Has the YA bug bitten you?

I’ve noticed a rapid growth in the young adult genre in recent years.  Series such as Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games have all helped it to take off and become more popular for readers.  Up until a couple of years ago, I occasionally picked up some of these books and enjoyed the few that caught my interest.  There is something about seeing through the lens of youth that can be  amusing and, sometimes, heartbreaking.  Yet as I reached my thirties nearly all interest in young adult faded away.

These days, I want adult situations, adult content, and adult problems.  No teenage hormones and angst…or any “coming of age” issues. If a book even reads like YA with a seemingly immature protagonist, I banish it from my iPad with a tap of my finger (it’s not as satisfying as the old way of getting rid of a book, but it works).

There is something you should know about me.  I stopped watching cartoons after age twelve and refused to have any part of them from that point on. I won’t consider animated films either.  Real people or nothing at all is my motto.  In order to ensure I am not exposed to such material, I have been parentally blocking the cartoon network for years (my husband doesn’t find this amusing because he loves cartoons and animated work).  If I’m sleeping, though, he can rent one of those deplorable films and watch it by himself.  There are those (aside from my family), who have called me evil for this.  Perhaps they are right, but folks on Amazon didn’t bestow the moniker “Mistress of the Dark Path” on me for nothing.

There have been very rare exceptions.  As some of the long time readers of this blog know, I read Hunger Games and enjoyed it.  But that novel did not feel like a story written for teenagers.   It had a lot of adult themes that gave it a solid crossover appeal.  I promised a couple of authors last year to review their YA books, and managed to get through some of them, but I’ve hit the point now that it isn’t possible anymore.  My taste is changing and young adult just isn’t doing it for me ninety-nine percent of the time.  With so many novels I know I have a better chance of enjoying, it’s not worth wading through to find that one percent that might give me what I want.

Interestingly, I went to QueryTracker.net  and checked the stats on YA submissions to literary agents.  Of the sixty-five agent reply histories I went over covering the last year (including several who say they only accept adult), approximately twenty-six percent of the novels queried to them were YA.  The proportion in which they showed interest did not equal that amount.  From among these same agents, I estimated forty-eight percent of all their full and partial manuscript requests were for YA (meaning authors who queried that genre had a much greater chance of getting an agent’s attention).  Another seven percent of requests were for Middle Grade.  This leaves only forty-five percent of requested material coming from all the other genres in the adult fiction category.  This mystified me.

Despite Amazon, NY Times, and USA Today rankings showing a large number of adult novels selling very well, it appears agents and publishers are ignoring this in favor of putting out more YA and less adult.  You have to consider that any book queried through traditional means at this time will not be released until at least two years from now.  It also makes it even more difficult than it already is to gain their attention if you only write in the adult genre.  I certainly sympathize with those who decide to bypass this process by going indie because it is only getting more difficult to publish with the Big Six.

I’m biased against YA because I don’t read it, but I respect all those that do.  We all have our own tastes in literature and should seek to read/write what pleases us.  My only concern is that this upsurge is going to glut the market with YA and leave a smaller and smaller selection of adult novels to choose from.  Luckily, we still have self-published books to choose from, but I find it rather short-sited of the traditional publishers.

What do you all think?  Do you enjoy YA and look forward to seeing more?  Are you tired of it?  Do you write it yourself?  I’d love to hear other opinions on this matter.


Note– I have extended the deadline for the Five Little Words contest until Tuesday evening.  If you’re interested in one of the prizes and want to participate, click here.





~ by Suzie on August 26, 2012.

15 Responses to “Has the YA bug bitten you?”

  1. I had stopped reading YA a long time ago, but I’ve recently started re-reading the novels I read nearly two decades ago. It’s been a wonderful walk down memory lane. I’ve read a handful of more recently published YA novels, and liked them, but I doubt YA will be a large percentage of my reading material. I do feel too old for it! Judging from the blogs I come across, it seems there are a lot of YA readers who are adults. It’s a wide audience and I can see why the publishing industry would target it.

    • I think a large segment of YA readers are adults. More than most of us realize. Various blog posts on the topic have explained differing reasons for this, but I can understand how it can appeal to some people. There is something about a youthful character overcoming great odds and growing as a person that can be fascinating to read. I just can’t take it in large doses. Once or twice a year is good enough for me.

  2. I read the Twilight series, fell in love with JacobBlack/Taylor Lautner, and decided to stay away from YA ever since. I prefer sexy/adult situations.

    • *Jacob Black*–sorry

    • I read Twilight too and enjoyed it. People can bash the book/series all they want, but it isn’t always about having the perfect grammar or writing style. It’s about telling a story and keeping the reader turning the pages.

      The main thing is, I’m like you and prefer to read content with much more mature situations. A dip in the YA bucket once in a while is okay, but I like dark, gritty, sexy stories with characters who’ve already experienced life and have some idea of how to handle themselves. They might be exposed to new situations, but they are mature enough to handle it. Plus blushing, innocent female characters have grown to get on my nerves. No offense to those who write them. It’s just that I’ve gotten tired of seeing them, especially in today’s society where those types are rare to see anymore. Historical fiction can be an exception to the rule since that was a different time with different expectations, but in most other cases it doesn’t work for me.

  3. I’ve heard people say the YA books are better because kids will not put up with a story that doesn’t go anywhere. They’re usually tighter plots and keep up the action.

    • Hey MM! I think it really depends on the genre. I’ve found that paranormal/urban fantasy tends to be fast paced with tons of action and a solid plot, whether it’s adult or YA. There are probably a couple other genres I either don’t read or can’t think of right now that are also this way. Yet I’ve also seen many a YA novel that moved at a snail’s pace, so it’s certainly not a rule. “To Kill a Mockingbird” was voted one of the most favorite YA novels of all time and it is certainly not full of action. Great story but it didn’t have much of an actual plot. Just various story threads that ran through and came to some kind of conclusion. Of course, it’s literary fiction which tends to work that way. I just don’t know that there is one correct answer to why young adult is growing into the phenomenon it is, other than to say it has caught a lot of readers’ attention regardless of their age.

      • It would sure be nice if there was a ‘formula’ for success in YA. It’s hard to tell what will capture a teen’s attention. I certainly can’t tolerate all the drama and angst that so many of them seem to love, but some of the other books are great reads – suitable for any age really, just without some of the graphic language and gruesome details.

        • MM, I think the only element we can count on is if the author has an impressive story telling ability, it will shine through. Even if they break every rule in the writing playbook. I’ve seen those cases and it boggles my mind how some authors can make you like something, even if you were sure you wouldn’t. Of course, even that is on an individual basis. Subjectivity and all that.

  4. I was biased against YA for a long time, but then over the past couple months I realized that my opinions weren’t necessarily fair and were based more on stereotypes than anything else. I discovered some fantastic authors (Kristin Cashore is one of them) whose writing is articulate and indistinguishable from adult novels. I think right now YA is a marketing strategy; I read a lot of SF/F, and even twenty years ago novels that were aimed at teenagers would be marketed as adult novels. For example, many of Anne McCaffery’s novels featured teenage protagonists coming of age and entering the adult world, but they’d always be in the SF/F section rather than YA. I realized that it wasn’t YA itself that I hated, but rather the angst and love triangles that seem to be so popular right now.

    • Grace, it’s definitely the angst and love triangles that get me. I’ll drop a lot of adult books for the same reason. Those elements were amusing the first few times, but they are getting rather old now. In fact, there are several plot lines in sci-fi/fantasy that have gotten so old I can’t stand them regardless of whether it’s adult or YA. Of course, every time I say that someone comes along with just enough of a twist that I end up giving it a chance. I think it’s tough to put our fingers on exactly what works for us and what doesn’t. My only thing is that most of the time I want adult stories, with plenty of sex/violence/questionable content. I’m so naughty. It’s only once in awhile that I can veer from that path and it’s usually with authors I’m already familiar with.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  5. Oh my dear Mistress, please tell me you’ll make (or made) an exception to watch “Up.” That animated movie was made for adults and it had me crying within the first 10 or so minutes in a theater (and I make an effort to not show emotion in public.)

    But as a YA author, I might be able to shed some sort of light on this. Originally, I went the traditional route before plunging into the indie lifestyle and loving every bit of it. You won’t see a YA novel in the average bestseller rankings because thanks to Harry Potter, there’s now a special ranking especially for children’s books which YA falls under. There’s a sort of innocence and freshness about YA that has made it so popular for the past few years and is the sole reason why that section in the bookstores is suddenl exploding. But it’s not just the innocence, it’s the “dark, dark stuff” that I think has a lot of people hooked.

    There was this crazy debate over too much “dark stuff” in YA fiction about a year or so ago. I don’t know, some mom who didn’t care about books must have picked up one book and noted that there was too much sex in it and labeled all of YA fiction as too mature and racy and started this debate. But she had a point. Ten years ago, YA fiction was more or less “cutesy” like the Baby-Sitters Club, but there were books out there that were more edgy, like “The Outsiders” which can be deemed as the first YA novel. Nowadays authors want to keep pushing the envelope and as of late, more and more YA authors are hitting topics such as sex, drugs, bullying, and suicide and it’s really connecting with more and more teens because those are the issues that teens deal with and are relating to whether adults realize it or not. And I heard, somewhere, that part of its appeal is because it has a more adventurous plot. Like a typical YA book might have fantasy elements (paranormal is hot at the moment) but it’s also heavy on the romance, sans sex which appeals to some readers like me.

    • Thanks for weighing in, Sheenah. I was hoping you might stop by since you have a lot of experience on this subject. I totally forgot some of the big bestseller lists like NY Times do have a separate set of rankings for YA/Children’s. Good point. The Babysitter’s Club used to be one of the series I followed, but that was back during elementary school. By the time I was fourteen I was reading adult historical romance novels and bodice rippers (this was in the 90s). I prefer paranormal/fantasy books have sex, but it isn’t a rule. If a writer can hook me with solid world building, strong characters, and a good storyline, I still might consider it. Angela Wallace’s adult urban fantasy series is clean, but I enjoy her writing.

      Regardless, if they’d had the young adult selection back in my teenage years that they have today I might have gotten into it. I love dark elements and pretty much every YA I have chosen to read has included them in some form. Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa is a good example. I’d sworn off YA when one website, I think it was vampirebookclub.net, posted an excerpt of the first chapter before the novel released. Not realizing it was YA, I decided to read it and totally got hooked. It went on my wish list right away so I wouldn’t forget to buy it when it became available. That one was one of those rare exceptions to my rule, though I didn’t review it because there were so many already posted that it didn’t need my help.

      I haven’t seen, or heard of, “UP” to be honest. I’m glad you liked it, though 🙂

      • I still have my Babysitter’s Club books! I remember inhaling them and just being so engrossed in them when I was in elementary school.
        Bodice rippers aren’t really my thing, so for me YA books give me the romance I want without having the two main characters ripping each other’s clothes off (for the most part). I do enjoy a really good adult book and mainstream books actually make up a bulk of my reading. But, I dunno… There’s just something about YA that just really appeals to me.
        Oooo, you read Julie Kagawa’s new series? I’ve been wanting to check that out, but haven’t gotten around to yet. I met her once and ended up buying her entire Iron Fey series that day so she could sign them. She’s a fun person. 🙂

  6. I do not read YA. I am a grown woman. I don’t watch cartoons and I don’t care for YA. The only exception I can think of was Twilight. The character development in that series was great. Other than that, high school? I hated it while I was there, why on earth would I want to read about it now? I tried but could not get into Harry Potter. I have not read nor seen Hunger Games. I write PNR for adults and I avoid YA like the plague. I’m glad there are so many stories available for our YA crowd but, they’re not for me.

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