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”.
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.