September 13, 2012

Wait. So, is this a GOOD thing?

PW reports that 55% of YA novels are purchased by adults.

In a way? Old news. Who has the list of birthdays and such? Mom and Dad. Who buy you books? Mom and Dad. And Grandma. And your Book Auntie. However, this piece points out that 28% of that 55% were buying for themselves. It's a trend we've seen, but I'm kind of wondering if there are enough adults to actually tip some kind of scales in the YA department. I mean, are the adult readers influencing what kind of lit is written? Gatekeepers already compose such a huge part of how young adult literature is published, and we have an idealized version of teen and young adulthood to contend with from misty, water-colored memories of some of our gatekeepers. Short of having only sixteen-year-olds allowed to pen epics for others of their tribe, is there any way to avoid too much adult cross-pollination?

Just some thinks to think on a Thursday afternoon.

Hat tip to Tash for the linkage.


Jennifer said...

I've got this "problem" at my library, where there are a lot of adults who like to read ya. Mainly the bestseller/read-alike stuff like Hunger Games, Twilight, etc. Now, my teens like that too, but they really like realistic fiction as well - maybe even more so than the thousandth read-alike for Hunger Games. But the adults are more vocal and up the circulation numbers, which I need to continue buying young adult titles. So...what to do?

tanita✿davis said...

Man, I've been thinking about this since you posted your question, and... I just don't know.

This is the other side of the adults-buying-YA thing that isn't discussed; it's impact on libraries, and library buying trends.

I'm going to bounce this off of a couple of librarians, and come back with some discussion in a day or so - Jennifer, thanks for a thought-provoking question.

LinWash said...

Hmm. Not quite sure what to think about this, since I'm an adult who reads YA. But then I was in a master's program--writing for children and young adults--so I have an excuse. :-D On the one hand, I'm glad the books have readers of any kind. On the other, I hope this doesn't mean that fewer teens are reading these books.

I've noticed more novelists who usually write books for adults are now writing YA books, because YA books are very popular.

C. K. Kelly Martin said...

"I mean, are the adult readers influencing what kind of lit is written?"

I have no idea but I'm very curious and am going to stay-tuned to see what you come back with. Really interesting to hear jennifer's thoughts about the adults being more vocal.

Jennifer said...

I actually asked this question on pubyac about a month ago (listserv for youth services in public libraries). The general response was "reading is good, you should have some of the adult budget"

And I got some! Generally, the adults at my library who read YA tell me they like that there's less graphic sex and violence and the stories aren't as hopeless and depressing as adult literature and they're more exciting. That's just what they tell me...

Sarah Stevenson said...

Jennifer, those adults make a good point...which makes me wonder if the mainstream "grown-up" or literary publishing industry isn't doing readers a disservice by pushing a certain type of writing.

I also wonder if teen reads offer a briefer (in some cases), more quickly readable option in today's world when people don't seem to have as much time to spare for reading. Just thinking out loud, and trying to consider some of my own reasons for continuing to read YA (aside from the fact that I think the writing is damn good and the stories are innovative and take more risks). :)

Charlotte said...

I don't think that the adults who buy YA are going to have much effect on what gets published in the future, cause are we demonstrating that we are liking what is published now? I don't think I would want to buy misty, watercolored memories!

I think it's pretty safe to assume that many of the YA buying adults are women, and that the gender breakdown might actually have more of an effect on what gets published. The paranormal romances, I bet, are the biggest cross sellers....and I don't think those are water color-y!

I feel a little sorry for men who want to read YA and middle grade...and who might feel awkward intruding into the social space of children. A woman browsing the shelves of the children's section of a library wouldn't raise an eybrow, but a strange man with no kids in tow might.

And then there are us adults who buy middle grade books for our own reading pleasure...but I don't think this group is substantial enough for anyone to care about possible effects. Maybe in part because the gatekeeper role is larger the younger you go, so a certain mistiness might already be built into the picture...

Jackie Castle said...

As Jennifer said, "they like that there's less graphic sex and violence and the stories aren't as hopeless and depressing as adult literature and they're more exciting."
Personally, I started reading YA when I decided I wanted to write for children and young adults. I've never been a fan of any kind of romance book... talk about misty watercolored... but when my daughter wanted to read the Twilight books, and I'd heard conflicting views on the series, I decided to read them with her. And I enjoyed them. For the reasons above that Jennifer pointed out.

As a bookseller, I'm finding more and more adults come through the cashrap with loads of YA and even middle grade books. When I ask if they are loading up the kids library, they adamantly let me know these are their books. And their reasons alight pretty much with what Jennifer said. Less sex, more hopeful, more adventure and action and simply, they are more fun to read.

There might be a reason YA has become so popular. Maybe adult readers are tipping the scales. If publishers don't wish to pay attention to that, I think it's their bad, especially with the downward trend bookstores are experiencing.

Great topic! Interesting discussion.

Jennifer said...

Charlotte, it is mostly women, but we have a reasonable number of guys (young adult and older) who go for the comics in the teen area and nobody thinks anything of it.

We do have a smaller number of adults who read middle grade - predominantly fantasy. They know to come to me b/c although the other librarians are always polite, I have heard them make fun of these people in private and I think some of that comes through in their interactions.

RM1(SS) (ret) said...

I'm a man who has no problems with being seen in the MG and YA sections of libraries. For me, the literary equivalent of comfort food is going back and rereading the books I read when I was a kid (the problem, of course, being that most libraries have purged those books in the intervening 40-50 years). And now I think about it, really the only fiction I borrow from the adult section is the library is mysteries and SF; most of my "general" fiction is YA or MG.

tanita✿davis said...

@ Jennifer~ Well, I'm glad you got some of the budget, at least! I hope you can sort of book-talk and ease your adult readers into some readalikes which aren't in the bestseller styles, in time.

@ RM1~ the books I'm after aren't quite as vintage yet, but certainly there's the issue of the "classics" going out of circulation in favor of the bestseller YA Jennifer originally mentioned... which circles back to the issue of pushing a certain type of writing sometimes, based on adult tastes.

@ Charlotte~ I have to disagree about the gatekeepers getting quieter and milder as the child ages. Oh, no. The closer a kid gets to sexual maturity, the more hysterical the gatekeeping becomes. Swear? Oh, noes! Participate in risky behaviors, like sex? I think not. And then Gatekeepers reimagine young adulthood, based on some ideas that doesn't exist.

I don't mock them - it's an easy head-space to get into, really. However, it's not realistic, and it's a constant battle to write things which are realistic yet which still pass some kind of muster.

...ah, a soapbox for another day.

Some food for thought! Thank you all for chiming in on this.