Why Young Adult Literature is Important

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Young adult literature has become a lucrative market for publishing houses.

Today, as the crumbling empire of Barnes and Noble still holds a tentative grip, there are several fixtures in the layout of a bookstore. There is the coffee bar, the long aisle of over-priced trinkets, and then there are the shelves that line the walls. On these shelves Faulkner, Joyce, Dickens, Austen, the Bronte sisters and others mingle with the commoners: the chick lit, the Star Wars paperbacks, the New York Times bestsellers no one will remember in six months. And, somewhere towards the middle of the store, is an island awash with colorful covers and fanciful titles with a placard that reads something along the lines of “Young Adult Literature”.

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Adaptations of young adult novels become worldwide phenomenons.

The young adult genre serves the purpose of bridging the gap between children’s literature and adult literature. It is a relatively new genre that has only been around for several decades as a named entity. But it seems to be here to stay. In 2009 the Wall Street Journal called the genre of young adult literature “one of the book industry’s healthiest segments.” Since the 1970s, educators, publishers and the public at large have shown a greater interest in young adult literature. The success of publications like VOYA, which stands for Voice of Youth Advocates, and the addition of young adult books in schools and textbooks illustrate this rise in popularity.

Popular young adult book series such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and The Hunger Games have translated to the big screen and have shown how lucrative young adult novels can be and how powerful their teen fan bases are. Young adult fiction has proven profitable in many different places and venues, and has gained prestige as titles in the genre– such as the Harry Potter series– have gained an adult readership. The genre has also gained prestige as authors who typically write for adults, such as Alice Hoffman, Joyce Carol Oates, Carl Hiaasen, and Isabel Allende, have crossed over and written books targeted to a young adult audience.

Just as young adult literature is a genre that focuses on the time when people come of age, the genre itself has recently come of age. The Young Adult Library Services Association, more commonly known as YALSA, says, “Though once dismissed as a genre consisting of little more than problem novels and romances, young adult literature has. . . become literature that welcomes artistic innovation, experimentation, and risk-taking.”  Young adult literature is an important and innovative genre that is impacting our culture. In the next few posts and throughout the fall, I want to write about young adult literature. Later this week I will write about what young adult literature is and how to define the genre. I will then write several posts dealing with the history of the genre and several of the genre’s seminal works. Through these posts I hope to show the significance of the genre, as well as show the impact the genre has in today’s culture.

Part 2: What is Young Adult Literature?

Part 3: The Catcher in the Rye and the creation of young adult literature

Part 4: How The Outsiders changed young adult literature

Part 5: How The Chocolate War won the battle for realistic fiction

Part 6: The Return to True Romance

Harry Potter fans scramble to get a copy of the latest Harry Potter book

Young adult series have ardent readers and fans.

7 thoughts on “Why Young Adult Literature is Important

  1. YA fans really are a heavy weight in the book industry. You could almost say we’re the backbone, the bridge connecting all genres together and connecting movies to books effectively. And YA is usually universal — adults and children love YA too.
    I love this post!

    • I love the way that you phrased that– we are the backbone and the bridge! I think YA is the bridge between children’s lit and adult lit, but it is also such an innovative genre. Authors are allowed to mix genres, like you said, and be so creative when it comes to plot and writing style. Go YA lit and YA fans!

  2. I have English Professors complaining about how much they hate Young Adult as a genre. I never understood it. When I was about 11 years old, I was growing out of kid books. They were too short and the characters weren’t my age. I walked over to the newer Young Adult section at B&N one day and found the Young Wizard Series. After that, I found Eragon. Both of these series are still favorites along with some romance (fluffy, but needed) and others. Without Young Adult I would have ended up giving up. I was fearful of the Adult section and the children’s section was, well, child-like. I still love the YA section and end up back there over and over.

    • I loved reading about your experiences– they are so similar to mine! YA lit really saved me around the age of 11 or 12. Many of the books that I treasure and that have become dear friends over the years are YA books that I found around that time. They are so meaningful to me because they spoke to me where I was at the time and were both accessible and challenging. Thank goodness for young adult literature!

    • I feel the same way and I think a ton of other adults feel the same way as well! I know a lot of adults who have loved reading series like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games because the stories are so compelling.

  3. Pingback: Week in Review (5) | Books, Tea & Me

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