Whats wrong with YA.


YA or Young Adult novels seem to be the topic of discussion in a lot of literary places.  Some people are defending it, some are flaming it, and some are confused as to just what it really is.  I have several opinions about YA and since it is a discussion that I find popping up on my radar frequently I have decided to share some of my opinions.

What’s in a name?

Why is it called YA? There are two schools of thought that I have seen when it comes to the YA label.  One, the books with the YA tag are specifically marketed to the age range of 12-15 (specific ages may vary a bit). Two, the main characters in the book are of the age range of 12-15 (again ages may vary).

For reasons that seem very obvious to me the second reason is completely crazy.  A book should not be classified by the age of its characters.  One might be able to argue that if the age of characters match the age of readers then they will relate to it better but that is a weak argument at best.

The first reason that books are targeted to that audience at least makes sense but some of these books that have the YA tag deal with heavier and more relevant issues that most so called adult fiction.  I would rather see these books labeled “focused reality” or “real life” books.

Guys don’t read YA?

Yes, yes we do.  I know loads of guys that read YA.  The other side of that coin is that on a majority YA books are read by young women.  Why? One might ask. Well this is a subject of wide debate but as somebody who reads YA let me give my take.  YA books are marketed to young women by their covers.  The majority of YA covers either have attractive ladies or super good/feminine looking guys on them.  Now, before anybody gets upset I am not suggesting they put Rambo or the Punisher on the cover of these books.  However, if you take a look at two recent YA books that have done well with male audiences, Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green you will notice that they are lacking certain types of covers.

Is this right?  Should a teenage boy be embarrassed to be seen walking through the halls of his school carrying a book with one of those covers?  I don’t think so; and I don’t think it will be that way forever but it is what it is.  A boy seen with a book like that is an easy target for bullying by the idiots who do that kind of thing, and there is no denying that school society (at least in America) loves an easy target.  So given the choice of being picked on or reading another book I believe most boys just choose another book or even worse no book at all.

So to those out there that are calling for more YA books to be specifically targeted at guys… Stop, really, its embarrassing.  There are plenty of books currently out there and books that will continue to be printed that are for guys.  Also, those books that are targeted at young women are not just for ladies, there is a lot of good material in them that guys can relate to.  I mean who doesn’t want a good relationship (romantic or otherwise), or one last adventure before you graduate?

The problem is with the people who come up with the covers for these books and the marketing arm of the publishing houses themselves.  I first learned that authors have very little control over their covers from Robin Schnider who publishes under the name Violet Haberdasher for her Knightly Academy books.  It amazes me how much control authors are required to give up in order to publish with big publishing houses, but that is another story for another post.  Bottom line is if some of these books were not specifically marketed at young women then more guys would be likely to read them.

In the end it seems that the issue is not with what is being written, it is not that there are too many books being written for young women and not enough for guys.  It seems that the issue is the publishers and their marketing teams.  Books should not be marketed for their maximum selling potiental, instead they should be marketed for the material inside.

There is so much that could be said on this topic so if you have an opinion please leave a comment and maybe we will do a follow up article.



One comment

  1. Great post!! I agree with a lot of what you said. Young Adult fiction is absolutely timeless—and I think that’s a HUGE reason why it is starting to finally pick up some steam! I wrote a little article regarding Why YA via my blog at http://http://readingenvogue.wordpress.com/why-ya/ –Feel free to check it out if you’d like 🙂 .

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