Do women really “dominate” YA?
I broke down the New York Times YA Bestseller list by gender, dug through the data, and have some conclusions about gender as it relates to bestsellerdom.
This is part one. Part two is tomorrow.
This is amazing and sobering and will give you a lot to think about in terms of women “dominating” YA/bestsellerdom. I want everyone to read it. That means you, person staring at this on their dashboard right now.
READ IT RIGHT NOW.
Currently, until Oct 20th, the CBC is taking suggestions for books to be featured during Canada Reads 2014. The theme is ‘what book do you think will change Canada.’
And so I thought about what YA I’d read in the past few years that would qualify (written by a Canadian, traditionally published, available in English and in print) and suggested a couple of titles.
Then I started thinking. What if there was a kids and teens version of Canada Reads?
There sort of is already, with all the library association readers lists like the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading, and the BC Book Prizes, and there’s the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. But I wanted something like Canada Reads for YA. Something nation-wide, possibly on TV.
Instead, I’m thinking I’ll do something sort of similar but also different.
I want you (yes, you) to suggest YA books that you think Canada should read. Same basic rules as Canada Reads apply (see the above Rules section for details), but it has to be a young adult book.
Everyone is welcome to suggest books. Book bloggers, authors, teachers, librarians, reviewers, critics, book nerds, doctors, dentists, pilots, police officers, lawyers. If you can suggest a book in the Suggestion box, then suggest away.
My only requirement is that, when you suggest, you say why, and not that ‘it was totally amazing.’ Give Canada a reason to pick up the book and give it a read.
Your favorite YA series needs help! Cast your vote for all-time greatest YA series on teen.com here: teen.com
But… but… the Chronicles of Narnia, Percy Jackson, Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, and the first two books at least of Harry Potter are not teen series! They’re middle grade books*! (And on the other side of the spectrum, neither is LotR, which was written for adults.)
That doesn’t mean that teens don’t and can’t read MG (or adult) novels and enjoy them. In fact I think they totally should! But the fact remains that they were not written with teens in mind, they are not marketed with teens in mind, and the characters in them are, by and large, not teens (or if they are, the kinds of stories told about them are not typical of teen literature).
I think Middle Grade deserves more respect and attention than it generally gets, and the success of authors like Snicket and Riordan helps a lot. But it doesn’t help when people muddle up the MG and YA* genres, because that does both the authors and the books a disservice. YA books then get blamed for being too “edgy” (or too romantic, or too introspective, or too long — take your pick) for younger readers, while MG books get blamed for not being edgy or romantic or introspective or long enough for older ones.
An author who writes both Middle Grade and Teen Series (and loves both)
p.s. No disrespect is intended toward the organizers of this contest — after all, the main point is to encourage teens to read and write and have fun doing it, and Figment is a great resource for that. It’s just that mixing up MG & YA is a persistent problem when journalists write about books for children and teens, and I think a lot of confusion and upset could be avoided if people understood the difference between them a little better.
* Middle Grade (or MG): the predominant North American term for novels aimed at competent readers aged 9 - 12.
** YA = Young Adult, meaning novels aimed at ages 12 and up.
THIS IS [BY] ONE OF MY FAVOURITE AUTHORS WHO HAS BRILLIANT CHARACTERISATION AND A REALLY INTERESTING TAKE ON THINGS AND IT’S A SEQUEL TO HER BOOK ON SYNESTHESIA WHICH I HAVE BEEN QUIETLY OBSESSED WITH SINCE THE AGE OF ELEVEN.
HER NEXT BOOK IS FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A TEENAGE ASEXUAL FEMALE CHARACTER AND IT IS THE BEST THING.
Yay, somebody else wrote me a smashing intro post so I don’t have to write one myself and feel like a dweeb! Thanks, centrumlumina! I’m so glad you liked the essay (and the books, too!)
So, er, yes. If you would like to know a little more about QUICKSILVER in general and this aspect of the story in particular, click through to read the essay I wrote for this month’s Carnival of Aces under the topic “Asexuality in Fiction”.
(NOTE: Essay contains some brief quotes from the book and talk of characterization and the writing process, but no major plot spoilers [unless you count ULTRAVIOLET, in which case I guess whoops.])
Frequently in YA we see a character displaying symptoms of a mental disorder, but the story doesn’t actually show us the treatment of it. … In what ways do you hope Ultraviolet addresses this gap in the literature?
Part of what made me want to write about life as an inpatient at a psychiatric hospital was my frustration with the stereotypical, sensationalized and downright misleading portrayals of MI I’d seen elsewhere, TV and movies especially. On one hand I saw portrayals of people with mental illness as loveable eccentrics or unorthodox saints, and on the other hand they were portrayed like wild animals or dangerous criminals, and there wasn’t a lot in between. Similarly, psychiatric hospitals in these stories tended to be either sunny halls of hope and healing, or dismal prisons full of people in straitjackets locked up in isolation. I wanted Alison’s experiences of psychiatric care, and her interactions with her fellow patients, to be more nuanced. …
How would you suggest a teen reader gets the most out of a book focusing on psychological issues? For example, are there any strategies a reader might use to detect when an author is portraying a mental disorder or treatment clumsily or inaccurately?… I think it’s easy for a lot of readers not to notice when an author does a poor job of portraying mental illness, because the mistakes and wrong assumptions the author’s making are probably similar to their own.
The best an author can do, I think, is try to be responsible, respectful, and thorough about their research in all areas, even those that don’t involve mental illness. Because if the reader finds that they are reliable in one aspect of the story that they do know about, they’re more likely to trust the author to be reliable in other areas as well. …
I’m over at A Tapestry of Words today, talking about the treatment of mental illness in YA in general and Ultraviolet in particular. Thanks to Danya for a great (and mostly spoiler-free) interview!
To begin, let me tell you a story.
Earlier this week I was coming out of the high school where I occasionally help out with a lunch-hour Bible discussion group. It was the first meeting of the year and attendance was low, so we had about seven boxes of pizza left over. After distributing most of the largesse to the teachers in the staff room, I still had two pizzas left to take home for my family. But as I was walking across the parking lot to my minivan, it occurred to me that I really only needed one.
At the same moment I spotted a gang of lanky mid-teen boys hanging out by the edge of the parking lot, scuffing their feet on the pavement and looking bored. I called out, “Hey, you guys want free pizza?” and eight faces simultaneously lit up.
Some smart and insightful comments from Victoria Schwab, author of The Archived, in response to readers who aren’t interested in a books without a central and obvious romance:
Stories are about relationships, both those between characters, and those between characters and their world.
And of course, romantic relationships CAN BE IMPORTANT. They can be the most important, but even when they are, they are never the ONLY important relationship in a book. And I don’t think they should automatically be the ones we value most.
As a writer, I am fascinated by siblings. By family. By friendship. By unhealthy–even toxic–relationships. By the cog versus machine of a character at odds with their world.
The whole essay’s worth reading. Like Schwab, I enjoy romance, but not at the expense of other significant relationships, and certainly not at the expense of realism. Books where the heroine is obsessed with her love interest to the exclusion of all others, and where sexual attraction is the main basis of their relationship — well, I won’t say they’re unrealistic because relationships like that happen all the time, but I will say that they’re boring and overdone.
Anyway, do read the whole essay, as it’s brief but well worth it.
Once I was a girl who was special.
Now I am extraordinary.
And they will never stop hunting me.
The compelling follow-up to the bestselling ULTRAVIOLET, this psychological thriller will take your breath away…
— Orchard Books (UK) blurb for QUICKSILVER by R.J. Anderson
I am happy to report that as of today, I turned in my last major revision of QUICKSILVER to my lovely UK and US editors. And after addressing their suggestions and those of my insightful beta-reading team, I am very pleased with the way the book has turned out. It gives me hope that readers of ULTRAVIOLET, and perhaps some new readers as well, will enjoy it too!
Unfortunately I also have some sad news to report, which is that the UK edition will not be coming out in November, as we’d originally hoped. Due to a succession of family health crises and other unforeseen delays, I was unable to finish editing the book in time for my publishers to get it ready for a 2012 publication date, which means that the paperback of QUICKSILVER will now be coming out in the UK in January 2013 instead. However, the North American hardcover publication date remains unchanged, so US and Canadian readers can look forward to seeing the book in March 2013.
I apologize to those who’ve been eagerly awaiting QUICKSILVER and are disappointed to have to wait two months longer! But these things happen sometimes, and I felt it was more important to give you a book I had really put my heart into writing and researching — a book I could be proud of — than to rush something out that wasn’t my best work.
Thanks to all my readers for your patience and support! I can’t wait for you to read this story, and I’m very excited to find out what you think of it.
Because I want to follow you all. People are so surprised to find out that even though I read a whole bunch of classics, non fiction, and fiction, I also read teen fiction. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love a bit of romance and paranormal action. I get so annoyed when people make fun of me for it, so I want to know that I’m not alone. :]
Well, OBVIOUSLY I read it, since I write it. But I’m also not ashamed to say that until I was in my mid-twenties I had read almost no YA fiction (because when I was growing up, it seemed to be nothing but contemporary “problem novels” which weren’t to my taste at the time, so I went straight from “juvenile” to “adult” books) but now in my mid-forties I read MG and YA almost exclusively. I think I’ve maybe read three or four adult novels in the past year, compared to thirty or more MG and YA novels.
I don’t mean that as a kind of inverted snobbery against adult literature. I’m sure there are a lot of fantastic, worthy and interesting books awaiting me in the various adult genre sections. I’ve just been spoiled by the glorious cross-pollination of genres that exists in MG and YA, and find it easier to find books that interest me in the “children’s and teen” section than to traipse all over the bookstore hunting through a bunch of other categories.
You are totally welcome to rec me the last fantastic adult book you read, though. Especially if it’s historical mystery, fantasy, SF, or non-explicit romance. (And if it’s historical-supernatural-mystery-romance like Susanna Kearsley, even better.)
Read by Justine Eyre
When Alison wakes up in a mental hospital, she has no idea where she is or how she got there. What she does remember is that after a violent exchange with Tori, her archrival, Tori disintegrated before her eyes. Narrator Justine Eyre’s youthful voice has a sharp, reedy texture that fits 16-year-old Alison. Alison’s sensory peculiarities—sounds taste like flavors; numbers become colors—and Anderson’s startling plot leap—from a story of young girl’s offbeat reality to an unexpected science fiction tale—are convincing and gratifying, thanks to Eyre’s truthful performance. A persuasive explanation of the glitch in Alison’s neural net, what became of Tori, and what lies ahead for Ali, combined with Eyre’s credible narration, make this a thrilling listen for older teens. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine [Published: MARCH 2012]