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Who reads YA?

An interesting article on Tomorrow Museum has started debate on the reasons behind the popularity of young adult fiction. In the original post, blogger Joanne McNeil argues that YA book sales are skyrocketing because teenagers are the most voracious readers:

There are several reasons why so many teenagers are passionate readers. A book is a pathway inside another person’s head. When you are young, you have few deep relationships, maybe no real emotional connections with others at all. You connect in the text. At that age, it is a revelation to see an author has the same dreams and insecurities as you do. Plus, there is a confidence and conviction to a fiction narrative’s voice. You are eager for someone to look up to, but certainly not your parents, not your teachers. A novel is an opportunity to really listen to another human being.

McNeil’s post has sparked a response from Paul Raven on Futurismic, in which he agrees with McNeil on why teenagers are passionate readers, but disagrees that this is the sole reason behind rising YA book sales. Raven argues that increased sales are not, in fact, a sign of increased teenaged reading, because it’s not only young adults that read YA:

I’ve worked in a library, and I can assure you that’s an observable falsehood; most genuinely popular YA is successful precisely because so many adult readers with an expendable income enjoy the same titles.


I have no beef with YA fiction, or with those who choose to write it, or those who choose to read it. What I do have an issue with is the assumption that by marketing certain books as being for young adults we can treat their success as indicators of health in young adult reading specifically. The pedestal-mounting of YA as the saviour of modern fiction is dangerously misguided.