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Friday, May 20, 2011

YA Cafe: 5 Facts You Should Know about YA


Welcome Back to YA Cafe, where book lovers can gather and chat about teen literature.  I'm your barista, along with Ghenet from All About Them Words.  Today we have a few guests joining us: the Editorial Staff from Verbal Pyrotechnics, an online magazine dedicated to publishing the best teen literature on the Internet.

Each Friday we pick from a menu of topics and share our thoughts on our respective blogs.  We've also got plans brewing for interviews, events and even some exciting giveaways, so stay tuned!  Join the discussion by responding in the comments, on your own blogs or on twitter using the hash tag #yacafe. 

Today's Special: The Stigma of Reading and Writing YA

I think anyone who writes or loves to read YA has experienced the Stigma.  It's happened to me more times than I can count.  For instance, I tried lending lawyer-hubby a YA book and he said "no" because he couldn't read a teen book on the subway... what if he ran into his boss or someone from the firm?  They would think that he *gasp* liked reading YA.  I couldn't see what the big deal was but I decided let this one slide, after all, lawyer-hubby doesn't make me read his boring law books.

A more painful example, though, was when I was taking a writing class with students writing in various genres.  I was the only writer in the class working on YA and when my turn for critique came up, the teacher felt the need to preface it by telling the other students to take my piece just as seriously as any other, even though it was written for teens.  I didn't know who I wanted to smack first, the students for needing the lecture or the teacher for giving it.

It's moments like these that leave me feeling somehow inferior for loving and writing YA.  Yet, if you look at the facts, YA is actually one of the most exciting places to be both as a reader and writer.

Fact #1: The YA market is booming... other areas of fiction, not so much.  I moderated a panel on Reading and Technology last week and of course, one of the many topics that came up was YA.  According to a publisher on the panel, one trend that's partially responsible for the boom in YA is that adults are reading YA, more so than ever before.  These phenomenon has made it so that while the rest of publishing is struggling, YA is doing well.

Fact #2: Today's YA is not the same YA many of us grew up with.  In fact, it's a whole lot better.  When I was a teen, YA books at the time didn't do much for me so I just skipped YA altogether and started reading books for adults.  If I were a teen now, though, I'd never want to stop reading YA.  There's a lot more risk-taking going on, and books are edgier and more sophisticated.  Frankly, YA has just gotten a whole lot better in the last ten-to-fifteen years.

Fact #3: YA fans are really into their books.  As a writer, it's so great to be writing in a category that has such dedicated fans and such a vibrant literary community.  For an "lesser-genre" we sure have a lot of fans.Want proof?  Check out this blog list of all YA book blogs.  And let's not forget The Story Siren, who is perhaps one of the most prolific and well-known book bloggers out there, she blogs about YA.  So there.

Fact #4: You can pull some stunts in YA you'd never be allowed to do in "regular" fiction.  From an anthology about Zombies vs. Unicorns, to a fairytale about a girl married to a polar bear, to a book about the struggles of a transsexual teen, YA lets you do as much or more than adult literature.  Maybe it's because readers are more willing to read outside their comfort zones.  Maybe it's because the writers are more willing to write outside their comfort zones.  I'm not sure.

Or maybe it's because genres tend to meld together in YA.  Whereas in adult literature tends to be broken up according to category, teen literature is usually shelved together.  This might be because a lot of YA often tends to cross over genres.  In adult literature, you have fantasy in one category and romance in another.  YA often combines the two.  All I know is that as a writer, I feel like I can do things in YA that I wouldn't be able to do if I were writing strictly for adults.

Fact #5: YA is awesome!*  It's that simple.  YA is fun, it's interesting, it speaks to me in a way that no other category does.  Other fiction is fine and I'll read it from time to time, but frankly, I find it a bit dull.
*OK, so this one is an opinion but you get the idea.

Have you ever experienced the stigma of reading or writing YA?  Feel free to vent about it in the comments!

Want to hear more about the Stigma of YA?  Fellow barista, Ghenet shares her thoughts on her blog: All About Them Words and our guests Verbal Pyrotechnics discuss it on their site too!  Check it out, then tell us what you think!

4 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

We have one commenter on the QT blog who is against YA (OMG the comments he makes everytime YA is mentioned in a post). I bet he's never even read one. And certainly not from some of our great YA authors who have touched the hearts of many teens struggling with the same issues (for example Speak). (Personally I think he's just jealous that his genre (whatever that is) is tanking or he wrote YA and it sucked!)

A lot of non-YA readers no doubt came to their erroneous conclusion due to Twilight. They sat through the movie preview and decided the genre is junk.

Meaghan said...

Yes, I think YA has a bad rap, unfortunately. It's funny though, since many snide comments about my YA obsession come from friends who hardly read anything at all. But you are right, the market for YA is booming, and better stuff is coming out now than has in decades - I was another one who read adult books when I was a teen, because once I'd gotten through everything Christopher Pike and Lois Duncan had wrote, I was pretty much bored with YA. We persevere though - how many other writing communities are as great as the YA one? Probably none!!!

Ghenet Myrthil said...

Great points! From working in book publishing, I see that YA is really booming. And I agree that the quality of the books get better and better. :)

Bess Weatherby said...

Great article! I think, as with anything that ever has "boomed" there will be a lot more hype and a lot more haters because there will be a lot more to love and hate. I decided to re-educate myself on the "New YA" because, after "Twilight" I was kind of jaded with the genre as well. But I wrote in it! Not a good combo . . . I've since discovered that there are, of course, overly dramatic or poorly written YA novels out there. But there are also great ones, just as worthy of being considered excellent as anything written for adults. And yes -- the fact that adults are now reading YA is huge. It's such a testament to its power. I think they should start making adult covers for the most popular books. They did that with Harry Potter and I think it was smart.

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