I never thought much about Young Adult (YA) literature, professionally speaking. Although I credit J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone for making my oldest son a devout reader, I never thought I had any interest in writing YA myself.
Last week’s Book Expo America (BEA) was teeming with YA literature and authors, including Richelle Mead, Laini Taylor, Meg Wolitzer and Kate McMullan (these are just the ones I met!), and there was a distinctive buzz about the genre — while waiting on line for an autographing by Wolitzer I spied the large poster for the sequel to John Grisham‘s: Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, the author’s first YA novel (the new one is out June 6). I got my son the first one for Christmas, and he loved it.
Like Wolitzer and Grisham, many authors go back and forth between adult and YA genres successfully, and I started to wonder… Am I missing out on something?
What exactly is YA literature, anyway? Yes, it’s literature that’s written for, published for and marketed to adolescents, but, because of that, I think it’s often thought of as writing that’s been watered-down in some way — so that it can be digested by developing palettes. But nothing could be further from the truth. Right now, I’m in the middle of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and I cannot put it down. The writing is vivid, emotionally fraught and suspenseful — in fact, there’s nothing to distinguish it from an adult genre, except that it has teenage main characters. Yes, teens will relate very much to Katniss Everdeen, but so does the adult-me, who was once a teenage-me.
Me, a YA writer? Why not? If there’s anything last week’s visit to BEA reminded me, it’s that the world — be it Hogwarts, Panem or Stellar Plains, N.J. — is full of possibility. I think of it as my own little coming-of-age adventure.