Tag Archives: YA

Bookwitch bites #145

Books for teens? Not as popular as they were?

It’s tough for YA authors, and as is pointed out in this Guardian article, they are giving up. It’s no longer enough to have a burning ambition and plenty of ideas. You need to eat and pay the rent, too. With publishers not so active at promoting the books they publish, they sell less well. Not surprising. I practically have to drag both information and books out of their hands.

Kirkland Ciccone isn’t giving up, however. Next month he is back with another YA day in Cumbernauld. He’s lined up six – or seven – authors (it’s hard to know where you are with Philip Caveney and Danny Weston) to come and entertain students from local schools for a day. Yay! YA+

Last night I’d half hoped to attend Noir at the Bar in Edinburgh, had it not been for last minute builder issues. I’ve so far missed every one of these evenings, but am sure one day, evening, I will be there. I had been under the impression it was all noir [crime], but having had coffee with Moira McPartlin the same morning, and learned that she was there to be noir about her Star of Hope where there is a lot of death – cannibals, even? – she reckoned that you could noir pretty much about anything. (And she’s going to be in Cumbernauld for Yay! YA+…)

More good YA news for John Young, who has just won the Scottish Teenage Book Prize for Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist. Very good book.

The Carnegie/Kate Greenaway medal has only got as far as its longlist, but that’s good enough for me. I like seeing how right I was from the nominations, and also to see how many I’ve read. This year, more than expected. And I can’t name one I prefer, which is probably as it should be.

Yesterday’s top ‘news’ was the date for Philip Pullman’s second Book of Dust, The Secret Commonwealth, which will be with us in just over seven months! Put October 3rd in your diaries.

While you wait, buy a few YA novels to keep those authors going.

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Deflating my flu

When I stood up I fainted. So I stayed in bed with my flu symptoms until I could manage some semblance of uprightness. (Don’t worry, this was about twenty years ago.) The Resident IT Consultant was absent with work, in Guildford of all places. I managed to persuade a neighbour and fellow parent to take mercy on Offspring and convey them to where they needed to be and hang on to them until Guildford Man returned. Since she was doing me a great favour, I know it was churlish of me to mind when she said that she had also felt ‘a bit fluey’ earlier in the week.

I believe she meant she’d had some cold symptoms. What I minded was the feeling that she was under the impression I asked for help because I coughed a little, or my nose required the services of a handkerchief.

This came back to me as I was ruminating on what constitutes YA literature. To my mind it’s for readers who are at least teenagers, and maybe even upper teens, before they move on to so-called ‘real’ books.

I don’t feel YA is a suitable label for Middle Grade fiction, but the way things are going, it seems YA is being used to mean children’s books, excluding early readers and picture books. I wonder why, as surely the whole idea with an older label was to remove some of the childishness from the genre?

Making books for ten-year-olds YA, is like calling the common cold flu. It’s obviously a rough indication as to what we are talking about, but we lose the ability to differentiate in those instances when it actually does matter.

And then I came across Tanya Landman’s blog post for The History Girls last week. Her issue is the opposite way round; that proper adults don’t feel they can read childish books like YA. They need ‘real’ books, intended for their own age group.

I fully agree with Tanya, and I have also done what she does, which is to give friends YA books, even when the recipient is a real, proper grown-up. I believe I’ve been luckier than she has, as I’ve not come across too many objections. Or maybe they have simply been polite.

But if we use the YA label for teen books, the more mature or gritty novels, that are perfectly suited to OA (Old Adults), then we end up with books that cover every age from ten-ish to 99. Nothing wrong with that, as a really well written children’s book can be read and enjoyed by anyone.

If we’re going down that route, though, we might as well just call them books.