Why has teen fiction become so popular with adults? That’s a question being explored in the publishing world. Teen fiction is no longer marketed strictly to teens because so many adults are reading books originally aimed at a younger audience. Novels from series like Harry Potter, Diveregent and The Hunger Games are as likely to be found in the hands of adults as those of adolescents.
Adults who are fans of books for teens offer all kinds of justifications for reading them. Some find teen books less pretentious. They say the writing is straight- forward and doesn’t try so hard to be ‘deep.’ Time Magazine book critic Lev Grossman notes teen fiction has “ clean prose, whereas a lot of literary fiction is dense and lyrical, larded with tons of carefully observed detail.”
Some adults like the way teen books take them back to an earlier period in their life when they were open to trying new things and seeing every experience in an exciting light. They appreciate the less cynical tone of teen books, the feeling of hope they get from many of them.
I notice there are more female writers in the teen genre and as a feminist I appreciate that. Of course some cynical critics claim adults read teen novels because people aren’t as well educated or intelligent as they used to be.
Many teachers and parents of teenagers say they start exploring the genre to find out what their kids are reading and end up getting hooked. I know that was the case for me. I assigned my high school students independent reading projects and had one- on- one conferences with them about the books they chose. Their enthusiasm for authors like John Green, Stephenie Meyer and Stephen Chbosky got me reading their books.
Now I’m reading teen novels because I want to try writing one myself. I’m finding that teen authors are more likely to break the rules of established literary technique and that makes them exciting. They choose unorthodox narrators. The Book Thief, a novel about a teenage girl in Nazi Germany is narrated by Death. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is a murder mystery narrated by an autistic teenage boy. Wonder, is narrated by a terribly disfigured young man whose parents decide to quit teaching him at home and send him to school.
Another unorthodox practice used in teen books is that they often include drawings or photographs. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children has vintage photos of the characters. Diary of a Wimpy Kid is illustrated with simple sketches that bring the text to life. Arnold the narrator of the best selling teen book The Absolutely True Diary of A Part Time Indian is a brilliant cartoonist and the novel is peppered with his humorous visual reflections on his dramatic life.
Although there are certainly plenty of adults today reading teen fiction it is hardly as new a phenomena as many book bloggers, reviewers and columnists seem to think. Little Women and Anne of Green Gables were written for young girls but have become beloved novels for all ages. Books like Catcher in The Rye, Lord of the Flies and Huck Finn are all about teenagers coming of age yet have become classics for readers young and old.
If you’re looking for a new novel and have never checked the teen or young adult bestseller list I’d highly recommend you give it a try. Because the truth is a good book is a good book no matter what age of audience the writer had in mind.
Other related posts……..