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Do We Need New Categories?

Much has been made of the Independent’s decision to no longer review books targeted to a specific gender. But the analysis has missed–at least for me–a critical piece. Where have the books for teens, particularly young teens, gone? Regardless of gender.

Every recent teen novel since Harry Potter has been a crossover book, meaning a book that has the potential to appeal to both teen and adult audiences. Are we losing something here? Are teens losing something?

I understand the draw as a publisher. If only 18% of young adult books are purchased for young adults then it’s not really your target market, it’s a secondary market, so why cater to them? But there’s good reason. They’re different. They’re at different stages and have different generational cultures. It is possible to write a book strictly for teens that won’t appeal to adults. But this is a huge risk for an author or a publisher. Why? Because the reviewers are adults! A book that could be excellent only for teens would likely be panned by adults before it could take off.

In my view, this is a real challenge. At present everyone’s writing adult books with teenage characters in them.

Humor, in particular, is something that is very different at different ages.

Why is this important? We need to engage readers at all stages of their life. It’s too easy for a thirteen year old to be turned off by middle grade books as too juvenile, and not see themselves in the stories meant for adults.

I think we might need a new category: Not for adults.

Categories:   Writing Tips

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