By T. Lynn Adams
Teenagers are not the enemy. Remember that when you sit down to write tonight. Instead of costing you a fortune in groceries, teenagers just may start paying for a few of those items in your shopping cart!
Thanks almost entirely to series like Harry Potter or Twilight, YA publishing is experiencing its biggest surge in decades and the wave of popularity is still growing. Published writers and those still typing up manuscripts may all be able to catch that wave and ride it in to the bank. I’m not talking sand banks, either. Sales of YA fiction are up by almost 25 percent in the last decade and publishers are scrambling to fill that demand with quality fiction for teenagers. They are looking for more YA manuscripts than ever before.
Another interesting reason for the boom is that YA fiction crosses age barriers easier than any other age category in fiction. Everyone wants to read it! (Be honest, you probably know an adult who waited in lines to buy Harry Potter. You may have even had a conversation with them while you waited, too! Furthermore, if you asked at work, I am sure you would hear grownups break into an animated debate over the merits of Edward or Jacob.)
That, according to one bookstore owner, is because adults are busier now than they have ever been. Between jobs, family and other demands, they don’t always have time to read heavy, involved novels—typical in the adult categories. They want something they can read in a couple of evenings or on the weekend. Young adult fiction is that kind of a fast read.
So what, exactly, is this popular category known as YA fiction? The technical definition is any book targeted at readers between the ages of 14 and 21. Another growing niche, middle-grade fiction, caters to readers between the ages 10 to 13.
In YA fiction, the hero is typically reluctant, forced into that role through outside forces. Rarely does an adult play a main character in YA fiction; they receive secondary positions. This allows the teenager heroes to identify, plan and conquer the problem on their own.
Over the last hundred years, YA fiction has always faced social issues and teen trauma head on. Some say it is too edgy while others claim it helps teens learn about real issues without having to experience them personally. Whatever you feel about the social role of teen fiction, just remember the most popular YA stories make the teenager the center of the story, not the issue.
So what are the hottest YA books out there right now? A walk through the YA section of your local bookstore will show you that the fantasy genre is claiming shelf after shelf of teen literature. Whether that fantasy is set in a modern high school or a mythical land, vampires, dragons and magical powers push tight against each other on YA shelves. And, just like the adults around them, teenage boys like more adventure in their novels while teenage girls like more romance. So pick your audience before you pick your plot.
Another YA genre with lots of growth and opportunity right now is graphic novels. These are not novels filled with explicit scenes of sex, murder or mayhem. Instead, they are original novels written and illustrated like a comic book. (And you just about choked on your sugar cookie when the neighbor’s daughter said she read graphic novels, huh?)
So, don’t think of teenagers as the enemy (even if you live with a few of them). Instead, think of them as the hero of your hope. Teenagers are opening doors at libraries and bookstores--and that is opening doors for you at publishing houses across the nation!