Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Book Sales Are Flat Except for Teen Books

Have you heard what Newsweek is calling today's teens? Well, they are using the encouraging term "Generation R" (R is for reader) to describe them because that generation seems to be responding well to the boom in the number of new Young Adult fiction books that are being published these days. According to Newsweek, sales in YA fiction have risen 25% in the last few years. We should probably confess to Newsweek that we are buying and enjoying some of the titles ourselves, but this is nice to see.
"This is the second golden age for young-adult books," says David Levithan, an acclaimed author of several young-adult novels ("Wide Awake," "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist") and executive editorial director at Scholastic Inc., the world's largest publisher and distributor of books for kids and teens. In just the past few years, Scholastic and many other publishers of young-adult (also known as YA) fiction have seen "amazing success," says Levithan, who calls this the "most exciting time for young-adult literature since the late 1960s and 1970s when 'The Chocolate War' [by Robert Cormier] and 'Forever' [by Judy Blume] were published."

Levithan and others cite several reasons for this perfect storm for teen lit, the most obvious two being the increasing sophistication and emotional maturity of teenagers and the accompanying new freedom for writers in the genre to explore virtually any subject. Another is that bookstores and libraries are finally recognizing this niche and separating teen books from children's books. "Teenagers don't want to walk past the Curious George books to get to their books.
This is an interesting three-page article; read the whole thing via the link, if you're interested.


  1. I love that kids are reading! However, I'm also really concerned about the content of what many of them are reading.

    There are some great new teen books, but there are also many disturbing ones. I really urge parents to look at the content of the books before they allow their kids to read them. Just because it's labelled teen doesn't mean it's not about a mail order sex slave (true plot for a teen book).

    I'm also disturbed by the lack of classics being read by teens - even school's summer reading lists are so full of "modern" titles, I wouldn't be surprised if kids can now go all the way through high school and never read a classic.

    Sorry, I always seem to be the negative voice when it comes to kid/teen reading.

  2. Okay, now that I've read the full article (I need to start doing that first), I have one other comlaint - here's a quote from a reader: "My favorite books would probably have to be the Harry Potter series. They are so amazingly written..." Oh crap! If kids think Rowling's attempt is the epitome of good writing, than we're in trouble.

    Oh, and don't even get me started on graphic novels.

    Again, negative - sorry.

  3. These are only starting points, for a future of reading.

    YAs have so much going on in their lives. The fact that they are willing to spend precious personal time to read the latest Myers or Rowling excites me.

    Taste takes time to develop.

    I just hope there is a caring librarian or store clerk able to place an equally exciting next read in their eager hands.

  4. I'm glad that young people are starting to read again. I think reading opens the mind to thinking and learning. Not enough people read these days. I try and read a book a week. I would recommend The Chronicles of Narnia to any young reader over Harry Potter though. For a young girl the Anne of Green Gables or Nancy Drew series of old are great reads.

  5. That's the general consensus on reading. Start them young, make it fun and voila. A habit and a life long reader is born.

  6. I agree that the best chance to create a new generation of book lovers/readers is to grab them when they are young, so the trend is heartening, for sure.

    What they are reading may be questionable, at times, but I'm hoping that maturity will make them realize that there's more to reading than J.K. Rowling. She's an OK author but, at least for now, is still pretty much a one-trick pony, IMO.

    But if the market stays hot, you can bet that some really fine authors are going to start writing for that age group. That already seems to be happening, in fact.

  7. Some of the most exciting, freshest books I've read lately were YA - and I'm not a teen. Adults can definitely find a lot to like here - well beyond Harry Potter (which is more middle grade anyway and which I haven't read).

  8. I wonder if they are counting Manga sales in their numbers.

    I've seen parents, grandparents and kids themselves just devour whole series of them without blinking an eye.

    Which isn't to say that teenagers aren't reading the classics too. It's entirely possible they just get those from the public library or school library like kids have always done.

    We have a 17 year old son who's always been a reader. I don't remember a time when YA (with the exception of the Harry Potter series) was his choice of reading material.

    Maybe he's the exception rather than the rule though. Literature and non-fiction have always been his thing.

  9. Lenore, I agree that some YA fiction is as enjoyable as any adult fiction I've read in recent years...and just as technically impressive..."The Book Thief," for example.

  10. I suspect that they are counting those, Jolene...can't see the appeal in them but they surely do seem to be popular.

    Your son's reading habits are something to be proud must have encouraged his reading at a very early age to have produced such an astute reader at 17.

  11. We worked on phonics with him at 2 and by 3, he was teaching himself to read.

    He read about 5 years about his grade level from first to fifth grade. By middle school, his teachers said his comprehension of literature was doctorate level or higher. Now and then his explanations would undermine their doctoral work and they'd write notes about how he'd captured something they missed.

    It's natural to him.

    I read fiction and usually popular fiction at that. I'm definitely a low brow reader. : )

  12. He sounds like a "natural," Jolene. He's a lucky guy.

  13. Ha, how timely - I'm just reading this while on my dinner break, taking a break from ordering our YA fiction! I've seen this increase firsthand since I started ordering the collection 9 years ago - the jump in the number of titles is astonishing. Happily, much of it is excellent and makes up a large chunk of my own TBR pile. Unhappily, a lot of it is crap, but that's par for the course in all publishing, really.

    I also order the manga because no-one else will do it. I loathe it, it is a gaping maw from an ordering perspective. My assistant and I were just wondering the other day if they've started computer-generating the damn stuff, nonsensical new series about penguin genies and angels and incest and tranvestites are popping up at an alarming rate.

  14. Librarian, glad to hear that you think there's lots of quality YA material out there right now. The manga stuff, to me, is pretty worthless and quite a turn-off. It's way too much like reading comic books and I really don't see that it does much to create new readers. Maybe I'm wrong...hope so, anyway.