From The Guardian:
The director of the children’s programme at the Edinburgh international book festival is worried. According to Janet Smythe: “YA fiction, the major publishing creation of the last decade, means many readers will never experience some wonderful writing.” Perhaps she’s right. Perhaps all those MAAs (middle-aged adults) and OAs do feel all those major publishing creations aren’t for them. But I’m not worried about adult-adults missing out on YA fiction in the slightest.
Figures from Nielsen show that 80% of YA literature is read by people over 25. It’s a pretty astonishing and, to me, disturbing statistic. It strongly suggests that something has gone horribly wrong in publishing. (And, possibly, with those readers …) Most people involved in publishing YA books would claim that these are intended to be read by teenagers. If this figure is correct, then they are missing that target. By decades. And that’s important, because many children stop reading when they reach the teenage years – especially boys. The world, it seems, suddenly holds pleasures greater than losing yourself in a great book. Could this be because the books that should belong to them, inhabiting their hearts and brains, are actually (consciously or subconsciously) directed at older readers?
A little history. It’s possible to trace back literature pitched explicitly at teenagers to Margaret Daly’s Seventeenth Summer, written in 1942. The term “young adult” was coined in the 1960s for the US library system, looking for a pigeonhole to place books like this and SE Hinton’s The Outsiders. From there the expansion of the term was slow but steady. Until the 1990s, children’s publishers tended to use “teen fiction” to describe books aimed at 11- to 14-year-olds, and YA for 14+. At some time in the noughties this shifted again, with YA taking over the whole teen spectrum.
And this change in terminology has been accompanied by a transformation in the nature of the books produced. Writers began to produce fiction that transcended a narrow age restriction. This includes some of the very finest living novelists, irrespective of genre – writers such as Meg Rosoff and Mal Peet and Patrick Ness. There are other, less well-known writers who are equally good. I have recently read books by Faye Bird, Jo Nadin and Martin Stewart that did everything I want great literature to do, to enthral and delight and ravish the imagination.
. . . .
For me, the problem is that a huge amount of theoretically teenage publishing is churning out books that simply aren’t for teenagers at all. And that must mean, given the finite opportunities for new books, that “real” teenage books aren’t getting published.
Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Barb for the tip.