Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Who's reading YA?

A tweet from Chair, Fireplace, etc. led me to this article questioning the link between the health of YA as a publishing category and the assumption that it means teen reading is flourishing. Every time I see The Book Thief on bestseller charts I wonder about this correlation, and I also think the question speaks to the thriving (thanks, all) conversation we've been having about blog reviewing and how it differs from print. Save for the odd review in VOYA, all major print reviews of YA are written by adults for an audience of other adults selecting books for teens. Blog reviewers include both teens and adults, and more often than not YA blog reviews don't speak from or to a gatekeeper perspective--the reviewer treats the book as one she has (or, more rarely, has not) enjoyed and recommends (or not) to those reading the blog, with no "for your kids" implied. This may be why meta-discussions of blog-reviewing get so heated: it's personal.

I don't wring my hands about adults reading YA as much as I used to, but before you go thinking I've become more generous of spirit take a look at the article linked above--maybe YA books are simply adult books with more appealing covers!


Walter Underwood said...

Or adult books that aren't tedious.

I recently saw a SF trilogy where each book is 1000 pages. Yikes.

YA has some of the virtues of the pulps, momentum, excitement, and no fat.

Gregory K. said...

Boy... that article's conclusion "The pedestal-mounting of YA as the saviour of modern fiction is dangerously misguided." casts the conversation in a completely different light - this isn't actually about who is reading what books, but rather about a segment of books getting credit for saving modern fiction! That's very different than the point that YA sales don't indicate that young adults are reading in abundance.

Getting back to the who is reading what issue... one question is how do you measure that? Observation in one library aside, I know teens who read avidly and guide their own purchasing decisions... though it is usually their parents who foot the bill. You can search online and find teens talking books, but that also doesn't indicate direct sales. Still, does anyone really assume that because a book is labeled YA, it's only selling to teens?

Another question is... why does it matter? Is this strictly a marketing and labeling question, or does this have repercussions outside of the business sense? Are educators relaxing because YA is selling a lot?

If this is strictly about teens reading, sales certainly aren't the only metrics we have for that. So it strikes me this is about perception... and I'm curious how it matters in the greater scheme of things.

HL said...

I'm in a "teen book club" that is all adults (primarily public and school librarians) reading teen books. There's a lot of great books being written in the YA area, certainly better than what I faced at my libraries as a teen. I wouldn't recommend that it be ALL that one reads, but when that's where good books are.....