This Explains Everything

From a book I’m reviewing professionally, I discovered that 55% of “young adult” novels are read by people between 33 and 40 years of age.

33 thoughts on “This Explains Everything

  1. LOL. Either I do not understand what “young adult” actually means or they are not young adult novels.

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    1. I don’t get it either. The book I’m reviewing argues that a novel with a 10-year-old protagonist is YA and not children’s literature because the vocabulary is more complex. But not all small children have primitive vocabulary. My 5yo loves Frances Hodgson Burnett and Beatrix Potter, even though there is some vocabulary in these books that even I have to look up in a dictionary. That’s how I learned the word “pipkin” that no Russian speaker can hear without collapsing with laughter.

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      1. YA is completely a marketing concept. There are numerous examples of books that are published as YA and as adult. The only difference being that the YA gets a more colorful cover and is printed with larger text. Examples of this are Ender’s Game and Wheel of Time.

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        1. Yes!! It’s 100% a US-based marketing strategy. This is why I’m so surprised that a highly respected critic in my field writes about it like it’s real.

          Is The Three Musketeers a children’s book? A YA’s? An adults? It was my favorite novel at the age of 8 that I read half a dozen times. And it wasn’t just me. Everybody at school was crazy about it.

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          1. The Soviet Union let people read the Three Musketeers with its combination of individualism and monarchism? :p
            Lord of the Rings usually gets classified as YA despite the fact that it is far from easy reading simply because we have gotten used to the idea that Tolkien is how people should be introduced to fantasy.

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            1. Well, Cardinal Richelieu is a bastard, and that’s anticlerical messaging, so it’s all good.

              Tolkien was allowed because Lord of the Rings was read as being against Hitler.

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              1. Richelieu of the novel is a lot more nuanced a villain than most of the film adaptations but point taken. Did you hear about the Soviet adaptation of Lord of the Rings? Apparently, despite the terrible special effects, it is not bad.

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  2. A major part of the success of Harry Potter was that it appealed to adults and was written at their reading level. The average adult does not have the reading skills to read adult fiction. The only way to get them to read is to give them material written at a level we usually think of as kids’ fiction.

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  3. “55% of “young adult” novels are read by people between 33 and 40 years of age”

    I wonder how many of the 45% are over 40… most of the descriptions of current YA stuff sound like youth fantasy for the not so young….

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  4. I agree with Izgad about it being a marketing concept. I kind of wonder if maybe this “genre” came about in one of the endless pushes to get more people into reading. Personally I just ignore it, I read what I want to read. It doesn’t matter if some publishing company says this is a book for teens. If it is well written and has a good plot I’m probably going to consider reading it. On the other hand if there is a book meant for adults that is poorly written and has a plot with enough holes to sink the titanic there is almost no chance in hell of me picking it up to read. Despite it being marketed as “for adults.”

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  5. What I hear is that it has little to do with vocabulary or sophistication. Many adults are yearning for a good story without so much sex, violence, swearing, and nihilism in it – and that will get a story classified as YA. I’m totally sympathetic to this – I read a good bit of history, and so don’t need to have how vile people can be beaten into my head via my fiction reading.

    I’ve heard that many authors, especially indie authors who necessarily do their own market research, discover that they have written ‘young adult’ novels without ever setting out to do so. Basically, a novel will fall under YA if it has a happy-ish ending and goes easy on sex, violence and swearing. If published now, Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, for example, might very well get classified as YA, even though it is about as childish as a Greek tragedy.

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  6. Just as children often read novels not marketed to them or tailored to them, adults read novels that aren’t directed towards them either.

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  7. Ugh. I am part of a sci-fi book club where two women choose all the books. One of them leans heavily toward fantasy and it’s the kind of fantasy I abhor — so-called sword and sorcery subgenre (magic and heroic quests) and YA themes (some young individual finding themselves through the quest). Basically, your basic Bildungsroman, but with magic. I find all Bildungsromane to be boring and repetitive, and the magic makes it unbearable.

    Whoever said above that going light on sex, violence, and profanity appeals to many adults is likely correct. I have found that, too, and I know a lot of middle-aged women who read YA fiction (I am emphatically not one of them). In the aforementioned book club, some others often comment on how dark or violent something is, and it usually doesn’t even register on my radar because I read a lot of horror or otherwise dark fiction. To be honest, I want real adult themes, with complicated emotions, and fucked up actions by characters who are both good and bad and everything in between. YA plots don’t appeal to me, and I will go as far as to say they actually piss me off. In fact, a lot of beginning fantasy authors write what amounts to YA because, honestly, I don’t think they have enough life experience to write much else. One needs to have actually lived some to be be able to write stuff beyond the finding of self on a heroic quest.

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  8. People like YA because if a book is marketed that way, you know up front that:

    1) it’ll be at an 8th-grade reading level, no more
    2) it’ll be about young people.
    3) it won’t be pornographic.

    That appeals to a lot of people. I used to like YA novels for reading on airplanes, where it is loud, crowded, and I have a hard time concentrating enough for more complex books, but have hours of enforced inactivity to kill.

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  9. I agree that there is a significant portion of adults that do not appreciate sex/violence/profanity in their books. I am actually one of them. I used to enjoy sci-fi a lot when I was younger and read all the books by Asimov. I am not into sci-fi as much anymore as it ends up being either too dark for me or too simplistic. I am not a big fantasy fan. I second methylethyl’s technique of reading YA novels on airplanes, this has worked for me in the past as well. More recently, I have been reading more non-fiction books, which takes care of many things that annoy me in a book…

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    1. For light, relaxing reading, I’m mommy lit all the way. Anything with the word “wife” in the title. Or, alternatively, serial killer novels.

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        1. I would never watch Netflix without my husband. That would be akin to cheating! I feel like he’d forgive me committing serial killings sooner than something like this.

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  10. Reminds me of Alan Moore’s rant against super hero movies:

    “That adds another layer of difficulty for me,” he continued. “I haven’t seen a superhero movie since the first Tim Burton Batman film. They have blighted cinema, and also blighted culture to a degree.”

    Moore would then add, “Several years ago I said I thought it was a really worrying sign, that hundreds of thousands of adults were queuing up to see characters that were created 50 years ago to entertain 12-year-old boys.”

    “That seemed to speak to some kind of longing to escape from the complexities of the modern world, and go back to a nostalgic, remembered childhood,” he continued further. “That seemed dangerous, it was infantilizing the population.”

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