Friday, May 12, 2017

Is the Contemporary YA Genre Dead?

There's been some talk on Twitter this week about whether or not the sub-genre within young adult, contemporary, is dead. I don't know where this particular topic started, or who started it, but I thought I would talk about it because I thought it was such an absurd thing to say, from both a personal perspective and from one looking at the current market,

From the market perspective, the first stop is the New York Times Bestseller Lists. Just looking at this alone will show you that something is not quite right with the statement "contemporary ya is dead".

These screenshots were taken from the May 14th list and as you can see, six out of the top ten titles are contemporary ya. One of them, Just Fly Away, is new this week, but the others have all been on for at least three weeks and some have been on the list for several months. If these books were not being continually purchased, shared, loved, READ, by readers across the globe, there's no way they would have been able to maintain their position on this list.

While it has yet to make it to the official website, Jenny Han, author of the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series, has shared the news that as of the May 21st list her series has made it to the New York Times Bestsellers Series List (edit: the list, released 5/12/17, shows the series at #5). This is one of the most heartwarming series in current memory in my opinion and well deserves this honor. Making the list shows just how many people share my opinion and how many have joined me in reading Lara Jean's final journey.

As for my personal preferences, if you asked me what my favorite and possibly preferred genre was, I would most likely say science fiction or fantasy, However, this year has really been a young adult extravaganza, beginning with Simon vs the Homo-Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli and finishing most recently with Other Breakable Things by Kelley York and Rowan Altwood.

Of the 52 books I've read so far this year, 26% of them have been contemporary young adult and boy do I have a lot more on my to-be-read list. This year alone has some fantastic contributions to the genre, real gems that the publishing industry surely wouldn't have invested in if they thought the genre was failing. Here are some of the contemporary ya books I'm looking forward to reading the most:

What is it about contemporary ya that makes it so interesting and gives it such a prominent place in publishing, despite what the naysayers have been saying? When there are books about wizards and dragons and all sorts of magical things out there in the world?

I think, in part, it is because it is easier to find oneself in these books. There are still large gaps in the market, which saddens me, but things seem to be getting better whether one is looking for books about sexual diversity, neuro-diversity, or socio-economic situations.

Then there is the appeal of finding modern situations in fiction and those stories making it to a broader audience. The people that need to find them being able to find them is vital. Plus, sometimes fictional situations are easier to understand at first before jumping into the stark reality of the world around us. That won't be the case for everyone and, of course, caution has to be exercised because one book cannot speak for everyone. A book about one character's transgender experience isn't the experience of all transgender people; one person's mental health experience won't be the same within the same diagnosis, not to mention across the variety of them.

I feel like there might be trends in other genres, such as years when vampire or dystopian novels are more popular than other SFF or paranormal book, but contemporary ya is about real life and real life never ends. Unlike trends, real life keeps going whether we like what is happening in it or not and the days that go by provide just one more day that another contemporary ya novel can be published, whether it's a story about a young African American girl struggling with what is the right thing (inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement), a modern day arranged marriage in Indian American culture, or someone trying to figure out their sexual identity. All of these stories and more have something to offer to someone and, as these are based on real life and as I mentioned before, I don't think contemporary ya is going anywhere.

As long as there are young adults, and people who enjoy reading & buying contemporary stories about them, there will be these books being published. Since I don't foresee the human race ending any time soon, despite the best efforts of some government officials, I think contemporary ya is safe.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

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