I have been thinking about the phenomena of 'young adult' fiction. To be honest I am not sure I really understand what differentiates between young adult, crossover and adult fiction. Is it just the age of the protagonist or is it the style in which it is written? Are some young adult books just dumbed-down fiction aimed at older teenagers with poor literacy skills?
Don't get me wrong, I think there are many great children's/crossover books out there...Jacqueline Wilson, J K Rowling and Meg Rosoff spring to mind for starters as good contemporary authors who would encourage young people to read and I know there are many others I have not even read...Michael Morpurgo, Eoin Colfer etc. I would be very interested to learn more about what publishers consider to be young adult fiction, even though I don't think I am likely to write any myself.
What did I read as a teenager? Certainly there were 'coming of age' stories... the Anne of Green Gables series, I Capture the Castle, Bonjour Tristesse to name a few. But all of these were originally written for a wider general market and none of them were 'contemporary' when I was a teenager in the ...umm...1970's. Then of course there were American classics such as The Catcher in the Rye. I also remember reading The Go-Between, Love for Lydia, some Carson McCullers. The only novel I can actually recall which might have been truly written for the young adult market was called 'Fifteen' by Beverly Cleary, an American writer.
Of course we also read the commercial hits of the day. As a keen rider I enjoyed the Dick Francis racing mysteries. I lapped up Agatha Christie's gentle crime fiction and Dennis Wheatley's occult novels. I loved Anya Seton's wonderfully detailed historical novels. I ploughed through The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, devoured Watership Down and cried over Love Story. I tackled thick sagas by Susan Howatch and read some Catherine Cookson. I think I even read a fair number of the James Bond novels. By the end of my teens I was starting on feminist novels.
Perhaps the scope of my reading was limited by where I grew up...a small isolated town with only a tiny library and just a couple of shops selling paperback books. But I seem to remember that we got our 'teenage' information and entertainment from magazines...the classic Jackie magazine and later Cosmopolitan. We didn't need books written specially for us as well, because we were, on the whole, already mature and educated enough to read adult fiction.
Is the new trend for young adult fiction just a clever marketing trick or is it actually needed to get young people to read at all?
Three notable things:
1. It is warm and sunny today!
2. The garage has been cleaned and tidied, mats are laid on the floor to create the new 'gym' area.
3. A leisurely wander around town this afternoon, finishing with a cold drink in Starbucks.