Changes in Teen/Young Adult Fiction
Let’s start with a confession: I am a woman in my late-ish twenties with a relatively new but rather major addiction to Young Adult fiction.
That was scary.
I expect you’re all wondering now why YA fiction is relatively new to me when there isn’t so much of the young with my adult anymore. Well sit back, relax, grab yourself a cuppa and a choccy biccy or two and I’ll tell you all about it…
When I was growing up, I was a massive bookworm. A 100+ books in 6 weeks MASSIVE bookworm (a summer holiday personal best). My favourite place was the library and I spent as much time as I could with my nose firmly entrenched in a book. As I grew older however, I ran out of things to read. At that point in time I was choosing from the Children’s section but, being older, I went searching for more. What that more was, I didn’t have a clue. I just knew that I had grown up and didn’t want to read about childish adventures where the only mystery was a slight misunderstanding and a half-heard conversation. Therefore I set my sights around the corner of the children’s’ section and came across the mysterious and scary ‘Teen Reads’.
Unfortunately the ‘Teen Reads’ section – as it was named at that time – wasn’t nearly the home of thrills, excitement, fantasy and adventure that the now-named Young Adult sections are. As such, once I was through with Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, Forever by Judy Blume and as much of the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz as had been written, I quickly moved on. For some reason I was never a fan authors like Nicholas Sparks or books like I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I didn’t want the feels and tears – very off-putting at that age. I ended up split between Harry Potter of the children’s section and Terry Pratchett of the adults section (for that last one I can thank my Pratchett-fan father).
It wasn’t until 2005 and the publishing of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer that, to me, young adult fiction really got its kick into my and the public’s eye. I have no doubt there were similar books beforehand but to me, much like E L James for erotic fiction, Stephenie Meyer brought vampires and werewolves to the fore of YA fiction. I will admit to holding out as long as I could to read Twilight; I really hate conforming to popular trends and this was a big’un. In the end though I gave in and I read it. And I loved it. I still refused for years afterwards to watch the films – I couldn’t stand some of the casting (apart from Charlie – he was fab). As book lovers well know, you can’t put into a film every word, action and nuance or find the absolute perfect actor to portray every character. More’s the pity. Make an 18 hour film detailing all x number of pages with the right actors and I’ll be happy.
After Twilight came out, I started to notice more and more YA Fantasy books and I, along with the majority of the population lapped them up! Many will know well The Vampire Diaries by L.J Smith, The Immortals series by Alyson Noel, the Fallen series by Lauren Kate and thousands of others too numerous to name. Along with this popularity for YA Fantasy (and Paranormal Romance) came a boost for other YA genres. Dystopian for example saw a rise with The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins and then the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth. General YA fiction came up again with The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
All of these however are admittedly fantastic introductions to Adult literature. Adult Lite perhaps? The YA genre face hard topics head on. Topics like the end of the world, terminal illness, love, loss, racism, sexuality and more, all in a way that is totally accessible. Something everyone can relate to in some way. I wish now I had tried a few more teen books – really looked at the ones that weren’t Point Horror or Point Romance and gone for something a little harder.
What it all boils down to though is that YA fiction has grown so much – over the last 10 years especially. These books with their difficult topics are no longer restricted to such an age-specific title of ‘Teen’. There is much more of a link too between ‘Child’ and ‘Adult’ and these books are there to teach and guide. But that is the joy of literature. 26 letters, jumbled up with a hint of punctuation and a spot of grammar can bring joy, sorrow, laughter, tears and every emotion under the sun to whomever reads it. No doubt in 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 years’ time there will be new books and new genre fields but for now, teen literature is no more and the title Young Adult (because by golly I’m growing up and I have something to say) is making itself known and extremely well loved.