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YA comes of age

28 April 2014

The UK's first ever Young Adult Literature Convention will take place at the London Film and comic Con 2014 from 12 to 13 July. This gives authors who are writing for a YA audience the chance to meet other authors, to take part in a host of author events with publisher stands promoting new and upcoming titles.

The UK children's Laureate, Malorie Blackman, has put her weight behind the convention and will act as curator and director but the truth is that it's quite late in the day for YA books to start enjoying this amount of attention.

The keynote address delivered by on Wednesday by Beth Kephart at Publishing Perspectives' "YA: What's Next?" publishing conference in New York showed that there is enormous interest in writing for YA in the US, although this speech represents a very personal point of view.

YA, with numerous bestsellers to its credit, such as The Vampire Trilogy and The Hunger Games, doesn't need to justify its existence to anyone, but it has still seemed a bit of a misfit, not quite part of children's publishing, which is where it is usually placed, but not included in the adult publishing world either.

One of the things which may have changed its positioning over the last few years is the realisation that so much of its audience is adult, meaning a considerable crossover market has been achieved by publishers, as Wikipedia points out, in an article which may help to define YA for anyone who is not quite sure what it is:

‘Young-adult fiction or young adult literature (often abbreviated as YA) also juvenile fiction, is fiction written, published, or marketed to adolescents and young adults, although recent studies show that 55% of young-adult fiction is purchased by readers over 18 years of age. The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of the American Library Association (ALA) defines a young adult as someone between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Authors and readers of young adult (YA) novels often define the genre as literature as traditionally written for ages ranging from sixteen years up to the age of twenty-five, while Teen Fiction is written for the ages of ten and to fifteen. The terms young-adult novel, juvenile novel, young-adult book, etc. refer to the works in the YA category.'

Malorie Blackman, approaching the subject from a more impassioned point of view in her blog, says:

'I believe that we have to get children interested in reading from the time they're born by showing them how reading opens so many doors. If a child tells me they don't like reading, I always say, ‘You haven't found the right books for you yet!' First of all, our children should be encouraged to read what interests them - comics, football stories, paranormal romances, classics, whatever! Most classics are classics for a reason, because they contain stories that still speak to us, stories that endure. But very few teenagers are going to tackle Dostoyevsky for example, without having read a few lighter, more contemporary novels first. Part of reading for pleasure is letting our children and young adults chose the books they want to read for themselves. We have to engage our children with reading. Then reading Dostoyevsky and Bronte and Dickens and Milton and a host of wonderful others will come.'