There is no category of the bookshop that is as fascinating as Young Adult Fiction and undoubtedly, the ever-changing YA category is an exciting space in publishing today. Over the past 5 years, YA fiction print sales have increased by 48.2% since 2018, and the category experienced huge jumps in sales during the pandemic, growing by 24.7% in 2020 and 27.5% in 2021 and as of 2022, 35.03 million print copies of YA fiction books are sold each year.
YA authors can sometimes experience an air of snobbery focused towards their work; the presumption that all YA fiction is vampire romances or teenagers fighting to the death. This, paired with a lesser wordcount and the fact that the published works themselves are often tagged onto the end of the children’s section, unfortunately can lead to the texts being perceived as shallow. Whereas, in reality, YA fiction often offers narratives that are complex – weaving in discussions on race, privilege, gender and sexuality.
Whilst the category is still dominated by white cisgender authors, the diversity within YA fiction is growing. In 2021, research by the BookTrust found that 11.7% of children’s books authors were people of colour, which had risen from 5.6% in 2017. Trans author Juno Dawson is a highly successful author in the YA community; her novel Wonderland, a retelling of C.S. Lewis’ Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, features a transgender protagonist and Dawson’s Clean discusses issues such as drug addiction and anorexia. Not to mention, a quick scroll through ‘Booktok’ – the book-obsessed subcommunity of social media platform TikTok – can provide you with hours of content on LGBTQ+ authors and their newest publications.
We are starting to see that desire for authenticity, that is now a key aspect of the YA category, influence the book selections made by the adult reader.
There is a misconception that the YA market is driven by a formulaic pattern; an example being the popularity of The Twilight Saga that in its wake, spawned a wave of imitations. Yet, the initial successes came from a publisher taking a chance on a manuscript before the market knew what it really wanted. It’s no secret that YA fans are passionate about their books, which can be borderline intimidating to a budding YA author, yet the increase in diversity that they have achieved in the YA sector is powerful and makes it an exciting category to be a part of.
This ever-evolving category filled with readers who have powerful influence, paired with the world of social media, are beginning to refuse anything that lacks diversity and doesn’t offer the opportunity for change. We are starting to see that desire for authenticity, that is now a key aspect of the YA category, influence the book selections made by the adult reader. Research found that 78% of over-18 buyers are purchasing YA books with the intention of reading them themselves.
One of YA fictions greatest strengths is the underlying discussion of serious issues woven into the narratives, issues that may be easier to digest if experienced through the eyes of a fictional teenager; texts such as The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas which explores racism or Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow which discusses self-harm.
The increase in diversity that they have achieved in the YA sector is powerful and makes it an exciting category to be a part of.
It is exciting to wonder what changes may evolve from the Young Adult Fiction category next.