To suggest a book written for young adults has any less merit than the classics is sheer snobbery

25 August 2016

From Tes:

Award-winning young adult fiction author, Juno Dawson writes a response to Joe Nutt’s 19 August article: Why young-adult fiction is a dangerous fantasy

I wouldn’t usually enter into internet debates, because they’re usually just a case of rudeness versus reason, but I didn’t want to let Joe Nutt’s earlier piece go unchallenged for a number of reasons.

Let’s first tackle the deeply offensive first paragraph in which he suggests modern young adult fiction is a mealy-mouthed liberal cardigan made up of transgender and autistic wool. Firstly, I read a lot of YA, and I can assure him the vast, vast majority of characters are still white, heterosexual and cisgender. This is something I’ve been campaigning against my whole career.

Moreover, don’t minority characters belong in fiction? Is that really what he wants to be saying? Real life features both transgender and autistic characters – so should books. Also, he does rather seem to be suggesting that readers (particularly young men) wouldn’t be interested in exploring characters dissimilar to them. I think that’s utter garbage. What is reading for if not to walk around in someone else’s shoes for a few days?

. . . .

I can’t even get into the “boys’ books” argument, because it assumes there is one way to be a boy. There is not. Boys like all kinds of books, featuring all kinds of characters. Some boys, unfortunately, hate reading. Some girls hate reading too. At school, I hated football. I still hate football. There isn’t a football, or indeed footballer, out there that would get me into football. Such is life.

. . . .

Modern YA provides a link from the safety of children’s fiction to the unpredictable content of adult novels. Sure, authors like Melvin Burgess, Kevin Brooks and Louise O’ Neill have explored some very adult issues, but the key word is “explored”. Younger readers are introduced to how awful it can be to be human within parameters.

Link to the rest at Tes and thanks to Nate for the tip.

British Humiliation and ‘The Cursed Child’

13 August 2016
Comments Off on British Humiliation and ‘The Cursed Child’

From The Millions:

In late July, a kind of spell fell over London’s West End as the latest iteration of the Harry Potter saga opened: a play that even the New York Times’ imperious theatre critic Ben Brantley deemed magical. “The Eighth Story.Nineteen Years Later,” as the tagline goes, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 & 2 picks up where the last film left off, as Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Draco, and their receding hairlines drop their Hogwarts-bound offspring at Platform 9 ¾. Subsequently released as a script, The Cursed Child almost immediately broke book sales records, consumed, like the “Hamiltome,” by hundreds of thousands of fans who have no hope of ever finding their way inside the theater.

Whether you consider Harry Potter and The Cursed Child exhilarating fan service or terrible fanfic, its purpose is less to give us a “where are they now?” than to exhume the original series and examine the workings of the plot. The discovery of a contraband Time Turner by Albus Potter and Scorpio Malfoy — the sons of Harry and Draco — allows us to consider a Ronmione-free future; a scenario in which Potter and Malfoy offspring are sorted into Slytherin and develop a close, Drarry-like bond; and the cosmic importance of that gif of Neville Longbottom slaying Nagini. But beyond the threads of parental legacies and the heroism of friendship, going back in time to fiddle with the knobs teaches us one thing above all: the formative properties of humiliation.

. . . .

The Draco we see in a meddled-with future in which Voldemort lives is the same knob we know from the original book series, sans-humiliating clinch, rather than the soft, aggrieved “Sorry about your floor, Minerva” Draco introduced at the beginning of The Cursed Child — a character who appears to be a better father than Harry.

The common theme with all of these toggles is humiliation. To even get the Time Turner, located inside Minister of Magic Hermione Granger-Weasley’s office, young Albus Potter takes polyjuice to disguise himself as his Uncle Ron, and winds up kissing his aunt (“Let’s have another baby!”), as his disgusted friend Scorpio watches on.

Make no mistake, bollocksing things up in front of your peers and suffering a metaphysical death from embarrassment is a fundamental part of the British human condition, if one that is downplayed in the fan worship abroad. The parts of Harry Potter most glommed onto by Americans are patriotic concerns like honorable sacrifice, bravery in the face of an existential threat, unabashed declarations of love, and a fierce work ethic. But the heart of Harry Potter is really the Weasley’s burrow, that den of poor, gangly, knit-sweatered gingers, and perhaps most emphatically in the character of the endlessly put-upon Won-Won.

. . . .

The promise of English literature, and YA lit most especially, is that we shall rise like Phoenixes from the ashes of our latest mortification.

Link to the rest at The Millions

Most YA fiction is grown-up fiction in disguise

11 June 2016

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.

Why do teens prefer printed books to e-books? ‘We just do!’

31 May 2016

From Chris Meadows via TeleRead:

The Guardian has an interesting essay by a teen writer from the Guardian children’s books site entitled “Why teenagers are so resistant to e-readers.” (The writer posts under a handle and doesn’t give a gender, so I’m just going to assume she’s female so I can use a pronoun that looks less awkward than “they”.) It’s interesting enough, but when you read the thing, it’s actually kind of mistitled. It could better have been called “Why this teenager still loves paper books.”

She’s not even necessarily resistant to e-readers herself—she spends a paragraph singing the praises of the Kindle for being able to store so many books in such a small space. But then she calls attention to a recent survey showing that 16-24-year-olds prefer paper books—64% directly preferred print books, and 20% didn’t mind them.

People have their different reasons for this. For me personally, one of the many reasons I’m still more than happy to splurge most of my money in Waterstones is not only the smell of new books (intoxicating though that is), but also the feeling of actually holding a book, and being able to actually have a page turner. You can’t smell a Kindle – you’re holding plastic – and tapping an e-ink screen to turn a page isn’t really the same being able to turn a page.

Beyond that, she says, the assumption that everything modern teens do is filtered through digital media is precisely that—an assumption. It doesn’t necessarily hold true for everyone, and there’s still plenty of room for respecting tradition.

. . . .

Why does the kid who wrote this article prefer printed books? She just does. (Well, she cites the smell of books, but I still have a hard time imagining we’ve raised an entire younger generation who goes around huffing books the way they used to sniff tubes of model glue.) I could make sweeping generalizations, such as a rebellion against the preferences of the older generation who’ve taken to Kindles like ducks to water, or perhaps after staring at screens all day at school and for social networking they want to take a break and stare at words that are fixed in place on their pages.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

The Andre Norton Award

21 March 2016

PG received the following message from M.C.A. Hogarth:

Next year, SFWA would like to ensure indie participation in the jury for the Norton award, which recognizes the best in YA and Middle-Grade fiction for the year. I’m not familiar with the indie YA and MG markets, so I’m hoping for some recommendations of folks who’d be willing to serve on next year’s jury. They’d have to know the indie YA or MG market well, and be willing to read a lot of (free!) books; I’d also like them to help me raise awareness of the award among indies so we can get more of their works sent to the jury.

Jurists can be YA or MG authors themselves; they’d have to recuse themselves from nomination for the year, but they can serve.

Here’s a link to the relevant SWFA Norton Award page and you can contact Maggie through her author site.

Are we witnessing the death of young-adult dystopia at the movies?

21 March 2016

From The Los Angeles Times:

In movie theaters this past weekend, a reluctant teen hero led a rebellion comprising an implausible clan of oppressed but likable young iconoclasts. Together they rose up around their chosen one to fight their government’s evil social engineering.

Sound familiar? No, it wasn’t a new installment of “The Hunger Games,” “The Maze Runner”or “The Giver.” And it wasn’t a reprise of “Saturday Night Live’s” “The Group Hopper” sketch, which blended almost every current dystopian teen trope into a trailer for a fake movie “written entirely,” the joke went, “in the comments section of a ‘Hunger Games’ trailer.”

The real film was “The Divergent Series: Allegiant — Part 1,” the third in the franchise starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James.

But with an opening weekend box office of just $29 million — compared with a $54-million start for “Divergent” (2014) and a slightly lower $52 million for “Insurgent” (2015) — “Allegiant” debuted at a disappointing No. 2 behind the rabbit-fronted “Zootopia, calling into question whether we are witnessing the end of the young adult dystopian wave at the movies.

. . . .

But few films in this genre have been able to claim “The Hunger Games'” big bucks. The 2013 science-fiction thriller “The Host” made just more than $26.5 million in its entire domestic run, even though it was adapted from a novel written by “Twilight” author Stephanie Meyer and starred two-time Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan. Another alien-centric adaptation “The 5th Wave,” still in theaters, has made just under $34 million since its January debut.

. . . .

Senior media analyst for comScore Paul Dergarabedian doesn’t agree that the weight can be placed solely on the genre in question. “Athough as a whole the YA dystopian movies have had massive success, many films from this category have fallen short, so their continued relevance in the marketplace has come into question,” Dergarabedian said in a email.

He added, “The overriding premise of most of these films seem very similar and thus the natural conclusion is that YA audiences may be looking for other, perhaps fresher options.”

. . . .

Even though the movie dystopia looks to be slowly dwindling in box-office numbers, the “bleak future” trend is alive on television. The CW’s critically adored “The 100” just got renewed for another season, USA premiered Carlton Cuse’s alien-occupied Los Angeles thriller “Colony” in January and AMC’s “The Walking Dead” (while mostly teen-free) is still running strong with a spinoff “Fear the Walking Dead” in tandem. More is on the way. The CW gave the green light to an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” with a dystopian bent. Wrap your head around that.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Times and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

‘The X-Files Origins’ YA Novels Will Follow Adolescent Mulder and Scully

23 February 2016

From Entertainment Weekly:

X-Files fans will be able to add a new chapter to Mulder and Scully’s story with The X-Files Origins series, a pair of YA novels about 15-year-old Dana Scully and 17-year-old Fox Mulder.

EW can exclusively announce the two new novels inThe X-Files Origins series, Agent of Chaos and Devil’s Advocate. Each story is set in the spring of 1979, when serial murder, the occult, and government conspiracy were highlighted in the news. The books, acquired by Imprint/Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, follow Mulder and Scully as they experience life-changing events that set them on the path to becoming the FBI agents depicted by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson on the cult-favorite TV show The X-Files.

Link to the rest at Entertainment Weekly

BISG Implements New Subject Headings for Young Adult Books

1 February 2016

From Publishing Perspectives:

For the last 10 years, there has been exponential growth in the children’s book market, largely in the Young Adult category.

As an interesting outcome to that growth, the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) has implemented new BISAC code subject headings, migrating from Juvenile Fiction (JUV) and Juvenile Non-Fiction (JNF) to YAF (Young Adult Fiction) to YAN (Young Adult Non-Fiction).

The reason for adding the YA headings is that, over time, YA has become its own subject or genre.

Although discussion around the codes has gone on since 2003, it wasn’t until 2014 that the idea of creating a new section devoted to young adult books began to gain more ground.  After a survey of BISG’s entire membership showed that more than 80 percent of members would find it valuable if the BISAC included specific codes for teen/young adult content, talks were undertaken with some of the biggest stakeholders—such as Penguin Random House, Nielsen, Barnes and Noble—to define the benefits of this change.

Stakeholders noted that YA content would benefit from its own designation for potential sales opportunities, awards tracking, and to help with unreliable audience codes and age ranges and grades.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG says discussions started in 2003 and new codes are announced 13 years later – another data point demonstrating that Big Publishing is not operating on internet time.

Does YA Mean It’s a Clean Read?

14 January 2016

From author Tianna Holley:

The answer is no. Books are not regulated and graded like movies, music, and video games, and it’s up to the authors and publishers to choose the genre. A young adult novel usually means the main characters are in their teen years. However, some books with older characters can pass as a young adult read if they’re clean–such as the Alissia Roswell Series.

Although most people believe a young adult book keeps to certain standards–no sex, low violence, and mild cursing–that’s not the case. I’ve stopped reading many books  only halfway through, because I was disgusted with the hard cursing, sexual content, and lack of morals in the main characters. I know of one book that I put down without finishing the first chapter. The main character’s mouth made me cringe with R-rated cursing, and she was a horrible person.

. . . .

While volunteering at my daughter’s middle school book fair, two girls were standing behind me talking about books. One of them pointed to a book and said, “Fifty Shades of Grey right there. That book shouldn’t even be in here.”

While reading the reviews of a book I considered downloading for my daughters, a lot of the reviewers complained that the main teenage character had a low self-esteem from abuse. She then befriended a group of boys and winded up becoming “their girl.” Instead of choosing one boy, they shared her (which seems more abusive).

. . . .

If you’re reading this and getting upset with me for trying to control what my children read, you should be aware that I’m also trying to control what I read. I don’t want to read intense sex scenes, and I honestly don’t want my children reading them, either. It really doesn’t have a place in our home, and I hope you’ll respect that. Please don’t spam me with your opinions and argument.

Link to the rest at Tianna Holley and thanks to Morgyn for the tip.

Here’s a link to Tianna Holley’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

PG sympathizes with parents’ desire to exert what control they can over what their children read and see.

In past volunteer work, PG encountered the devastating effects that pornography can have on individuals and families. Consequences included divorce, job loss and attempted suicide.

As with other behaviors, such as gambling, pornography only becomes a behavioral addiction for some individuals (usually, but not always, men), so those who aren’t adversely affected may not understand the impact it has on the susceptible.

7 Reasons You Should Write A YA Novel, From One Woman Who Did

12 November 2015

From Bustle:

Whoever said that the publishing industry was dying hasn’t had a peak into John Green’s bank account. Of course, that’s YA publishing – the former “kids table” version of the book market now currently in a position to host the whole dinner party.

The adult book market may be a tricky place to play, but right now YA is white hot. So much so that it may actually be saving the rest of the literary world! At the end of 2014 book sales were up across all categories by 4.9 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and almost all growth was in young adult.

In other words – you should write that YA novel you’ve been dreaming up now.

. . . .

 2. YA Style Is Incredibly Fun

High emotions, twisty tales, constant cliffhangers and short chapters define the genre. That makes for fun writing that can be a great area to play in if you’re experienced or novice. Read as much YA as you can get your hands on to get a feel for the style then decide how you’ll make it your own.

. . . .

 4. Your Adult Friends Will Totally Read Your YA Masterpiece

A 2012 survey by Bowker Market Research found that 55% of young adult novels are bought by adults, and that number has only grown in the past three years. So if you’re worried about the literary lovers in your life turning a nose up at your teenaged saga, fear not. A great story is appealing to everyone.

. . . .

 6. You Can Self-Publish and See Just as Much Success

Let us never forget that Fifty Shades of Grey started as Twilight fan fiction. Self-publishing is an incredible pathway to securing a book agent at the least or selling a million copies on your own, at the most. Not to mention Wattpad star Anna Banks and Amanda Hocking, who eventually signed a book deal for a cool $2 million.

Link to the rest at Bustle

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