This post, accept from the last line which was edited for this post, was originally published in the Bridport News. I wrote for them, once a week, as a guest columnist.
The term Young Adult, to describe a literary demographic, was first developed in 1944 by librarian Margaret Scoggin. Although recognised for coining the term it was actually an employee of the New York public library, Anne Carroll Moore, who first identified the group in 1906. Since then it has exploded in popularity, not only among the targeted demographic but also among older readers. A study, conducted in 2012 and reported on by The Guardian, found that 55% of all YA readers were over the age of 18. In fact, some YA books, such as the beloved Harry Potter series, have become so popular with readers above the intended age bracket that publishers have released them with ‘adult’ covers. These tend to be darker and more dramatic whilst the story remains the same.
There are many explanations for this unprecedented growth in the YA market, from nostalgia to simplicity and escapism, but could there be a greater pull than simply wanting to pick the so-called easier reading option? Contemporary YA fiction often deals with complex and crucial topics, topics that would not usually be deemed an escape. Rather than allowing the reader to remove themselves from the problems of the world by picking up a high-fantasy novel, instead these works enable us to learn more about the difficulties that people may be facing, or, if we share in these challenges, find a sense of companionship and support. This, I believe is why the genre prevails. It is a non-elitist form of information gathering; it is safe, enjoyable and unforceful. The topics it covers are relevant to everyone. What’s more, It doesn’t pretend that difficult themes are things young adults should be shielded from but rather provides an introduction in a safe way. It allows us to become more open-minded, more accepting, better human beings even. It’s even possible that we can find ourselves, no matter the age range we fall into, among those pages, and suddenly we’re not alone.