Ypulse Books [Y]ear In Review
- December 29th, 2008
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For today’s Year In Review post, I look back at the big trends and hot topics that cropped up in YA lit in 2008. That is, outside of the whole “Twilight” explosion (see my thoughts on that phenomenon in Part One of Anastasia’s earlier YIR coverage.)
Crossing the Young Adult/Adult Divide
This year the gradual blurring of the line between young adult and adult fiction reached the point where the number of titles falling into the gray area could no longer go unnoticed. Books for older teens such as Elizabeth Scott’s Living Dead Girl, Margo Rabb’s Cures For Heartbreak and M.T. Anderson’s The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing pulled no punches both style and subject-wise. And though a few sensitive parents weren’t too happy about their high school-aged children being exposed to such things (Sigh. Oh, naive parents), the general consensus seemed to be that the “growing up” of YA was a good thing. Anderson, whose novel marks the second installment of his epic two volume novel chronicling the American Revolution, made a particularly compelling case for why teens deserve challenging reads.
Solving The Mystery Of What Teen Boys Read
It may have been hard to hear over the clamor of millions of teen girls shrieking (or was that the clacking together of the industry’s collective knees?), but this year in particular there’s been a lot of murmuring about reluctant boy readers of the same age: Why won’t they read? What do they want? How can we give it to them? No, these are not new questions (far from it), but in 2008 with the end of Harry Potter proper, they were revived with a newfound urgency. In case you missed it, possibly the best and most entertaining response came from 13-year-old Max Leone via Publisher’s Weekly. And yet, despite all the hand wringing and suggestion-making, over these past twelve months there’s been quite a few standout titles that have been drawing boys back to books even if they’re not normally the reading type. I know I can’t possibly name them all here (feel free to share your picks in comments), but some that spring to mind for being the best of the bunch were Cory Doctorow’s YA debut Little Brother (an updated twist on Orwell’s classic dystopian thriller), Drew Ferguson’s authentically cringeworthy coming-of-age story The Screwed-Up Life of Charlie the Second and Printz Medalist John Green’s eagerly awaited Paper Towns. While none of the above can be purely classified as “boy books” (as well all know, crossing the gender divide is much easier for girls) the appeal of adventure, humor and full disclosure (read: masturbation habits, desire to get laid, etc) is fully in tune with guys’ sensibilities.
Alloy Churns Out More TV-Ready Clique Lit
Yes, Alloy Entertainment and its Santa’s Workshop of teen series strategists have been around for some time, but this past year with “Gossip Girl” hitting its stride in the second season and “Privileged” gaining a decent following on the CW , the book factory has gone into overdrive pitching projects for television, film and everything in between (see ABC Family’s TV movie “Samurai Girl” and the straight-to-DVD release of “The Clique” movie both based on Alloy books). In total, Alloy has over a dozen properties in development including 12 TV pilots, and the hardest working name in youth marketing has shown no sign of slowing down. But is this a wise move? As Anastasia brought up earlier this year, the country’s economic tides are turning and teens may not want to be reminded of lifestyles that are becoming increasingly out of their reach. Especially if they’re just carbon copies of what came before. Perhaps the elves should start brainstorming about a series that hit a little closer to home and a little further from the Palace Hotel?
The Evolution Towards Books 2.0 Continues
My perspective on this trend may be a little skewed as I spent a good part of the past year (in my former life at a publishing consulting firm) gathering statistics for a multi-platform children’s media company that was being built from the ground up, but it seems like the time has come for publishers to dive deeper into the web. Although tweens and teens may not be grabbing a Kindle any time soon, they are becoming more interested in digitally extending their reading experience. According to Scholastic’s 2008 Kids and Family Reading Report, 64% of kids between the ages of 9 and 17 reported going online after finishing a book to either learn more about an author/series or to become deeper engaged with the book’s content. Last year’s YIR pointed in this general direction by noting publishers’ efforts to advance in the social media realm - a trend that has definitely continued in an upward direction as has the number of YA authors’ maintaining cool websites (I personally heart John Green’s Nerdfighters)—but there’s still a ways to go. Chances are we won’t see any major model shifts until the verdicts are in on both Scholastic’s web-based adventure series The 39 Clues (which launched this September) and the aforementioned multimedia project, Fourth Story Media (which will introduce its first series—a collaborative mystery series for girls—in fall 2009). Clearly there are major changes on the horizon.