If you happen to read Publisher’s Weekly on a regular basis, then you would have caught this article about YA coming of age and how it’s morphed from something that was barely a blip on the radar to an overwhelming presence in the marketplace. While I’m all for YA blowing up, because it needs to, I’m wondering what’s being sacrificed in the process.
Trends emerge quite readily in the YA world. HARRY POTTER brought about the fantasy, TWILIGHT gave rise to paranormal romance and THE HUNGER GAMES paved the way for dystopians. But in each of those wakes washed up a slew of wannabes. Of course the wannabe isn’t exclusive to the YA realm but YA has to work ten times harder than those other categories because people don’t take it seriously. It doesn’t hold the same merit to many people as”adult” titles so I believe the wannabes have a larger ability to hurt the integrity of the category more than they help it. A flood of good YA is one thing but a flood of mediocre knock-offs is something else entirely.
I wouldn’t call myself a book snob. I’m not asking much from my reading. But when I come across title after title of lazy writing, I can’t help but wonder why the book community as a whole is enabling such obviously craptastic fakes. And it’s because of those titles, despite their small numbers, are what people remember of the category.
That’s not to say wannabes can’t be good. They most certainly can. But even the good ones blend in with the crowd after a while. With a category like YA, where the publishers want to keep cashing in on the waves, what they keep punching out, at times, can be a bit insulting, if I’m to be honest (why wouldn’t I be?). It appears that they’re making the assumption that if we liked this first huge book, then we’re sure to like the slew of similar books they’re pushing out, irrespective of quality because we’ll be so hungry for something similar to that original book. I’m sure you can see where this thinking can spiral to, where YA readers are of a lower caring level with what they read and so on. Basically it looks like quantity over quality right now in the YA world and it’s a bit disheartening.
I love YA. I wouldn’t be doing this is I didn’t. And I want to see it grow even more and for people to finally start taking it seriously, like it deserves. But right now, YA has to struggle for every reputation point it gets. Shit gets published all the time, regardless of category. It’s inevitable. But when it happens in YA, it makes that much bigger of a mark because people are constantly looking for an excuse to invalidate YA and keep it simply “kids’ books.” We need to stop making the category look like a shameless shill for dollars and more like the rest of the book store or library where quality takes a slightly higher precedence than riding the wave.
Publishing is a business and businesses need to make money. That doesn’t mean quality needs to be sacrificed in order to do so. Plus it’s insulting when mediocre shit is published and we’re expected to like it because it’s kind of like this other title. YA readers need to be treated like the rest of the reading world. We know good and bad writing when we see it. We know when we’re being sold to. We know when yet another “insert genre here” book is being shoved onto the wave. It’s really obvious. Let’s keep YA growing, but let’s do it with quality over quantity. I don’t know about you but I’d much rather see far fewer books with phenomenal characters, amazing world building and a story to die for than a shit-ton of lazily written books with cardboard characters, barely existent plots and insubstantial worldbuilding all in the name of a dollar. Let’s ride the waves, but not everyone needs to have the same cheap surfboard.