The crisp page turns at a brisk pace; each sentence is another passionate moment that leaves you on a dreadful cliffhanger…and you turn another page…
Young adult(YA) fiction has been growing in size and popularity ever since the 1960’s. In fact, the first book written specifically for a teen audience, Seventeenth Summer, was published in 1942. “YA books” got their name from the increase of books that targeted the teenage audience in the 1960’s.
“My favorite thing about YA fiction is the realness within the novels themselves,” said junior Cayla Kouadio, who is an avid reader.
Authors are expanding their targeted age audience by including situations and storylines that different ages can relate to. According to thebalancecareers.com, 4,700 different YA books were published in 2002, but over 10,000 different YA books were published in 2012. Additionally, according to a Pew survey, the largest age group checking books out of the public libraries is sixteen to 29 year-olds.
“My favorite thing about young adult fiction is that it’s targeted for teens and young adult readers,” said sophomore Amenya Jean. “That makes it easier to relate to the characters and what goes on in their lives because teens go through similar experiences. It helps teens with their creativity, and you can’t go wrong with too much creativity.”
Whatever the formula is, it’s working. According to BookStats, in 2002 there was 143 different YA ebooks, and in 2012 there was 4,370 different YA ebooks. The ebook fiction sales went up 117 percent for children’s/young adult.
While this genre is unified in its relation to the everyday teenage life, each book also has its individual appeal.
“I love The Giver because it lets you decide the ending, The Outsiders because the meaning of the book will stick with me always, and The Five People You Meet in Heaven because it shows a new perspective on life after death,” said sophomore Julia Gallo.
Young adult books are showing teens how influential and enjoyable reading can be. Even in SHS’s own library, the YA options have been growing significantly.
“I’d say we’ve probably doubled our YA,” said librarian Ms. Karin Kraeutler. “We have 3,500 fiction books, and we didn’t have [nearly] that many before.” Kraeutler mentioned bringing in a significant number of books starting in around 2005. Both Kraeutler and librarian Ms. Gwenn Davis have made a major impact on the quality of books SHS has now. This includes plenty of young adult fiction.
Young adult books tend to contain themes of misunderstood teens who want to make sense of their lives. They single out the insecurities most teens feel, yet are unable or hesitant to express. They capture a real quality taken from the average teenage life, and build it to be more intense and relatable.
These books slowly evolved from The Chocolate World by Robert Cormier to Fear Street by R.L. Stine to the Harry Potter series by J.K.Rowling. J.K.Rowling inspired authors like Stephanie Meyer with the Twilight saga and Suzanne Collin with The Hunger Games. Now there’s authors like Meg Cabot who write simple teen novels to help teens gain hope throughout their problems.
“A lot of it pertains to their[teen’s] real life,” said Davis. “With the event of Harry Potter, a lot more kids started reading fantasy. You have your realistic fiction, which is very popular, and then you have your fantasy, [such as] Rick Riordan.”
Relating an extraordinary and creative storyline to simple teenage life is what makes those authors successful. One is Rick Riordan, a fantasy author of the Percy Jackson series. Davis also mentioned The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas, Maximum Ride by James Patterson, and The Maze Runner by James Dashner as influential novels that have helped build the YA audience.
These new authors brought different items to the table, allowing a more diverse group of teens to find a piece of themselves within YA fiction. Another main reason behind the variety of YA choices was the echo baby boom in around 1992. More books became published for that audience: teenagers.
“The genres that I really love are drama and romance,” said sophomore Dzhumile Hodzhova. “My favorite series is The Selection because it seems realistic even though it is fiction.”
Teenagers like Hodzhova are promoting young adult fiction in their everyday life. They have common contact with large groups of teens daily. Authors may be realizing this growth and switching their writing styles because of it.
Since YA books are getting more and more attention, authors that began writing for an adult audience are switching over to YA writing. Also, writers from different backgrounds are getting published. Different viewpoints and experiences are coming out in writing. Teens have more options so that they can relate to the books on a personal level.
“I think that we have more diverse authors coming forward so that not only do children see a window to another world, [but] they need to see mirrors to themselves,” said English teacher Ms. Shari Griswold. “There have to be characters and situations that make sense to them.”
Not only is there a more diverse selection of YA readings, but there’s a new way of accessing it: technology.
“It partially has to do with how technology is changing constantly,” said Amenya Jean. “Teens have access to so many different things like apps and websites that we can find more, and create more.”
Technology not only increases the availability of YA novels to teenagers, but also to adults. Actually, according to the Bowker Books in Print database, 35 percent of YA book purchases are made by 18 to 29 year-olds. Adults make a major contribution to the continuous growth of YA fiction.
“I think reading is important not just for teens,” said Davis. “It’s a way to relax.”
All in all, the increase in YA fiction is affecting the hearts of both teens and adults all around the world. It’s a step forward, not back.
When asked if she considered the growth of YA fiction a positive or negative change, senior Jessica Mairena said, “Positive. You’re allowed to escape reality and exercise creativity.”
It’s an outlet for some and a hobby for others. It helps writers become better writers, and allows students to exercise their imagination.
“Read read read!” said Davis. “If you’re one of those kids who says they don’t like to read, then you just haven’t found the right book yet!”
Here’s the current top-suggested young adult novels:
- The Lightning Thief, a Percy Jackson book by Rick Riordan (Fantasy)
- The Giver by Lois Lowry (Sci-fi Romance)
- The Maze Runner by James Dashner (Dystopian)
- The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas (Dramatic Crime)
- Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (Fantasy)
- Maximum Ride by James Patterson (Sci-Fi)
- The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom (Philosophical Inspirational)
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (War Drama)
- Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (Sci-Fi)
- The Selection by Kiera Cass (Dystopian Romance)
- The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton (Drama)
- Matched by Ally Condie (Dystopian)
- Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling (Fantasy)
- The Dark Tower series by Stephen King (Fantasy)