Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Young Adult Crossover

Close up of a young girl reading in the library. Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/115_3955573/1/115_3955573/cite. Accessed 21 Oct 2017.
Teen Read Week ended recently, but we're still thinking about fiction for young adults - specifically, young adult crossover books, though the term "crossover" has a bit of a contentious history  -  you can read "A Brief History of the Crossover" on iO9, and Tor's website has a long-standing column called "Genre In the Mainstream" that dies into some of the issues surrounding genre crossover.

BookBrowse defines crossover as "books that are targeted at adults but are likely to be of interest/suitable for teens." The Oxford Research Encyclopedia says crossover may occur "from child to adult or adult to child audiences, or they may be explicitly published for both audiences... Children have been appropriating adult books for centuries," but only in the 21st century has it become a recognized genre. Author Maggie Stiefvater heartily agrees:

Some adults are the stereotypical teen, too. They love pop culture, they’re reluctant readers, they love to shop and gossip. I would argue that if you looked at the percentages, the number of those sort of readers are identical for ages 16 and 60. Age has nothing to do with it. That’s who these readers are... So what does this mean for crossover titles? Well, I think it means that the real power of a crossover title isn’t a novel’s ability to appeal to both teens and adults. I think the real power of a crossover title is a novel’s ability to appeal to a wide range of humans.

Stiefvater discusses titles like Twilight and the Harry Potter series as examples. She says that at all her book signings, the number of adults and teens attending has always been equal; that Harry Potter crosses age, and gender lines, because of the amazing world J.K. Rowling created. She suggests that there are adults who don't like child narrators in books, but they can forget that the Harry Potter books are written from the perspective of a child, because the world of the book "is, like our real world, concerned with many things, and so therefore, many different sorts of people can be concerned with it" and that "we have to give teens the credit they deserve. They are young adults. ADULTS. That means that they are as varied in their reading tastes and abilities as adults are." 

Adults reading novels aimed at young adults is, of course, not news. It was all the way back in 2014 that  Ruth Graham got readers all worked up with her essay "Against YA." It's a different world now - even the New York Times Book Review has a semi-regular column called "Y.A. Crossover." But what about teens reading books aimed at adults? Another author, Dan Josefson, made a list for Writer's Digest of some points that make a book appeal to both sets of readers, which are:
  1. While you should certainly feel free to include characters of whatever age you choose, make sure there’s at least one teenager.
  2. Make things more complex, not less.
  3. It’s important, as in any other kind of book or story, that your writing feel honest and true.
  4. In novels that involve both children and adults, issues of authority, of power and powerlessness, are often central.
  5. The resolution of these novels is often tricky.  

Most of these points could be applied to any literary work, apart from always adding a teenager to the mix. There are adult books written with youthful protagonists, such as C. Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce series. And as Meg Wolitzer has pointed out, "individual taste is beautifully mysterious." Maybe your teen's varied reading tastes and abilities might be ready for some adult material.

Here are a few books marketed for adults that your teen might enjoy:

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

March by John Lewis

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

In the Sea There Are Crocodiles: Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbari by Fabio Geda

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Lowboy by John Wray

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

It's Fine By Me by Per Petterson

The Guineveres by Sarah Domet

The History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

Boo by Neil Smith

But, if you're not ready for your teen to start reading adult titles, there's always New Adult, "fiction [which] encompasses books that feature protagonists in the 18-25-year-old age range (sometimes this is stretched to 30), and many popular titles feature college students in contemporary settings."

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