Adults have been talking a lot about YA literature lately.
Author Margo Rabb (Cures for Heartbreak, 2007) was heartbroken herself to learn that her first novel would be published for young adults, though she soon resigned herself to the prospect.
Cory Doctorow, longtime adult science fiction writer and digital privacy advocate, learned from publishing his first novel for young adults (Little Brother, 2008) that writing for young people is really exciting.
When screenwriter and author Frank Cottrell Boyce compared the YA section of a bookstore to a literary “kids’ menu” in his review of The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008), he provoked a series of passionate responses from YA librarians and YA lit defenders.
Boyce complains that teens’ tastes have been “ghettoised,” but to me his most telling comment is his final line, “Don’t let the demographic exclude you.” It seems Boyce’s “quibble” is less that the book in question is offered to teens and more that is it not first offered to adults.
When Doctorow describes the YA section of a bookstore as a parallel universe of little-regarded awesomeness, his readers chime in with similar sentiments, sharing, as if they’ve found some vast new secret, their favorite young adult titles.
It’s heartening to see teen literature finally getting some of the respect it deserves, but there seems to be an element missing here: teens.
As a teen advocate, I value YA literature not just for the enjoyable reading experience it provides for me but for the impact it has on teens’ lives. I’m glad adults are warming up to teen literature, but I also know that publishing is a business and that adults far outweigh teens in buying power. So when I hear adults talk with delight about “discovering” YA books, I’m both pleased and concerned.
How can librarians and educators speak up to publishers about the literary and recreational needs of teens? How can teens advocate for themselves? Or is all publicity good publicity?