Saturday, March 03, 2007

An Interesting Mix of Posts and Articles

I read Redefining the Young Adult Novel by Jonathan Hunt in the March/April 2007 Horn Book. One of my own reactions, or, rather, inspired musings, is that I often hear librarians say that the kids who read YA books are 10 to 14. But, many of the YA books being published and winning awards are more for those ages 13 plus.

The three books highlighted by Jonathan all fall within that older YA grouping: This Is All, which, while published YA, contained a note about it being for mature readers (my copy has been given away, so if you have the exact wording, I'll revise the post); The Book Thief, published in Australia as adult; and Octavian Nothing, which has been the subject of some musings as to the age of readership and whether it's an adult book published as YA.

I wonder, will the availability of "older YA" change the readership? Or does the reality of who actually reads YA mean that these books are in a limbo, because the YA readers are younger than the intended audience, and the intended audience is over in the adult stacks? (On a personal note, I don't believe that the only YA readers are those aged up to 14. I think readership varies from location to location; I know kids up to 18 and over who still read YA, it's just that once one hits high school, it's usually a mix of YA and non YA. And, as always, it depends where a library or bookstore puts these books.)

I also think that crossover in readership occurs with books that aren't aimed at the upper ages of YA; my mother loved Kiki Strike and cannot believe that it's seen strictly as a middle school book (and sadly, my copy, kept in her classroom for kids to borrow, hasn't been returned. On the other hand, how many high school math teachers have a lending library of fiction books in their classroom?) Hattie Big Sky is another book that can be read and enjoyed by any age.

Then I saw Alex Flinn's reactions to the article, which centered on the "literary novel" aspect of the article, adding more to my ever increasing list of "things to think about." Because I don't believe that literary is de facto better; and as I'm thinking and reading my bloglines, I see this post from Mary Pearson that also addresses the issue of literary versus genre fiction; and what attracts my attention there is how people use what they read to establish their clique.

Pearson's post was inspired by an interview with Melissa Marr at YA Author's Cafe. I think that Wicked Lovely is going to be read this weekend!

Anyway, interesting stuff and connections. What are your thoughts or reactions to the article? To the idea of literary fiction and YA? What is the definition of YA? And does YA fiction, and its writers and readers, need to be validated?

Other people talking about the Horn Book article: Andrew Karre's Flux Blog; Lowebrow


Little Willow said...

Heads up! My good friend Kiba has started a book journal:

She linked to Tea Cozy. Yay! Feel free to drop by her blog if you get a moment. :)

Liz B said...

Dropped by & updated my sidebar & my LJ friends list to add her; thanks for the link.

Little Willow said...


Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff, Liz! I liked the Mary Pearson post. The idea of genre fans as members of cliques resonates with me. I know that I like to talk YA (and mystery) with fans of the same genre, and that I tend (though not 100% to stay inside my preferred genres). The literary snobbery thing that annoys me is people who dismiss all of fiction reading as a waste of time. But mostly those are people to feel sorry for, because they are really missing out.

Liz B said...

I think what intrigues me about the clique is that it shifts the focus from "I love mystery/comics/anime/romance and like to discuss it with other people who like it" to "there is something wrong with the people who don't like it" (not "sophisticated" enough to enjoy literary fiction, not "fun" enough to enjoy chick lit, not "edgy" enough to enjoy GN, not "real" literature) -- the shift from inclusion to exclusion, and along with that the change from celebrating something to attacking those who don't like what you like. Much like a telling sign of censorship is the focus on what one doesn't want others to read; the sign of being in a book clique is the not respecting the reading choices outside the clique.

Anyway, much food for thought and I'm still mulling...

Liz B said...

Oh, and another negative thought I have about book cliques is it shifts the focus from the book to the type of person who reads the book; so, it goes from "I like nonfiction" (which is good!) to "I like nonfiction because I'm smart and those who don't like it arent" (bad, and yes I'm being overly simplistic) to "I'm smart, so I can only like nonfiction." In other words, if someone self identifies with a certain group (smart, edgy, artistic) they feel then they are limited to one type of book. In a way, it's like all those little kids carrying around Harry Potter volumes that they never read -- it's just to show others "I'm smart/ cool/ whatever enough to read this book."