|YA books - sadly missed...|
It was certainly news to me. In the US, YA appears going from strength to strength. New titles are constantly appearing, featuring a rich diversity of genres and sub-genres. Here in the UK, fellow writers are working on exciting new novels for teens, blissfully unaware that they might not be of interest to publishers. The audience is still there - a lot of teenagers love to read, as any author making school visits will tell you. And perhaps bloggers aren't tired of YA novels, they're just a bit jaded with a constant diet of paranormal romance. I can understand that - wouldn't you be, if it was all you were offered to digest? Let's not forget, though, that there's heaps more to YA than vampire books and publishers like Hot Key Books are investing heavily in building a strong and varied teenage list. So why the rumours? I don't want to come across as paranoid but does everyone else in the publishing world know something authors don't?
Personally, I think we can hold off on the wailing and gnashing of teeth just yet - there are positive signs that YA books will defy the naysayers. New awards are appearing - the Romantic Novelists Association gave its first ever prize for YA Romance this year, won by Caroline Green's Dark Ride. Regional prizes across the UK continue to celebrate books for teens. Websites like UKYA are springing up, doing their best to pimp the brilliant diversity that the British teen market has to offer and lift it out of the shadow of our American cousins. Independent booksellers (or at least the ones I know) continue to be supportive of new and existing authors and enthusiastic about future titles. And anyone who has been into a Waterstones or WH Smiths recently knows that their YA selection is usually vast, if often skewed in favour of books coated in black and featuring sharp-toothed cover stars.
So are many of YA's symptoms down to the fact that we're in the grip of the worst recession for fifty years? Publishers aren't just anxious about teen books, they're nervous across the board. And it might be no bad thing to see fewer paranormal romance books on the shelves of bookshops - I'm all in favour of kick-ass heroines who don't rely on anyone else to make their destiny. The boys have been doing exactly that for years, after all. Bloggers are still reading and still blogging. And, most importantly, teenagers are still reading (along with some -ahem - teenageds).
Perhaps YA authors should be paraphrasing the excellent Mark Twain when asked about the state of YA in the UK today - rumours of its death have been greatly exaggerated. Because as long as our audience is there, we have a duty to write for them. Even if it does involve vampires.