My “away” vacation this year was spent in the Outer Banks with my family, mostly eating, drinking and lounging on the beach (actual swimming was not really possible given the profusion of jellyfish). A couple of those days were also spent reading the last installment of Richelle Mead’s delightfully unputdownable (yes, I know, it’s not really a word, but it fits the bill) Spirit Bound. I could tell you that, by doing so, I was catching up on work – around here, we like to read books from each others’ lists so that we can speak intelligently about them at cocktail parties – but I’d be lying. In fact, I’d been hounding Jim McCarthy for a copy of the book to take with me, even though the ones the publisher had sent over were designated for rights sales. The reality is that ever since Jim urged me to read the first Vampire Academy book, I’ve been hooked on the series. Will Rose have to kill Dimitri? Will she be able to save him? Will Lissa and Christian work through their issues? The series is about serious teenage vampire angst with a body count and boasts a thoroughly engaging, kick-ass heroine, so as soon as I finish a book, I start bugging Jim for information about the next one. (He doesn’t find this annoying at all.)
As you all know by now, we like to think of ourselves as serious publishing professionals, but we’re also just big old geeky readers who can be sucked in by certain books like swimmers by a riptide. These days, it seems that a lot of the books dragging us out to sea are YA titles. I love Amanda Foreman’s quote about her love of YA books in this New York Times piece: “A lot of adult literature is all art and no heart, but good Y.A. is like good television. There’s a freshness there; it’s engaging. Y.A. authors aren’t writing about middle-aged anomie or disappointed people.” I think this perfectly explains the boom in this category in recent times and why it is adults are so captivated by literature meant for tweens and teens. Even when tackling difficult, dark subjects, the writing in this genre is all about possibility, about the ability to overcome obstacles and get to the other side. Who can resist that message and the edge-of-your-seat plot twists?
One of the takeaways for me is that the reason YA is so huge among adults right now may be that readers want good old-fashioned great storytelling that takes them away from their uncomfortable realities (the economy, the state of world affairs, global warming, the Kardashians) and makes them believe in possibility. What do you all think?