Tuesday, December 05, 2006

An Interesting Post Over at Planet Esme

Reading Octavian Nothing leads to Esme musing about what is this thing called YA literature.

I have to go to work otherwise I'd bang my head against the desk and then answer. In the meanwhile, I'll be interested in what you all think about it.


Chris said...

I haven't read it yet, but felt the urge to pass along this Slate review:

Little Willow said...

I posted this to her:

I could go on about this for days. Children's literature is my forte, including juvenile classics and contemporary releases, and especially contemporary teen fiction.

It is true that many adult lit stories use time and distance to create nostalgia and maturity. However, there are many teen and juvenile books that are about looking back and reflecting upon earlier days. Some give you that distance from page one. Stargirl comes immediately to mind, as does The Penderwicks.

There are plenty of books published in the teen section which could be placed in adult fiction/literature and vice versa. More examples: Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, and Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty, which is published in fic/lit but could be in YA; As Simple as Snow by Gregory Galloway, which is published in adult mystery but could be in YA; and many of Jodi Picoult's novels could be in YA. The list goes on and on.

One of the most critically acclaimed (and deserving, IMHO) titles of the year is THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak. In his native country, Australia, it is shelved in adult fiction; in the USA, it is shelved in teen fiction.

I'll be quiet now. :)

Brian Farrey said...

I'll follow LW's example and re-post what I said on her site:

I recently unleashed fire and brimstone on my professor who, upon learning that I was working on what I was calling a YA novel, told me that I shouldn't take her novel writing class because we wouldn't be studying any YA novels and therefore I wouldn't have any models to work from.

Writing a novel is writing a novel. Craft is craft. I tend to fall in the "YA is a marketing term and nothing more" camp. It's something publishers use to reach a burgeoning market. LIFE OF PI, released as an adult book, was followed up by a YA edition. ENDER'S GAME, usually shelved in adult sci-fi, has a YA edition.

Teen protagonists don't define the genre; look at CATCHER IN THE RYE and THE YEAR OF ICE. Both with teen protagonists facing coming-of-age dilemmas, both shelved in adult fiction.

Maybe it's the smart publisher who offers editions in both adult and YA to try to capitalize on the disparate audiences. I don't know. I'd be interested to learn how the YA edition of LIFE OF PI has sold.

Now, just for you Liz, here's some original content I DIDN'T post on Esme's site. I've stopped telling people I'm working on a YA book. It's nothing I'm ashamed of but too many people will approach me and my work with certain expectations (or prejudices) when they learn this and I'd rather be judged on the writing rather than who they think my audience is.

Liz B said...

Maybe I'm too much a grumpy girl, but Esme talking about Octavian as a children's book bothered me; I think it's pretty clear that this isn't a childrens book and isn't a middle school book, so why analyze it in terms of middle school reading?

The issue I have with "what about the children" -- what about those 5 years olds reading HP who now may read Octavian -- is that I have yet to read a review of any adult book that takes the adult book to task for having content that is inappropriate for teens, with the rationalization that "everyone knows teens read adult books." She asks about why Octavian is children's lit and frankly, I haven't seen anyone argue that point except Esme.

As to whether the NBA needs to sort out childrens and YA categories, that's another matter.

As for audience -- I have read many books for kids & teens that I thought were marvelous but with no kid or teen appeal. I've even read a few books that I thought were irresponsible -- dare I say it -- because I felt a dangerous message was included in the subtext without being addressed (ie, if the message is "yes, you asked to be assaulted" I want somewhere in the text for that to be countered as BS.)

That said, I felt that "giving a gift/ holding hands" danced way to close for my comfort to the idea of a book having to Have A Message (ie what I call the celebrity book vision -- there's no books about strong girls so I, Madonna, am forced to write one!). I think a book has to tell a good story in such a way that the audience forgets it's made up. I think it always has to be "real" while doing so. Kids know when the book is masking a message.

And that's enough, for now, I think!