We NEED YA books for Teens….
Question: Does the adult interest in the YA market push teens out of the equation? Are publishers publishing for true young adults? Are libraries building collections for young adults?
So, I came across this article from the Digital Book Wire the other day. In it’s entirety, it says (bolding mine):
A publisher for a major house (the house that started the New Adult trend, by the way) has publicly said that reaching teens is a MARKETING challenge, and that YA is changing because ADULTS have finally discovered what we as teen librarians and specialists have known all along (that it’s excellent reading) is extremely disheartening. It means that YA will be shaped not by what topics and trends teens need or want to be reading but what ADULTS are finding to be in vogue. We’re already seeing this at a library level, with collections being shaped by what type of YA is being checked out- if adults are the ones checking out materials from the YA collection, and as teen librarians we aren’t aware of it, we could be ordering materials to feed the adults, rather than our teens.
The fact this publisher thinks that teens are “probably” already reading Fifty Shades of Grey is disturbing in that a) they don’t know their audience, b) they don’t know the appropriateness for their audience, and c) they think that Fifty Shades of Grey is OK for teens. Older teens maybe, and that is the whole purpose for the term “cross-over.” However, I don’t know any parent who is involved in their teen’s reading habits would would let their thirteen or fourteen year old read 50 Shades of Grey, and that is the starting point of most teen collections.
The idea that the future key to YA market is not “fitting genres” but doing things with universal appeal is heading right back to the 1960s, when there weren’t teen novels. We’ll have adult, New Adult, juvenile and picture book, and teens will be right back to not fitting in anywhere. This is such a huge step backwards!
We NEED teen books FOR teens. Teens can always find adult books if they want something beyond YA- that’s a given, and has been there forever. The fact is that discussions about fitting in, finding oneself, first loves, first crushes, identity, sexuality, culture and many others NEED to be written for teens, with teens in the protagonist roles so that there are books where teens are not invalidated, belittled, or marginalized. Otherwise, we will be doing the greatest disservice to teens that I can imagine.
5 Reasons We Need YA Books to be for and about teens:
1) Teens are a unique developmental age group, they need and deserve developmentally appropriate books
2) The teen years bridge both the children and adult realms in unique ways and teens don’t like being classified as either children or adults
3) The teenage years are very formative years with unique challenges, they need books that recognize this and speak to them in authentic ways
4) Teens already feel marginalized by society, they need libraries and the literature they read to validate their life experiences and send the message that they have value
5) Seriously, if you haven’t heard me say it before: The 40 Developmental Assets
Current research from PW indicates that adults are buying a lot of teen titles. I love teen fiction, but we can’t let adults and their purchasing power overtake the needs – and interests – of teens to the point that they are once again marginalized in both publishing and library services. Teens deserve – and need – age appropriate books, collections and services. Adults, read YA titles because they are well written titles that help you understand and remember the teenage years or even because you enjoy them – I encourage this – but let’s keep making sure that YA titles are written for and about teens, because their place in the world needs to be recognized and affirmed.
By Christie Gibrich and Karen Jensen
Filed under: Advocacy, YA Lit, Young Adult Librarianship
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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