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While we’re discussing things in the Sunday Times…

By Alyssa Rosenberg

"While we’re discussing things in the Sunday Times…"

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There was an essay in the Sunday Book Review about adults reading young adult (teen) books:

But big type and short, plot-driven chapters aside, the erosion of age-­determined book categories, initiated by Harry Potter, has been hastened along by an influx of crossover authors like Stephenie Meyer and interlopers like Sherman Alexie, James Patterson, Francine Prose, Carl Hiaasen and John Grisham, to name just a few stars from across the spectrum of adult fiction who have turned to writing Y.A. According to surveys by the Codex Group, a consultant to the publishing industry, 47 percent of 18- to 24-year-old women and 24 percent of same-aged men say most of the books they buy are classified as young adult. The percentage of female Y.A. fans between the ages of 25 and 44 has nearly doubled in the past four years. Today, nearly one in five 35- to 44-year-olds say they most frequently buy Y.A. books. For themselves.

I am one of those age 25-44 female YA fans, although I’m on the younger end of that spectrum; almost exactly half of the fifty-ish books I’ve finished so far in 2010 have been marketed as young adult. I started reading classic “teen” authors like L.M. Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott twenty years ago and never stopped, but I really got into contemporary YA literature when I was in library school and took a teen librarianship class. I’ve long since given up making excuses for it.

Paul mentions several possible reasons why adults are reading teen books – the visibility of Harry Potter and Twilight; easy-to-read, fast-moving plots; stress relief – and I’m sure they all play a role. But what she glosses over is the fact that a lot of these novels are just really good. I firmly believe that a large percentage of today’s best writers are writing in YA, and readers who assume that these books are simplistic or boring are missing out.

If you’d like to give YA a try, here are a few great titles I’ve read in the past few months that are a little less well-known than The Hunger Games (which is excellent, and you should definitely read it) and the various vampire series:
Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson (and anything else by her, too)
Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy, starting with A Great and Terrible Beauty
The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Knightley Academy by Violet Haberdasher

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