Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Age

There is sometimes a stigma regarding authors writing YA. It’s been going on for years, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to magically disappear anytime soon. Even recently, I read Kristin Cashore’s post on Joel Stein criticising the depth of language (among other things) in YA and I was horrified. So, here’s my opinion on age in books.
For some reason, in the strange mind of people with this stigma, adults that write YA are seen as trying to relive their youth, not as credible as adult fiction writers, and claim that nobody older than a teenager can read YA. This stereotype is incredibly illogical, offensive and frankly, just plain wrong.

Any writer that has managed to publish a book, or any work in fact, should not be judged by what they write. Many children’s writers will tell you writing children’s books is an art form. I for one have the utmost respect for any writer, regardless of their age or what age group they write for.

There is nothing that says books aimed at teenagers can’t be sophisticated and cutting edge and gripping and a whole number of other things. Everybody has been a teenager, so what makes YA novels any less relatable than general fiction? Furthermore, what makes an author writing about teenagers any less talented than an author writing for adults? A good book isn’t categorised by what age the book is written for: a good book is mostly down to the hard work of a skilled, talented writer who has spent months or years writing and redrafting their novel. Sure, they may have been helped by their agent, editor and publishing house, but it’s the author who has done the hard graft to write an amazing book. That shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Let’s look at incredibly successful YA books which both teens and adults have enjoyed. Harry Potter. The Hunger Games. Twilight. It doesn’t matter what my – nor anybody else’s – opinion is on these books. The fact is, they have jumped across age barriers and been wildly successful, both with and without the film franchises that came with them. I could easily add Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy and Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy to this list. These are all YA books. Yet it’s their themes – love, action, death, romance – which make them popular. It’s the way authors make you as a reader emote with their characters. That is what makes these books cross platforms.

Let’s also look at the age of authors themselves. Christopher Paolini wrote Eragon as a teenager. He published under his parent’s company before touring in schools, libraries and anywhere else he could find to promote the book. Eventually, publisher Alfred A. Knopf picked it up and it went on to sell over twenty million copies.

Another example would be Steph Bowe, who had her debut novel, Girl Saves Boy, published when she was sixteen. While some have openly criticised her for going into the industry too young, the fact is, she went through the same publishing process as everybody else. She has sold books. So what does it matter that she’s only eighteen years old now? Thankfully, a majority of critics have praised her first novel, regardless of her age.

Age is just a number. I don’t think anybody has a right to criticise a writer for which audience they write about nor how old they themselves may be. Don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge a book by age. It’s that simple.

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