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Friday, March 27, 2015



At the recent Left Coast Crime 2015 event I was on a panel with Jennifer Bosworth, Linda Gerber, April Henry and Mary Elizabeth Summer entitled: Not Safe for Children: The Young Adult Crime Story.

I had a good time starting with hearing everyone’s brief biography, which we each had written and submitted.  As moderator, Jennifer Bosworth asked good questions and the panel members responses were interesting.  The audience questions were also good.  Many audience members asked about the differences between writing for a YA audience and writing for adults.  

My favorite question came from a woman in the audience who yelled out, “What about sex?”

I answered, “Great, but I’m scheduled to be on this panel for another fifteen minutes.  Can you wait that long?”

I had prepared for a question I was not asked.  Since I don’t want to waste the time I spent in research on merely educating myself, I decided to write this blog.

Would you care to discuss the recent rather heated discussion about whether or not adults should feel embarrassed by reading Young Adult books?

What an intriguing question.  First, I would say based on a 2012 survey by Bowker it appears that most readers (55%) of YA book are adults.  So either a lot of readers need to feel embarrassed or there is something about YA books that appeals to adults as well as to young adults.
I favor the second possibility.  Historically there was no genre known as YA. Adults read Catcher in the Rye and Huckleberry Finn without apology.  Today they would be labeled YA.

While some YA books are trite, so are some books in all categories.  I believe some truly excellent literature is now categorized as YA.  John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian and Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone will be considered classics.

I make no apology for writing Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction as well as fiction for adults.

Do you agree or not?   Why?


Jim Jackson said...

The crucible of growing up is a fine setting for asking serious questions all of us need to consider.

Er, Warren, was she willing to wait?

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

I love your sense of humor, Warren. Writing YA is harder than writing for adults. The mindset, the language, and staying current to the trends and nuances of the times. Oh yeah, I forgot--that comes naturally for you. Maybe I'm immature, but I read YA, too.

Ramona said...

I love reading YA and think anyone who criticizes another person's reading choice, for any reason, is a buttinsky.

That being said, as someone who loves the genre, it disturbs me when I hear writers say they want to write a YA because that's where the money is. I have no issue with making money as a writer, but an appreciation for the craft and respect for the audience is paramount to creating a worthy work.

I also read a lot of middle grade novels, so I'm on your team, Warren.

Nancy Eady said...

I NEVER feel ashamed or apologetic for reading a good book, YA or non-YA. Why should I?


Gloria Alden said...

While I don't read a lot of YA, I really enjoy the ones I have read. I'm not embarrassed about reading it, either. I also read a lot of middle-grade books to my students while teaching and found them now among my favorite books. Some of them I read every year to different classes and never tired of them.

I think my favorite book that I wrote was a middle-grade mystery called "The Sherlock Holmes Detective Story." It still makes me laugh just to think of it, partly because the letters written in it were from actual students of mine with names changed.

KB Inglee said...

I love reading YA. Critiquing it is harder. We have a couple of YA novels going on in my critique group.

KM Rockwood said...

Some coming-of-age fiction has had a profound influence on me, as I'm sure it has on many others. While I understand that there is a category called "YA fiction," I don't see it as different from other fiction.

I don't think I'd be embarrassed to read anything that appealed to me, although I might consider putting some kinky porn books in a plan cover.

Shari Randall said...

I'm on your side, Warren, there is some great stuff being published for teens, and the books you named are some of my favorites.
I get a little cranky with the way book genres are sliced and diced ("new adult" anyone?) Good books are good books.

Warren Bull said...

Jim, She disappeared before I found out.

Warren Bull said...


I often cannot tell YA from Adult except for the label.