I’m spending a lot of time weeding the general fiction collection since winter break and this NYT article about young adult fiction came at exactly the right time. As I’ve weeded, I’ve noticed our share of literary novels diminish and noticed how dominant YA is here. Of course I love YA and I love how much it circulates but it’s becoming harder to get excited about the new Morris, Alex and Printz award winners. I’m kind of sick of reading young adult. I need to take a break because it all seems so much the same, same, same.
I’m discouraged by the plethora of new authors with trilogies. I’m over the love triangles, the need for regime change, the “beautiful” boys. I spend 8 hours a day with smart, interesting, charming teenagers and I think their lives are more complex and compelling than many YA characters. I want to read books that honor those complexities and don’t constantly tie their lives neatly into a bow. (Thank you Maggie Stiefvater, Kristin Cashore, AS King, Tamora Pierce, Laurie Halse Anderson, John Green and many others for doing just that). It’s hard to not notice that most of these authors have 4 or more non-series titles under their belts. They understand how to construct a satisfying beginning, middle and end. They can write great sentences. And yes, they are all over 30. They have been reading and (probably) writing for over 25 years.
I agree with Michelle Dean that YA has becomes a young/new writer’s game. And I agree the books have suffered for it. I want to have a collection full of excellent titles to share with teens. I have “a desire for stories substantial enough to withstand the ages, that are like smooth river rocks you can turn over and over again”. For me, that means not collecting a substantial swath of new authors this year. I’m spending our budget dollars on new copies of much loved books instead. This is a year for weeding and replacements. Next year we’ll take another look at the field and find more new authors to love.