Chicken nuggets

Many of my colleagues in the book blogging world got to this before me, but better late than never, I hope. Frank Cottrell Boyce reviewed his fellow competitor for the Guardian children’s fiction prize Patrick Ness’ book, The Knife of Never Letting Go, in the Guardian on Saturday. And much as we were all interested in the book, it was Frank’s opinions on young adult fiction that has got everybody flapping.

Never mind age-banding, it was all ruined by whoever invented the young adult concept. Instead of going from good classic children’s books to adult books, albeit to a “young” variety, readers are now kidnapped by YA books and end up stuck in some awful ghetto for years.

Frank reckons Patrick’s book should count as adult. At least as adult as Huckleberry Finn. Or The Catcher in the Rye. They may have been written as adult books, but even in my youth they were YA books, although we didn’t know it then. In fact, I consider Huck Finn to be a children’s book, and I thought Catcher in the Rye was something 16-year-olds read.

The only reason I’m sitting here blogging away like a mad witch, is that I got caught by what Frank calls demographic. I found I liked YA books so much, that I don’t have to waste my reading days with adult books. Not unless I particularly want to, anyway. Why do we have to assume that the YA tag will put people off?

13 responses to “Chicken nuggets

  1. i so adore frank cb’s books but i was very surprised that he considered YA a form of ghettoising.

    i think YA books have enriched the canon of books for children – although i subscribe to the argument that YA should move out of the children’s section into its own corner especially because in some titles the Adult qualities are weightier than the Young.

    the quality of writing that has emerged for this age group is fantastic – indeed, in the united states, YA sales are booming. it is characterised by voice, immediacy and freshness – i’ve heard of some authors of adult fiction who unwittingly draw a YA readership because of these very charactersitics.

    That said, I love reading the stuff but I’m way beyond YA myself!

  2. I’ll continue being a teenager for a long time, when it comes to books. Apart from that I am very mature.

  3. frank cottrell boyce

    I just want to say I love lots of YA books – as is evidenced by the fact that I was giving this one such a good review. I think the YA tag has led to a lot of amazing books being underestimated by the wider reading public. That’s all. I think it was the chicken nuggets that got everyone worked up. If I’d said, “like a chicken nugget” instead of “with the …” then it would be much clearer.

  4. I thought you put it very well, Frank. And I think I know what you meant. It’s just that your piece really seemed to get people’s attention. And we like that here…

  5. My seventy five year old mother’s favourite book this year was Siobhan Dowd’s ‘A Swift Pure Cry’ and she is about to embark on ‘Just Henry’ . I suppose the problem is that if it wasn’t for the fact that I have kids and so read the reviews I wouldn’t have been able to bring these gems to her attention.

    By the way, if you’re reading this, Frank Cottrell Boyce, I started reading Cosmic with my eldest two tonight. It’ll have a hard job creating as much pleasure as Framed (our Multipla has a new cachet since reading it) but I’m guessing it might just do it. I know that Finnbar and Colm will soon let me know by how many chapters get demanded each night. With Framed I was marooned in their bedroom for an hour to get to the end.

  6. I think we need a new movement to get “normal” people reading YA. There’s more to it than having adult covers for Harry Potter.

    I can’t tell you all how relieved I am not to be reading only adult books. I had a stage in my late twenties when I read what seemed to be the books to read, and I felt so depressed.

  7. frank cottrell boyce

    thank you pbmum

  8. I’m a so-called young adult, and I think I’ve forgotten how to read. Whenever I resurface for air/food/literature I tend to take in crime novels or Artemis Fowl.

  9. One of my favourite YA fantasy authors is Scott Westerfeld. There was a big debate on a sci-fi blog the other day on how Scott’s writing for YA was a big loss to sci-fi.

    John Scalzi writes: “The most significant SF writer right now is Scott Westerfeld, whom it seems most adult science fiction fans still have not read and indeed barely know exists. In a sane world, Westerfeld would be a hero to adult science fiction readers, because he’s pretty much single-handedly flown the flag for science fiction to teenagers, thus saving the genre’s bacon for another 20 years. But: He’s YA. So he doesn’t count.”

    The ensuing discussion on how YA books are pitched is fascinating.

    btw Cheers, Frank. I recommend your books to everyone I know.

  10. Candy, I need to know about Westerfeld. I only noticed his books by accident as I was out scouring the big chain for pink books a while ago, and found he actually had one intended for boys (and girls), and it was very pink.

    So, he’s good then? I used to love SF.

  11. YA does seem to be an American invention. It was unheard of in the Dark Ages when I was a girl and avid reader — reading Crime and Punishment one week, Enid Blyton the next.

  12. I think that’s how a lot of us behaved in the olden days.

    I was very relieved to hear at least a couple of crime writers in Bristol who said their first inspiration was Blyton. Without her I’d not be doing this, and please don’t say what a good idea that would be.

  13. i loved the midnighters series. that’s where to start. one christmas i just bought box sets of the trilogy and gave them to teenagers i knew and they adored them! Uglies – his big hit – is a cool concept and it roars along but i thought the trilogy that became four (he wrote a fourth book called Extras) didn’t sustain its magic – thought the world is clever and fascinating and so clued in to the world of young people. i started reading him when i attended a fantastic scbwi workshop he taught on slang. now i’m hooked.

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