Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Recent YA Fiction is Not Written for Kids

A mutual friend of the Toronto DWT contingent recently read a short story that I recently had published in a High School English text (how cool is that, BTW!). Midway through reading she looked up at me to say something like: I like how it's written as if it were for adults, not for kids.

I took that as a great compliment. But was thinking later about the surprise in her voice when she said that. This is a friend who doesn't read a lot of YA. If she did,  I don't think this would have been a surprise. That is, I don't think I'm the only writer who writes YA but doesn't tailor the work "for kids".

And it made me realize yet another reason why YA fiction is gaining so many fans of late.

While the "New YA" books are about teens, most aren't written for kids. The language and writing style of the best YA's I've read hasn't been dumbed down because the target readers are teens. And why should they be?

I mean, let's face it, teens often read way more than adults (primarily because they're forced to for school) so even teens who are not fiction fans probably have better (or at least as good) comprehension levels as adults. In fact, teens might be slightly more sophisticated readers than your average adult.

Now, when I say that, I'm not comparing all teen readers to an avid adult reader. I'm comparing an average teen reader to an average adult reader. Comparing those two, I'd guess the average teen reads more fiction than the average adult, even if it's just stuff he or she has to read for class. And the voracious teen reader? Well, she's got more time to read than most adults and reads a lot.

So, it makes me think again: what was with all the YA books written in the past that used simpler language, or had easier ideas, or spoon fed information, or contained on-the-nose "lessons"? I mean... no wonder teens didn't read them.

And thank goodness for all the awesome teen fiction available today! I sure wish books like that had been around when I was a teen! Instead I read adult books that, while entertaining, had little in them to which I could relate.


Anonymous said...

I love the YA fiction that isn't for kids, but is universal and imaginative. That the protagonist is a teen is almost irrevelant in the ones I really love, but then, I'm not a teen, so I guess that makes sense.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I agree. Hunger Games isn't a book for "teens" it's a great book about teens.

It's almost a shame it's shelved differently because I don't ever find YA titles - unless you guys here recommend them.

Maureen McGowan said...

I heard that B&N moved the teen section close to the romance section in some stores. Have you seen that?

Stephanie Doyle said...

That would require me actually going into a bookstore - which unfortunately I rarely do anymore.

I miss Barnes & Nobles. I really do- but I'm afraid to go and just get coffee and stuff because I would want to read... with my Kindle. It feels sort of traiterous.

Molly O'Keefe said...

It's had a huge evolution that's for sure - but then, I don't read a lot of YA - I'm just cherry picking. But I just read maureen's next short story and it's amazing - about kids, for everyone. scary and funny. loved it.

Eileen said...

I so had a conversation like this on Friday night! One author was saying that everyone always thinks YA is just Twilight and I was telling her about all the great issue-oriented daring fiction I had read recently that just happened to be YA. Before, 13 Reasons Why, Twisted. There's just been a bunch.

I do think it's written a little differently than the same kind of fiction for adults. THe books seem to be shorter and more focused on dialogue and action than atmosphere and ambience.

Maureen McGowan said...

Yes, definitely faster paced. But not simpler... I think that's what I meant. And to me, the good ones don't read like "kids books". Not like the so-called teen books that existed when I was a teen.

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