I went into a local bookshop in Ballarat today, looking for a book by Lili Wilkinson. Her book, Scatterheart, is a great example of historical fiction writing for young adults, and I am planning to write about it for our Sovereign Hill Education blog. It hasn’t been that long since I’ve browsed the young adult section of a bookshop, but instead of seeing a whole lot of my favourite authors and stories (as good or better as ‘regular’ adult varieties), I found this:
Take a moment to glance at some of the titles: Bloodlines, Vampireville, Kissing Coffins, Drink Slay Love, Vampire Beach: Bloodlust, Love Bites, Blood Promise….
I actually walked past those two shelves at first, thinking they were devoted entirely to the Twilight Saga. But after a while I realised they were the only two shelves in the shop to have ‘Young Adult’ written above them – I had actually been looking in the much more appealing ‘Younger Readers’ section.
Once I realised that I wasn’t seeing cover variations of the same book, I was astonished at what I was looking at. I seriously had trouble finding a book that wasn’t about vampires, ghosts or angels. Not only that, they all seemed to be teen romance stories. I don’t mind vampires in stories, and I have read the Twilight Saga with some enjoyment – NB: I am not trying to open a discussion on the literary merits or moral content of Stephanie Meyer’s writing, I just want to acknowledge that books don’t have to receive literary acclaim to be enjoyable.
What I was shocked by was the lack of variety. Sure there are a number teen readers who have book type or author obsessions, I will admit to spending many a late night in early high school engrossed in a Saddle Club or two. But surely not ALL teen readers are obsessively interested in vampires and the supernatural? My husband even asked if it was a young adult section for girls only.
What I wonder is: are all Young Adult shelves in bookshops looking like this? Is this all that sells?
I have been, one of those 10 year in-the-wing projects, writing a couple of young adult novels (which, I might add don’t have any vampires in them, or angels) so I am interested if this is really highlighting a trend, or there is just influx of post-Twilight-jumping-on-the-bandwagon books?
Young Adult literature, I believe, has produced some of the best books around. Witty, fun, informative and brilliant pure-escapism. Thankfully there are great organisations like the Centre for Youth Literature and their website Inside a Dog, who support and encourage a range of readers and writers of YA Lit. I just hope that the bookshops are still buying the books of the other (non-vampire) YA authors and YA readers are still discovering the variety of fantastic books available for them.