Thursday, December 3, 2009

Adult Books Suck.

I just recently got back from San Francisco, where I had an opportunity to meet a couple of really great YA types. We talked about my book, how I would surely be famous soon, my outfits - you know, all the stuff of a well-balanced conversation.

But more importantly, I had the opportunity to meet two people who are heavily invested in young adult literature - one from the writing side, the other from the business side (although she writes too). As we talked, I realized how hungry I am for insightful discussion (friendships?) that share a love for young adult books.

Without sounding too arrogant, most people who are unfortunate enough to run into me in the YA section of the book store are at a different place. I love YA. I read almost predominantly YA fiction. But, as a YA writer, I tend to come at it from a different perspective. Now, what this perspective is could be debated. Am I an elitist? Do I scoff at people who read books that use awful words like smolder to describe the way a vampire's eyes look?** (No and Yes.)

My perspective, I guess, is maybe more of a deep interest - one I hope will be an invested, professional interest at some point. I love YA because it doesn't carry the baggage that 'serious', 'adult' fiction seems to bring. The idea that there HAS to be a message. That it can't just be fun. YA, I think, will eventually grow out of the small section in the back of the bookstore. In many ways, it already has.

This growth comes from the urgency in the writing. It comes from the sometimes confounding hope that all teenagers have in their life. Their big ideas. Their sense of invincibility. Their fear that life won't work out in the exact way the have it planned. At the very least, it makes me think about that time in my life - the stupidity and glory of it all - and I am transported back.

Rarely does adult fiction transport me anywhere (besides back to the library or bookstore.) It's not necessarily a harsh critique, as much as it is an observation. I recently spoke with another writer about his book idea about a mormon family that did something and then they did something else and the whole thing made me want to take a nap.

I hope that doesn't sound terrible. Because this guy is a great writer. And his book has already generated interest from multiple agents. But when he asked about MY book and MY agent....well....

Let's just say that dropping the young adult label got me a polite smile.**

That arrogance, the opinion that adult fiction is somehow more serious, or even better than YA doesn't make sense to me. Yes, I titled this post "Adult Books Suck". I hope the irony is evident. I would never look at somebody carrying a copy of THE LOST SYMBOL and snicker to my YA buddies. I just wonder what happens when the bookstore becomes filled with more YA books. How does that attitude change?

Do you run into this in your writing? Is it limited to kid lit only?

*To be fair, I don't want to trash TWILIGHT too much. It's just the whole his eyes smoldered like an extinct volcano of love stuff got old. I get it. He's hot.

**He didn't know I'm kind of ninja-ish. And he was pretty huge. Plus, I'm not as fast as I used to be. I apologized to him for even thinking about a come back like, I got your Adult Novel right here, sucka!


  1. Great post, Bryan. I'd say something profound, but I'm saving all the good smoldering for the YA novel I'm writing now.

  2. Ooh...the famous Nova Ren Suma commented on my blog... I feel honored. No, no - blessed.



    Yes, go write - and I hope to see 'smolder' used at least once in your book.

  3. "Adult" books are gross.
    No, seriously. If I never have to read one more intricate, depressing description of aging bodies, or bodily functions it'll be too soon.
    And btw- the grown women in a lot of chick lit behave way, way worse than the teenagers who are "Too wrapped up in boyfriends" which is the #1 complaint I'm hearing about YA right now.

  4. Lily: I've never read chick lit (obviously, I'm all man...) - but what I've heard of the voice strikes me as being unreal. Not to ruffle any feathers in the world, but Sex in the City always smacked of being...bitchy? I assume chick lit is similar....

  5. I must be reading different books than you, brother! Most of the "adult" books I read are pretty much devoid of any content but action, fun and mayhem, whereas most of the YA I've picked up had, if not some deep meaning, at least a vague lesson about growing up and cautions for the reader.

    Sounds like we need to swap book lists!

    Of course, I write MG, which is a whole different ballgame!

  6. The only two times that I've come in direct contact with writers outside of the children's genre, the conversation completely stopped when I mentioned that I wrote YA and MG.

    What did L'Engle say? You write the book you have to write, and if it turns out to be too difficult for adults, then write it for children. Something like that.

    It's why I go to SCBWI conferences. Writers who write for children (I'm including YA in that) are the nicest writers on the face of the planet.

  7. I am, more often than not, disappointed by books written for adults.

    My major complaint about YA is the relative lack of books for guys. I know it's a business and girls read more than guys, but yesterday, when I went to Target, I checked out the YA section and I'd guess 4/5th of it was aimed at girl readers. How many books about bitchy high school girls (I'm taking about you The Clique Series) and vampires can one girl read in a year?

  8. Kristopher: I didn't mention that I tend to gravitate towards what would probably be considered literary fiction. So, that might account for part of it...

    Paul: I hear you. The best example of a 'boy book' I've recently seen is Maze Runner by James Dashner. Great book, and very boy centric.

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  10. They had that one. I'll have to pick it up. Thanks for the rec.

  11. You're right on, Bryan. The only Bushnell book I've ever read was Trading Up, when I went through a short round of chick-lit. Those books are a lot of fun, but to all the detractors of "weak" heroines in YA, I mean, geeze, read something with high heels on the cover, and then tell me that YA is really the problem.

    I don't read much commercial fiction for adults. I pick up more literary fiction, which can be sooo depressing.

    I don't think teenage guys necessarily read less- I just think they still kind of skip over YA and move right into "adult" fiction. YA could certainly be marketed to them a little better.

  12. Frankly, I think it's a vague possibility that three fourths of Men's adult fiction could qualify as being written for the YA crowd... Just marketed for the general adult audience.

    Could say something about guy's maturity level here, but I hate to bash on my own kind...

  13. I enjoy reading some YA, but there's a lot of it that just gets too, well, young for me. I remember being in the target audience for this sort of book, and there are a lot of YA novels that I've read and said, "I would have LOVED this when I was fifteen." Unfortunately, I don't like them as much now. I think the problem with the YA market right now is much the same as it is with the adult market - it's the same thing, over and over.

    As far as the chick lit genre goes, it can be pretty hit or miss. I don't like the 'Sex and the City' style of storytelling. There are some awesome ones out there, though. If you'd like to try a good one (and don't mind some adult content), check out 'My Life Uncovered' by Lynn Isenberg. Sure, the protagonist has some breakdowns, but they're fairly well justified, given what's going on.

    I also find that, when I look at specific genres, like suspense or fantasy, I find more books that appeal to me than when I look at 'literature.' I don't want 'literature' - I want a good story!