Friday, January 29, 2010

Young adult

I saw an interesting note on Scott Westerfield's blog, about how he became a young-adult writer because he didn't have to worry about genre classification and the resultant potential for career stress, plus he could tell any kind of story he wanted. He presents it in a light tone, but there is much truth to it. My friend Jonathan Maberry has written horror marketed as supernatural thriller, and a "horror" type of thriller marketed as a thriller, and now has a zombie young-adult book coming out marketed as "Young adult."

I was in my daughter's school library the other day and was astounded by the diversity of covers, styles, subject matters and authors. This is not a criticism of adult fiction or publisher marketing categories, because it's hard to match a reader with a book even in the best of environments, but it's encouraging because I don't believe most teens draw these artificial boundaries on the types of books they like to read. Of course, because I am also developing two young-adult properties, I embrace the wide-open approach, because I'm pretty wide open on what I write. I am always a little saddened when I hear someone say they don't read "my type of book." I don't expect everyone to like what I do, but it's disappointing to be locked out before you even have a chance. I don't know if that is because of cover art, market categorization, the titles, the look, or maybe even the cover font. Tons of tiny clues.

I'm the kind of person who will just grab a book and read the back cover, or crack to chapter three and do two paragraphs. But, I have to admit, I'm less likely to do it if there's a pastel cover featuring a cartoon Barbie type (the chick-lit shorthand) or a Fabio male vampire with no chest hair looming over a startled but not entirely reluctant woman. The YA I've been browsing seems to have fewer clues on the outside covers and they're all mixed together in a beautiful, brilliant hodgepodge. I look forward to playing there.


cpolkinhorn said...

I really think these genre labels are limiting and misleading. Most good authors break the boundaries of "romance," "thriller," "horror," etc. Your own writing is an excellent example of this. Christa

John Passarella said...

When my first novel (co-authored) WITHER came out, I worked at the printing company that printed the cover. Many people who worked there helped produce the cover so had a vested interest in the book and read it. I had many comments that people liked it and hadn't realized that THAT was what horror novels could be. Their impression, I assume, is that horror novels are the printed equivalent of slasher (and these days torture porn) movies. Some even said they would now consider reading other horror novels. So, yes, it's easy to get pigeonholed in adult fiction and to get put into a misleading pigeonhole. I have no problem referring to my novels as supernatural thrillers because of this. Because most people don't really understand what horror is or can be when it comes to the horror label. (Side note: I've read and enjoyed a bunch of Scott Westerfeld's novels, in all their various genres.)
-John Passarella