Monday, March 10, 2014

Why, why, why so much YA?

Recently agents and editors tweeted their “wish lists” of projects they’d like to read. Using the hashtag #MSWL, many of them tweeted that they’d like to see YA. YA romance. YA horror. YA fantasy. YA sci-fi. Why, why, why so much YA?

YA is the hottest selling age group right now, and it’s not that teenagers are gobbling up books like PacMan gobbled pellets. Most teenagers, when not drowning in schoolwork, spend their free time on SnapChat or texting each other. No, the fact of the matter is that eighty percent of YA readers are over 18, with the largest segment being adults aged 30-44.


Honestly, I just don’t get it. I read books about high schoolers when I was in grade school. By the time I was in middle school, I was completely obsessed with Stephen King and other horror writers. While I watch a few TV shows starring snarky teenage females trying to save the world or at least their small corner of it, I read books about adults doing adult things. That’s because I’m an adult. Crises over first loves or best friends who turn into enemies don’t do it for me. The whole post-apocalyptic “only this teenage girl can save the world” thing – well, Stephen King did it really well in “The Stand,” and other versions just seem silly and and overdeveloped to me.

I would be content to accept this as just a matter of personal preference and skip over the various YA new releases in order to find new books on contemporary women’s fiction and horror, but the reading habits of American adults affect what publishers decide to print. So if few people are reading funny women’s fiction, publishers don’t want more books in that genre, and if you’re a reader who enjoys it or a writer who writes it, too bad. Go read about that teenage girl instead.

I don’t want to write YA, but when I look at agents’ wish lists and everyone is clamoring for it, I feel like I’m setting myself up for rejection by not writing what’s selling. (Yes, I know they tell you to write what you love, but that’s before you’ve actually written. Once you’ve written the story you’ve been dying to tell, they say, this is wonderful, but no one’s going to buy it.)

So please America … put down the latest Vampire Academy or Pretty Little Liars book. Turn away from the teenage girl who thinks she’s an alien. Yes, I know these books are shorter and provide an escape for a couple of hours. But you are killing the entire adult contemporary genre! You, yes, you! You don’t have to read “The Goldfinch” or the latest biography of some World War II general. But please…. You’re a grown-up now. You have grown-up problems and grown-up reactions. You have nothing in common with that teenage girl lusting after the motorcycle boy.

Pick up the latest Jennifer Weiner and help writers of funny women’s fiction get traditionally published.

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