The other day, I talked about how books published for teenagers, and their audience, was skewing younger. But there's another shift that has taken place in the world of teen literature over the past several years -- adults are now reading these books in record numbers. We can thank a certain wizard for making the Children's and Teen sections of the book store a must-stop for most readers. I'm grateful, not only for the increased sales, but also because it makes me look a little less creepy for trolling around the chapter book section.
With adult readers comes adult bloggers and influence. Influence in the publishing world translates into buying power, then into sales, and from there into editorial. On the surface, it would appear the adult presence would counter the trending toward younger books, but it doesn't always. Because the one thing I've noticed frequently is that most adult readers of YA fiction tend to get angry when the characters behave...well, like teenagers.
I see it all the time; a review by an adult reader that thinks such and such character behaves stupidly, or that such and such character drove them crazy. Perhaps that's because a real teenager would drive them crazy. The truth is, the life a teenager can be frustrating and confusing, and that's what realistic teen fiction tries to present. An adult reader doesn't necessarily want to dwell on those difficult times. And as I get older, it's remarkable how easily most adults forget completely what it was like to be a teen. Therefore, what is presented as realistic teen fiction today is kind of far from the reality of most teens.
So basically, where does that leave us? You have the more fantasy, fairy tale publishing for the younger readers (and some of the older readers too) and the more Chicklit Lite for the older readers (and some of the younger ones too). And to be clear, I don't think there's anything wrong with this. Readers enjoy it. They can be enjoyable books. However, what there seems to be lacking is a real sense of books for teenage readers of literature, not simply fiction. There's not much out there for that 15-17 year old who wants to read about their lives. And what is out there is poorly stocked in stores and hidden among the paranormal romance picks of the month.
Basically, the readers who brought the genre back from the brink a decade ago are being shut out once again. Which is really saddening. On the other hand, it's kind of nice to see that YA has become a genre as diverse as adult fiction. It's not simply problem-novels and Sweet Valley High anymore. There's a world of publishing from fantasy to romance. I just hope it doesn't devour itself with too much of the same old, same old.