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If Adults Are the People Buying YA Literature, Should We Still Call It YA? I Say Yes!

whyyaOn Monday, David Thorpe at An Awfully Big Blog Adventure pointed out that current statistics indicate that 80% of YA fiction titles are purchased by adults. This percentage has seemingly increased since the last time we talked about this here at TLT back in 2012 when we discussed that We NEED YA Books for Teens. At that time the percentage was in the high 50s. And since then we have seen a huge increase in adults openly embracing their love of reading YA. They even participate in things like the Forever YA Book Club (and I am a member of the DFW chapter). I have no problem with adults reading and enjoying YA fiction. I am an adult who reads and enjoys YA fiction. But I do have a problem with adults taking over the YA market in such a way that we start considering whether or not we should even call the market YA. The answer is: we should. Teens need, want and read YA fiction. The YA category in bookstores and libraries makes it that much easier for teens to find the books they want, need and read. Like the Juniors section at your local clothing store or the Country category at your local record store, it’s a label designed to help the target market easily find the product they are looking for. It doesn’t exclude others, but it does help increase access. It also is a label of validation. By writing, publishing and marketing age appropriate books for teen readers that they can more easily identify with, we as a society communicate to our teens that we respect them, we value them, that they have a space among us to call home. I said a lot of these same types of things on Monday when I tweeted about this so rather than repeat myself, I Storified the tweets for you. There are also some tweets from others that were wise and affirming. And if you are interested, here is another passionate defense I make about YA literature titled Dear Media, Let Me Help You Write That Article About YA Literature.

What should we call YA (this link will take you to the Storify story)

If Most YA is Bought by Adults, Should We Still Call it YA?

Once again it has come up that a majority of YA fiction tends to be purchased by adults and the question was asked, should we still call it YA if adults are the ones mostly buying (and presumably reading) it? And here is my answer (with some help from my friends on Twitter).

  1. I have a lot of thoughts about this, but my basic answer is yes. Other useful info in the post as well.  https://twitter.com/JensBookPage/status/651140736398680064 …
  2. Re last RT: TEENS DESERVING THEIR OWN BOOKS! So please don’t let the fact that adults are buying/reading YA take YA away from them.
  3. Re last RT: TEENS DESERVING THEIR OWN BOOKS! So please don’t let the fact that adults are buying/reading YA take YA away from them.
  4. There are so many signals society already sends that let teens know we don’t value them. Keep YA, and Keep YA for Teens.
  5. I begrudge no adult who wants to buy and read YA for whatever reason, but let’s not change YA because they do. Teens NEED YA.
  6. As a YA librarian, I can assure that TEENS WANT, NEED, AND READ YA. Every day I talk with them. Trust me.
  7. Yes, they need to know where/how to find the books that reflect their lives. Adults already have large sections.  https://twitter.com/JensBookPage/status/651143236698816513 …
  8. I would love to know more about this as well. I mean, I buy YA. I read YA. I also have a Teen. And I work w/teens.  https://twitter.com/mosylu/status/651144058518175744 …
  9. .@TLT16 @JensBookPage Teens have limited disposable income. Most of their things are purchased by adults.
  10. .@TLT16 @JensBookPage We never say “most teen clothing is purchased by adults! maybe we should call it something different!”
  11. There was almost no YA when I was a teen. I read adult books. What a difference it would be if I had access 2 the YA books 2day. I needed YA
  12. I needed to know that my peers thought, feared, and worried about the same things. That I wasn’t alone. That I wasn’t abnormal.
  13. I needed to know that there were other sexual assault survivors, that there were other anorexics, others who were lost.
  14. Anything good that teens have, adults want to claim for themselves, which leads to pushing teens out of it. grrrr. @TLT16
  15. I couldn’t relate to the things in the adult fiction I read. I didn’t know what it meant to be married. To be a mom. I struggled 2 connect.
  16. When I see my teens reading YA, I see how much it matters. How much it helps them in this personal journey.
  17. I needed YA when I was a teen because it probably saved my life. Thank you, Wintergirls.  https://twitter.com/TLT16/status/651145285234618370 …
  18. The “but adults read YA too” argument reminds me too much of “but all lives matter”- yes they do, but that’s BESIDE THE POINT @TLT16
  19. I see my teenage daughter reading Sarah Dessen, & Kissing in America and more to help her navigate teenage friendships. I am thankful 4 this
  20. I see her dipping her toes into YA romance as she is just starting to think about this & I am grateful it is there for her.
  21. Basically, I’m thankful teens today have the YA they want & need to navigate the teen years. Let them keep it. #yasaves
  22. And yes, YA is well written & funny & entertaining. That doesn’t mean it still can’t be for teens. They deserve quality. They deserve fun.
  23. I’m now going to call my baby & ask her what she’s reading today because that’s another thing about YA, it bonds, builds bridges, open doors
  24. In fact, if you are an adult that cares about any teen, you should read YA and then talk to the teens in your life about it. Communication!

Edited to add this link shared on Twitter by Hippodilly Circus: A Letter to Teachers, Stop Telling Teens You Don’t Like Them

Comments

  1. Thank you for all you do to keep these issues relevant and talked about. This reminds me of a few things that we have dealt with now that school is off and running. First, parents who come and want to know how to teach/get their kids to read and read better. Yet it never dawns on them that kids who are read to and find the time enjoyable generally become readers. And that if you let them choose, they will find books they enjoy. Reading for skill and reading for fun/entertainment/knowledge are all different things. A bit off subject but…

  2. Do we know if that 80% is just from retail? I ask because if that doesn’t take into account all the library and educational wholesaler sales that are going directly into classrooms and libraries for teens, I would think that would change the % significantly.

    • Karen Jensen, TLT Karen Jensen, TLT says:

      Unfortunately, I don’t really know the source of the statistics, how they got the data, and what qualifying questions they asked. But you are correct, libraries buy a metric ton of teen books and I wonder how this data is or isn’t reflected.

  3. I wrote about this right after the Nielsen Kids Book Con at YALSA’s The Hub with some examples of why having books written for specifically for teens is so important. http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2015/09/18/who-is-young-adult-literature-for/

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