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The Rise Of The Young Adult Novel

Culture May 16, 2017 By Hugo

Every few years a book becomes a phenomenon and captures the imaginations of readers across the world, with books like Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight spawning a plethora of knock-offs in their respective genres. 

Image Source: Pezibear/Pixabay

Excluding the unexpected success of the Fifty Shades trilogy, however, and most best-sellers, no matter the genre, typically involve young protagonists, and in the last decade many writing awards, such as the Michael L. Printz Award and Alex Awards have been spawned in recognition of quality young adult fiction

But what exactly is Young Adult? And whom are its readers?

According to 2013 statistics, women typically outnumber men, with YA sales among females accounting for around 68% of all purchases, with notable recent YA best-sellers like John Green's tearjerker The Fault in Our Stars selling over 20m copies in little over three years.

Image Credit: Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com [Editorial]

It's an interesting trend because as we are so often told, young people are ditching books for more visual forms of entertainment that require shorter attention spans when in reality, the commercial success of these books has evidently been driven by young people. After all, in 2014 alone, 18-29-year-olds bought more books than any other demographic.

Even with that said, such figures still seem perplexing because are we really going to believe that youngsters care more about a 300-page novel than the latest musical offerings from Justin Bieber and Drake? And when one considers the proliferation of television and internet shows in the last decade, such figures appear misleading so maybe the surprising numbers lie not only in the quality of the books but the authors themselves.

John Green, author of TFIOS and other best-selling YA titles already boasts millions of followers on social media and credits his success to writing stories that treat his predominately teenage audience as adults. Speaking to The Guardian, Green said, "I'm tired of adults telling teenagers that they aren't smart, that they can't read critically, that they aren't thoughtful."

Green may have a point- especially when one considers that young people now have more access to news sources than ever before. Still, are young people really the biggest consumers of books? It just doesn't seem feasible.

Well, Forbes magazine believes so. Pointing to research from the Pew Centre, it found that 75% of 16-29-year-olds have read at least one book in the past year, with YA super-authors John Green, Stephanie Meyer and 27-year-old Veronica Roth appearing in Forbes magazine's esteemed Celebrity 100 rich list on more than one occasion.

Admittedly, such figures, whilst promising, don't exactly suggest books and their authors will enjoy the same fandom enjoyed by rock stars and actors anytime soon- if ever-, but the numbers do at least point to younger readers- particularly young girls and women- being more inclined to read a novel every once in a while as opposed to solely watching Netflix re-runs. 

Maybe Green is right, or maybe he isn't. Either way, younger people have once more proven that the Now Generation is a grossly unfair label. Perhaps the Underrated Generation would be a more appropriate label?


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