriate for me either. ;)

  2. I don't read a lot of YA either, but from what I have read and what I've gathered from my YA-oriented friends, there are two main things:

    (1) They find a higher percentage of YA to be creative and risk-taking with formulas than they find in mass market adult fiction, without what they often feel is the pretension or challenge of literary fiction.

    (2) YA fiction is about characters who are in a part of their life adults remember as full of both challenges and opportunities. A lot of transition and a lot of potential. There's growth, there's collapse, there's raw emotion. Those things are often missing or obscured in both our regulated adult lives and our adult fiction.

    This second one I think is far more important, and really resonates with me. I try to accomplish this in my own writing, but it honestly is harder to achieve with adult characters sometimes. I think there is, as always, a hunger in adults to recapture that old experience, whether it's the emotional rush or the potential for change itself. YA gives adults something to tap into for that.

    It's never too late to change.

    It's never too late to have an adventure.

    It's never too late to let yourself feel your dang emotions again.

  3. With the exception of Harry Potter, I don't read YA or MG. I don't know why, I just don't.

    I want something with depth. I want characters I can relate to on a deeper level than a 20 year old trying to decide the course of their life. Been there, done that . . . if it wasn't with a vampire or werewolf.

    If I want lighthearted, I read Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series.

    As for paranormal, well, in my opinon, Anne Rice is the Queen of Paranormal and her books are definitely not YA!

    As to why adults are geared toward this? I don't have a clue. I don't write YA or MG, I don't want to write YA or MG. I want to write what I read - adult material with compelling characters and situations that explore the conflicts that are a part of life.


  4. oops . . .

    "Been there, done that . . . and (not if) it wasn't with a vampire or werewolf."


  5. Nisa: Ah, I get that. I do think, though, that there are some themes more mature audiences can benefit from exploring - like exactly what long-lasting love entails. I'm not sure a teenager really explores all of that in their youth - and it's therefore not explored fully in most YA. At least none that I have read.

    Nevets: You sure hit some of that on the head! Yes! I think it's oftentimes something to do with nostalgia, even. I'd like to capture this with my work as well. It's fun that THIRDS is turning YA. :)

    Scott: Good points! I think I disliked enough things about high school that I'd rather not go back and relive it all through a book. Many YA books don't do this, though, so there are a lot I still want to read.

  6. I'll be honest, there's a book that's in my head that's, in some ways, a pinnacle book for me, but it is really and truly a deep, thick literary YA novel. I respect the genre way more than I used to, slowly overcoming the stereotype I inferred from the "girly kissing books" that filled my school library in junior high and still fill most bookstores around here.

    But I'll be honest I'm still not quite there.

    Oh, and plus it's a YA romance probably, too.

    But that's a secret. Just between you and me.

    And the internet.

    Is anyone on the internet these days?

  7. Because I just do.

    But really, YA is faster paced, less concerned with world building and politics. I want STORY. And that's what YA gives me. There's no fluff. No rigamaroo. Just story.

  8. Nevets: YA Romance? Really? I await this eagerly. :)

    Amber: See, I find a lot of fluff in YA. Maybe I'm reading the wrong things. Or we have a different definition of fluff.

  9. Oh, I totally agree. I don't read YA exclusively. I've found some adult authors I trust and love to read and I love quite a few different genres. I also don't write YA. I'm not sure I could write YA. Maybe...

  10. @Michelle - Yeah, that one may be a few years out yet. :)

    And I think you're reading a lot of the wrong things. There's crap mass market YA just like there's crap mass market adult. I wouldn't judge adult romantic fiction by harlequins, and I wouldn't judge YA romance by kissing babysitter books. Nor would I judge all adult or YA fiction by their romance genres.

    There are some pretty stunningly mature and complicated YA novels out there. Yeah, there's fluff romance and fluff fantasy. But there are very serious books, too, about growing up and fitting in, dealing with change, coping with difference, etc.

    And I don't know where Thirds stands, but be careful about assuming it's more YA just because it's less spicy and has a younger protagonist. There is both more and less to it than that. hahaha

  11. There is no mystery here. :-)

    Rowling and Myer opened the YA book market considerably.

    There have always been edgy YA books, but the market was small and not worth noticing. When Meyer and Rowling entered the scene, there was an expand to fill.

    Like the adult market, there are trashy YA books and YA books of very dubious value.

    However, there are just some killer recent books out there. Unwind. The Hunger Games. The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Cracked Up to Be. Uglies. I could go on and on and on.

    Don't over-engineer this. It's not that YA suddenly became the "it" thing with youths and adults. That the market was untapped, waiting for publishers to meet the demand. It's always been there.

  12. I like reading adult AND YA for a lot of the reasons already mentioned here. It depends on what I'm in the mood for. I agree with Anthony that some recent big sellers among YA have made those books (and the genre ) more visible to the general audiences.

  13. I read and write YA because, for me, they're generally more emotional. I write to get the intense emotions out of my system. That translates nicely to a teenage girl, who is generally more emotional than a grown woman by nature. That's why I write it. I read it because I identify with MC's who go through highly emotionally devastating things, which generally happens more often in YA books.

    I really think it's simply a matter of reader/author taste, and we shouldn't try to find an answer that probably doesn't exist. It's like how some people love mushrooms and the mere smell of them makes me want to puke. Humans are as varied and complex as the earth is wide; we should be celebrating those differences instead of trying to figure out why they exist and who's "lazy" or whatever. You know?


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