Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Lighter Side of YA

After reading Elle Strauss's blog on dark, edgy Young Adult novels Monday, I was curious about this Wall Street Journal article that has everyone in an uproar. In the article, which can be read here, a book reviewer asks why young adult novels have gotten so dark and edgy. And what is the impact on today's teen readers?


Strauss is faced with the same dilemma as many of us. What if we don't write "dark and edgy?" What then? For me, the choice was to head over to middle grade, but not everyone wants to write for the younger audiences. I would venture a guess, though, that this is an issue that faces writers of commercial fiction in many genres. Romance, for instance, has headed to the dark side as well. Vampires, death, darkness...never have we been so interested in entertaining ourselves with things so bleak.


However, young adult is different. These are our kids that are being targeted with this. And it isn't limited to the paranormal. Publishers believe teens want to read about suicide, incest, abuse, rape... And the truth is, publishers may be right. They keep a close watch on what is selling, and I'm sure they do market research to determine what teens want to read.


The WSJ didn't question what teens wanted to read. In fact, the article's writer took us back through the history of dark teen books -- all the way back to The Outsiders. However, I think many of us agree that YA had some much lighter times as well. Perhaps teens were entertaining ourselves with Lois Duncan's story about students who accidentally kill their teacher, but we were also enjoying the sweet teen romances of the time.




There's no denying darker, edgier books dominate the YA market these days. But, to quote Elle's overall question...is there room for something not-so-edgy? Can someone who writes books for teens that aren't doom and gloom make it in this market?


Lighthearted teen books ARE being published. The proof, below, in pictures:










But we all know Elle's question is an important one. Is there room for new YA authors who write the lighter stuff? Should an author give into the trend and risk losing her voice...or buck the trend and hope to somehow squeeze into the market writing the books she wants?