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Adrienne Martini wrote today about the popularity of science fiction and fantasy in the Baltimore City Paper and asked me, Gwenda, Scalzi and Scott Westerfield a few questions. I was happy, as always, to mention my enduring love for one particular SF classic:

"While YA seems to be just a publisher's label, it is actually a very useful way for readers to find books that deal with significant coming-of-age situations," Mondor says. "Yes, teens can read adult titles and love them a lot, but a book written about a teen protagonist who is in a situation similar to their own will go a long way toward having an impact on their lives in ways adult titles rarely can. A Wrinkle in Time is one of the most significant books I've ever read and has stayed with me on an emotional level for more than 25 years."

Adrienne also explains how SFF titles in the YA section are essentially kicking butt when it comes to sales for the genre in the adult section. No one knows why exactly, but numbers clearly do not lie.

Meanwhile over at The Boston Globe, Julia Wittes Schlack thinks Hannah Tinti's The Good Thief is being marketed to adult audience because it is superior to other YA fare:

In a New York Times Book Review essay that appeared in July, Margo Rabb explored the "increasingly porous border" between adult and young adult fiction, and bemoaned the lack of respect shown toward authors of the latter. This condescension - and its implications for where a book gets shelved in stores and how many copies it consequently sells - may explain why Hannah Tinti's debut novel, "The Good Thief," was not classified as young adult reading. I can only imagine that agent and marketer agreed that this book was simply too good and too rich with commercial potential to be limited to the YA section.

I'm sure YA authors everywhere are delighted to know that if they are ever good enough they too will move across the bookstore. (Which apparently is every author's goal.)

And then there is the discovery by ABC news that teenage girls are reading trashy fiction. (Every adult woman who read VC Andrews twenty years ago please raise your hand now.) Here's what author Lisi Harrison has to say to the critics:

But is it a good thing to drill so much of the adult world's obsessions so deeply into children's literature?

Harrison says her books actually help her readers by showing how the apparently glamorous lives of her mean girl characters can be hollow.

"I don't mean to brag -- but I get literally thousands and thousands of letters, thousands and thousands of e-mails from these girls, and I do read them and not one of them has accused me of perpetuating poison into their world and their society," she said. "Every one of them says, 'I suddenly realize that it's not so important to be popular anymore. I used to be like this with our friends, but we've all changed. Truly. I really, really mean it.' They all get it."

"I suddenly realize that it's not so important to be popular anymore"? Really? I'll swallow my disbelief on that one and move on....

Finally, buried a bit over at PW a couple of weeks ago was this gem of good news from Small Beer Press:

Small Beer will publish [Joan] Aiken's The Serial Garden with a 10,000-copy first print, a fairly hefty one for a small press. The book features introductions by Garth Nix and Aiken's daughter Lizza, and is illustrated by graphic novelist Andi Watson (The Skeleton Key). Link, especially, would like to publish more of Aiken's work, since she regards her as one of three writers—along with Roald Dahl and Margo Lanagan—who have influenced her writing the most.

In addition to reissues, Small Beer plans to publish original children's fiction and has already signed two new titles, The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black and The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman. It will begin small as it did on the adult side by publishing one children's book a season; now the company publishes five or six adult books a year.

Now that is YA publishing I can get excited about - and something that I wish was covered by the mainstream media. Why give up valuable space to yet another reconsideration of the girls in The Clique when you could be providing some much needed publicity to a small press endeavor to provide books for teens (and kids) that is original and not dependent on the cliches of adult women repackaged for teenage girls? It's times like this that I really feel like the lit blogosphere is not being utilized to its greatest potential. I don't have answers yet - or even suggestions - but I am wondering how we can do more online to promote books that get ignored by the major media and the chain bookstores. There has to be a better way then this and surely, the web is the place to do it.

comments

Could I be more excited about a new Joan Aiken books!!!?! YAY, indeed!

I read that piece about The Good Thief, and though I'm so pleased about the good press that book is getting, I don't know that any YA writer is just jonesing to get into the adult section of the bookstore. If they were, wouldn't they just write an adult book? Or is the writer inferring that they don't have the talent for that, and caan only make it there by sheer dumb luck?

Julie Wittes Schlack Author Profile Page

I'm afraid that my review of "The Good Thief" was misinterpreted in this blog, and apologize if some imprecision in my writing was the reason why. So to clarify (and reassure you that I'm not on a mission to disrespect YA fiction or writers), I don't know if Hannah Tinti intended this novel to be for young adult or adult readers -- I suspect she envisioned a readership spanning both. Rather, what I was trying to convey in the paragraph you quoted above is that because YA fiction tends to be ghettoized, publishers would rather classify a book with "crossover" appeal as adult fiction rather than invest a major marketing effort in YA fiction. In short, this was not a commentary on the author or the novel, but rather on the publishing industry.

I'll be honest with you Julie - it's pretty hard to misinterpret a comment like this:

I can only imagine that agent and marketer agreed that this book was simply too good and too rich with commercial potential to be limited to the YA section.

You hit a bit sore spot for YA writers nd the people who review them. Thanks for stopping by to follow-up on it though.

Julie Wittes Schlack Author Profile Page

Thanks for the follow-up. Given the heat that this review has so inadvertantly generated, I'll choose my words more carefully in the future. Again, though, I'd ask that you consider the line you quoted above in the context of what preceded it, which was a reference to the Margo Rabb article decrying the lack of respect given to YA fiction. My intention was to build on Rabb's point, not to dispute it, but clearly I failed in my execution.

Thanks for the respectful tone of the discourse here, though. Sadly, that's all too rare.

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