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SA Partridge

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Do teens need their own genre?

It’s an interesting question.

I found an article this morning on io9.com questioning the necessity of young adult literature.

Once a person has reached adolescence, relegating their reading material to its own gated subgenre seems at best condescending and at worst censorious.

Who’s to say that teens don’t enjoy adult contemporary literature? No one of course. As a kid I lived on Stephen King and Agatha Christie novels, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy books like Nancy Drew as well. In fact I probably owned the entire series.

Young adult literature isn’t “dumbed down” to make it more accessible to younger readers. Rather it allows teens to read about characters their own age, characters that experience what they experience. It’s really just neutral ground that offers useful objective advice or a way for them to escape from the real world for a while.

A lot of publishers will print a separate cover of YA titles to make it look more appealing to adults. This just proves that some adults enjoy YA as much as teens. It all comes down to personal preference.

I believe in the end you will lose teen readers, who are exactly the sorts of people who dislike being told that their youth bars them from understanding adult novels. What self-respecting 15-year-old wants to read “young adult” fiction when she could be reading stuff actually written for adults?

It could just as easily be argued that teens enjoy YA literature more precisely because it’s not targeted at adults. If you use the search term Twilight on Twitter you’ll see a lot of angry responses from adults who just don’t get the series. They don’t understand why the novels are so popular. I’m sure just as many teens feel the same way about David Franzen’s Freedom.

If we really want to open science fiction up to new readers, we won’t do it by dividing our audience up into smaller and smaller groups.

Neil Gaiman, arguably one of the coolest writers around, is a pro at cross-genre writing. He’s written numerous sci-fi and fantasy novels aimed at the adult market, graphic novels as well as young adult literature. Hi YA titles Coraline and The Graveyard Book are just as popular with adults as they are with teens. Personally, I think its a clever way of introducing his work to a new audience.

Since so much scifi is about changing the future, it seems crucial that this genre forge alliances between youth and adults. We’ll build a better space-faring species together if we don’t deliberately create generational barriers where they aren’t necessary.

Generational barriers will always be there, and changing the face of literature won’t close the gap. Besides, changing the behaviour of teens to make them more like adults? That’s such a grown up idea. x

Read the full io9 article here.

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    April 4th, 2011 @09:02 #
     
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    Hope this works. My internet is terrible right now and keeps dying on BookSA. But I'm glad you highlighted this. I wish you had more response to this subject, too - esp in a country where we need more readers.

    Anybody who is an avid reader of Judy Blume, an author whose work spans from tot to adult, can see the shift between genres, and she is not a writer who talks down to anyone.

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