Arts and Entertainment

Young adult fiction is more than kid stuff, for readers and writers

Young Adult books - Flickr user Jenn Sterling, licensed for redistribution under the Creative Commons
Young Adult books
— image credit: Flickr user Jenn Sterling, licensed for redistribution under the Creative Commons

Boy wizards. Huntress revolutionaries armed with bows and arrows. Teen lovers caught up in the high and low melodramas of their hormones — and vampiric cravings.

For the past two decades, Young Adult fiction has been all the rage, among their target audiences and otherwise. “YA”s adult fans are perhaps the worst-kept secret of the publishing world, as evidenced by the droves of grown-ups who join their younger counterparts on release day for big-name titles. Indeed, in photos of midnight release parties for “Breaking Dawn” posted by Stephanie Meyer to her website, adult Twi-hards easily outnumbered the younger members of Team Edward.

The 2012 results of an ongoing study of North American and British book buyers and readers indicated 55 percent were older than 18, more than three-quarters of whom were buying for themselves. The Bowker Market Research study found the largest age group of buyers fell between 30- and 44-years-old.

“Honestly, as an avid reader of YA myself, I like adult fiction but it mirrors my own life and adults around me too much,” Martina Dalton said. “Sometimes I want to escape from reality. That’s why I like to read YA; it takes me out of my regular everyday troubles.”

Dalton, who lives in Newcastle, is the author of “The Third Eye of Jenny Crumb,” a supernatural thriller about a 17-year-old girl with psychic powers. In the book, Crumb hides her ability from her peers like a real-life teen might hide a zit, a social faux pas or another everyday insecurity. Even as they provide escapism, YA books can give readers a sense of connection, Dalton said.

“I remember my teenage years, and I don’t think I was a strange teen,” she said. “But I sure felt that way growing up. I just wanted to fit in and have a solid group of friends. But that’s not how it works: often, kids become a third wheel in their group of friends, or friends drift apart and, because of that, they have all these insecurities they live with. It’s important for kids to know it gets better and that there are other kids, even if they’re in a book, that share their feelings.”

Dalton is part of a growing contingent of authors who self-publish directly to markets like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Indeed, YA readers are one of largest adopters of the e-book format at more than 40 percent, according to Bowker.

This summer, Dalton has joined a group of nine authors of young adult and “new adult” fiction — the latter a relatively recent category of works that deal with characters in their late teens and early twenties. The Young Adult/New Adult Northwest Summer Book Tour was organized by Lake Tapps author T.M. Franklin to provide a forum for local genre writers she met and knew from conferences and bookstore signings. Franklin is the author of the “More” trilogy and, most recently, the comedy “How to get Ainsley Bishop to Fall in Love With You.”

“A lot us were indie or self-published and find it difficult to get notice or even get into bookstores,” she said. “But if you put us together as a group, and it becomes easier to get into the same stores on tour.”

The young adult genre’s popularity with adults isn’t as odd as it might seem, Franklin said, because the stories are often serious in their own right. She pointed to author Nina Foxx, whose books “Momma: Gone” and “Catfish” dealt with matriarchal abandonment and identity deception, respectively.

“I don’t know that it’s much different to write young adult fiction versus fiction for adults,” she said. “A good story is a good story and you still have all the same character development requirements to write a good book. That being said, as far as being an adult writing as a teenager, it can be a challenge because it’s been awhile. But my last book was heavily influenced by my son, who I can watch grow through these common teenage problems.”

Both Franklin and Dalton said they relied on their teenage children as readers of their manuscripts.

The Young Adult/New Adult Northwest Summer Book Tour will come to the University Book Store Tuesday, July 29.

It will feature eight authors: Franklin, Dalton, Foxx, S.L. Whyte, A.O. Peart, Eileen Riccio, Ava O’Shay and Fabio Bueno.

The book store is located at 990 102nd Ave. N.E.


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