Today’s guest post is from author Suzan Battah, pondering the popularity of YA fiction today.
Young Adult Fiction has come a long way since I was a teenager. The quality of the stories has jumped a thousand percent. The length in young adult novels has expanded and exceeded what it used to be.
I remember growing up with Young Adult Fiction, quickly growing bored with the novella sized books and repetitious storylines. Between the age of 12 and 14 I was devouring books and nothing was interesting me anymore. So I ended up going straight to the Adult Fiction section in the Library, even though I got a frown from the elderly Librarian.
Fast forward to present day and wow! Young Adult Fiction is hotter than ever. And I’m going to tell you why. It’s become more edgy, readable and it pushes boundaries that it never used to do. Young Adults don’t need to be coddled. They can read a full length novel and enjoy it without losing interest. They can delve into complicated plots and multi-dimensional characters.
Not only is it more appealing to Young Adults but a new generation of older ‘Young Adult Fiction’ fans are hopping on the tracks. I’m one of them. I love coming of age stories that are complicated, adventurous and so real in that I can identify with the characters. Young Adults face more challenges with growing technology and a changing world and by bringing some type of essence of reality into YA Fiction is a big reason why it’s so popular. I’m including all subgenres of YA Fiction in this statement because even in Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Dystopian and Historical YA Fiction there is always a special connection between the storyline’s reality in which a reader is absorbed in.
Twilight is popular, very popular not just because of Robert Patterson being the super hunk that he is playing Edward but because so many teenage girls have fallen in love with the idea of a chivalrous boyfriend willing to do anything to protect you. This is what the story’s underlying message is, despite his most deepest urge to taste Bella’s blood, Edward loves her enough that he won’t risk hurting her. Also, interestingly if you do take the Twilight series apart without googly, lovey dovey eyes there are plenty of flaws but it’s believable and written well enough to have collected a fantastic following of not just Young Adults but Older fans as well – including me.
Moving on to another example, Richelle Mead’s popular Vampire Academy series, after reading Twilight, I really didn’t want to read another ‘vampire’ book but I was somehow drawn to this story and after reading the series completely out of sync, I am now a huge fan of Richelle Mead. Her plots are complicated and fascinating. The characters are real, intense and emotional and what a heroine in Rose Hathaway. She fights for what she believes in with such attitude and does it well. The relationship between her and Dimitri is riddled with issues. He is her mentor after all. But this whole story is done really well. It tests the boundaries and goes beyond limitations.
And JK Rowling, yes I will include her in this conversation because the Harry Potter series though it did begin as Middle Grade novels, the series grew and developed and completed as Young Adult Fiction. She did a fantastic job in creating Harry Potter in such a way that not just Children and Young Adults could enjoy but the whole world became awed by him. Personally, I was pushed into the reading HP by a colleague at work, who absolutely loved the books. I bought all seven in one hit and read them back to back. And although I didn’t love this series, I believe it is one of the best written, most creative series of all time. In my opinion she wasted the last book and should have put the ending of the seventh book into the sixth and be done with it.
Young Adult Fiction is so popular because it relates to all people on so many different levels. Young Adults have access to many new digital formats, inexpensive Ebooks are available and social networking is expanding to a new level where teenagers can communicate and discuss their favourite books, movies etc to a worldwide audience on the web. Word of mouth spreads quickly and can go viral on the internet. Amanda Hocking did it with her YA novels by writing stories that entertained readers and though not the best written novels still managed to build a connection. She did a great job all on her own. And all it took was for her fans and readers to start talking about it.
The Young Adult Fiction market is saturated but the success of YA comes from being able to connect with readers – a great story, complex characters with substance and you’ll have fans for life.
About the Author
I think JK is one of THE reasons YA is so popular. She proved that YA’s don’t have to be just 40k words and done, multiple storylines and entire worlds of characters, trilogies and beyond. She really opened the door for the rest of us to get behind her and keep it open.