Thursday, April 03, 2014

YAs

YAs continue to be mysterious to me. When I see TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD on a list, it makes no sense. Sure kids should and do read it, but it would probably resonate more with adults. I guess the explosion began with the S.E Hinton books of the 1970s. For the first time, books exclusively about teenagers sold very well. Some adults read them (like me because I wanted to see why kids liked them) but on the whole their audience was YAs. And then the Harry Potter books came along and middle school books were read by adults.

What makes a book YA? Simply having a protagonist that is a teen? Is the plot more simple? The writing?Go into a book store and the sheer volume of kids' book will blow you away.

I just finished THE FAULT IN THE STARS, which I liked a lot. And only in certain sections did it seem a book written for teens (mostly when they were playing computer games).

Same with THE BOOK THIEF. Megan's last several books, sometimes labeled YA, seem far too mature for teens. Although when my kids were ten or eleven, they were reading adult books. As did I in an era when there were not YA books though.

I think the truly invested teen reader will probably move onto adult books more quickly than the reluctant one.

What is your favorite YA if you have read any?And now we have a new category the new adult reader.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Some favorite YA authors:

Pete Hautman
Scott Westerfeld
John Green
John Marsden
Rebecca Stead


Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have a Westerfield ready to read. THE UGLIES

Bill Crider said...

Jeff's list is a good one. I'm very fond of John Green's books.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Anxious to see the movie from FAULT this summer. It will be a real cryfest.

Deb said...

Don't forget Judy Blume! And there were always teenage girl romances by writers like Betty Cavana. Then the Sweet Valley High and Babysitter Club series. Since I stopped working in a junior high school library, I haven't read as much YA as I used to--I think the Twilight series was the nadir of YA.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've read a lot of Westerfield's adult stuff. and it is very good. i tend to think of YA related to the protagonists of the tale.

Deb said...

I recommend Judy Blundelk's What I Saw and How I Lied, a coming-of-age YA that includes a murder-mystery and can be enjoyed by adults too. I also liked Eleanor Updale's Montmorency series set in Victorian London about a thief-turned-spy.

John said...

I think it would be wonderful if this new wave of dystopian future YA novels would finally cease. It's all "monkey see, monkey do" to me and it's getting monotonous.

My favorite YA books when I was a teen were written by Madeleine L'Engel. A WRINKLE IN TIME and all the rest of them. I liked the books by Scott O'Dell, too. He wrote ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS among others.

I don't recognize one of those names on Jeff's list. Are they all relatively new writers? This is a genre that I can't get excited about. I lived through teen years that were as close to living in hell as I ever want to get. I have no desire to read fictional accounts of teen angst 40 years later.

Richard said...

I think of "YA novels" as the new terminology era's name for what were "juveniles" when I was a kid. The ones I read then were all science fiction, such as the ones by Robert Heinlein. Today the term has expanded what it covers to include many works that I believe are clearly adult, but the label is attached to try for a wider audience.

And then there are the series, such as Rick Riordan's and others, as well as the teen romance junk.

Richard said...

Also, I agree with John on dystopian teen novels, they could all go away today and I'd be happy. Adult dystopian novels, too. Also ALL zombie stuff.

Gerard said...

I cannot think of any YA novels I really enjoyed. I had one tickling my memory, but I cannot recall what it was so it must not have been that good.

S.E. Hinton had a very small role as a prostitute in RUMBLE FISH. I liked that movie but it was at the tail end of that streak of Hinton film adaptations and seems to have been forgotten.

My wife and I went to the movies a couple weeks ago and the trailer for FAULT played. Talk about a chick movie...

Cap'n Bob said...

I have limited experience with the topic. Long ago I read THE DAY NO PIGS WOULD DIE, by Robert Peck, and was mighty impressed. I read the Potter series, too. I'm not sure if Bill Crider's books count as YA or juvies, but I read and enjoyed them. I also met Willo Davis Roberts for whatever that's worth.

Anonymous said...

Yes, John, these are relatively new writers and no, they aren't all dystopian in nature though some of Westerfeld's books are.

Marsden is Australian and his main series, starting with TOMORROW, WHEN THE WAR BEGAN, was published in 1993. Australia is invaded by an unnamed foreign enemy and a group of rural teens wage guerilla action to try and save their families and friends.

Hautman has written adult mysteries as well as YA stuff.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

I'd consider some Criders to be juveniles and others YA. Carl Hiaasen also writes YA as does Harlan Coben and Mary Logue, to name three more mystery writers. Logue and Hautman live together and have written a YA/mystery series together.


Jeff M.

George said...

Neil Gaiman's YA novels are good. The Harry Potter series showed that YA novels can appeal to adult readers, too. And now James Patterson is publishing a new YA novel just about every month.

Charlieopera said...

Interesting stuff. I tried one YA book and was told it was "not edgy enough" ... my attempts folded like a cheap tent immediately afterward. An acquisition editor from one publisher visiting the MFA program held a class on YA's and it seems our Yoots (Youths) today are way more knowledgeable about "SOME" aspects of life (SOME, more dangerous perhaps, aspects of socialization) than I ever was ...

Todd Mason said...

YA began no later than LITTLE WOMEN and THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER, and certainly picked up steam with the introduction of the Newbery Awards, even if they are sometimes pitched a bit younger than teen readers. As with most such things, the Baby Boom and its indulgence by a newly more prosperous and market-testing nation just sped things along, so that S. E. Hinton's poorly-written bores could join the other Scholastic Teen-Age Bookclub (TAB) and Dell Laurel Leaf and such books on the shelves...what makes a book YA is that it's pitched to teens, particularly younger teens and newly double-digited kids.

Todd Mason said...

Paraphrasing Heinlein, who was making most of his money in the 1950s writing juveniles/YA novels: Take a young protagonist, write the best book about the kid you can, and then cut the sex. And since the early '70s at latest, you don't have to cut the sex much. Today's trend in dystopian YA isn't nearly as enervating, I suspect, as I found the default and easy nihilism of the likes of Kin Platt's HEY, DUMMY in the '70s...much less the perfervid blather of the likes of FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC.

Todd Mason said...

"For the first time, books exclusively about teenagers sold very well. Some adults read them (like me because I wanted to see why kids liked them) but on the whole their audience was YAs."

LAST SUMMER by Evan Hunter, for example? ON THE ROAD's cast isn't too much older, is it, as I distantly recall.

Todd Mason said...

And then there's the explosion of JD books in the 1950s. Resentment of the young is a long tradition, and resentment of the boomers got off to a fast start.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I can't speak to the quality of the writing in the Hinton books, but that isn't always the point. I think she spoke to a certain restless outsiderness that sets in for many kids during those years. She made feeling outside the group hip. And the biggest readers usually feel like outsiders.
I think LITTLE WOMAN was for a younger age despite the girls being a bit older. I remember reading it in second or third grade. LAST SUMMER to me is not YA despite the ages of the characters. I think it takes an adult to see what's going on with them.

Ron Scheer said...

I think you are right about Hinton, Patti. I have read almost no other YA fiction. To me it all falls in with those page-turners like SNOW FaLLING ON CEDARS and THE KITE RUNNER, which get on the best-seller lists. Deep down they are shallow. You have to connect with the adolescent emotions, or it goes flat.

Todd Mason said...

Well, no, the attitudes in LAST SUMMER are certainly comprehensible to teens--I read it when I was 11--and I could even pick up Hunter's resentment of teens (which he also made clear in THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE). Meanwhile, I was bored by Hinton's novels when I was ten, even as I was annoyed by Platt's, so that was why I didn't dig them--Ester Wier had a much surer touch with what it meant to be an outsider...but mostly kids who didn't read much did, it's true, much as they resonated with Stephen King's often poorly-written and longwinded work. And, certainly, almost everyone feels slighted as teens and for most of the rest of their lives.

Ron, the inherent shallowness of this lesser work is indeed apparent.

Al Tucher said...

I have probably raved here about CODE NAME VERITY, by Elizabeth Wein, but I'm going to do it again. I was a puddle on the floor when I finished it.

I'm not sure what makes it YA other than the two young women protagonists, but shouldn't any great novel make the reader think, "This was written for me?"

pattinase (abbott) said...

Lovely thought, Al. I will look for it.

John said...

Just remembered one good writer who cornered the YA market just as Judy Blume did -- Paul Zindel. The Pigman and all the others are good examples of the 1970s version of YA. Many of his books are still in print. I think I read a lot of his books when I was in high school but they are definitely aimed at the junior high and perhaps even elemenrary school age reader

Todd Mason said...

It's also notable how many amphibians from crime fiction were highly active major players in the field in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly...along with Platt, Marijane Meeker (aka Vin Packer and M. E. Kerr), Frank Bonham (who both wrote a lot about JDs and college kids earlier), William Campbell Gault, et al.