I’m going there
Hi, I’m Consu, I’m 24 and I read mostly YA
While the letters stand for Young Adult, this genre is for and about teenagers (which is great, don’t get me wrong). So why is it that most adult readers in the book community stay at that stage and don’t pick up “”adult”” novels?
Jeann (@happyindulgence on twitter) posted this the other day:
Let’s break this argument down:
1-The market gap for readers in their 20s is real.
As someone smack in the middle of it I can hardly find any books with protagonists my age and the ones I do find are full of sex and mostly lacking any kind of interesting plot (not that smutty books are bad, but I prefer my books with less nudity and more swords). We almost never get to see heros that are in college, or sweet love stories happening between planning your thesis and going clubbing.
Why? What does everyone have against people who are setting out on their own at an appropriate age? and instead writing about children in positions of power that will probably fuck them up psychologically and (maybe) physically? (I’m looking at all those YA with children in the military)
2-The powerful female main character seems to die after she turns 18…
You all know what I mean, as soon as a girl turns into an adult she becomes one of three things:
- a frigid bitch who is clearly working for the villain
- a sexual object for the male to put all his repressed issues in
- a mom, also to put his issues in but she is the same age or older and so: unfuckable.
Women in most adult books have no agency or are looking for somebody to save them. It’s like literature reverts to the “princess in the castle” trope, because apparently it’s okay to tell a teenager that they are powerful and they can change the world but when they grow you have to remind them that the world is run by men and they should accept that and work for them-
Now, this is an issue that stems from the lack of female writers, men write the world they see (or want) and we read that.
3-Are really most writers male?
3.1-“but I see so many female writers! You have JK Rowling!”
We’ve all heard some variations of this, Firstly, yes there are more men than women, secondly Rowling is an outdated reference and also she doesn’t write for adults and also she was told to hide the fact that she was a woman so she could sell more books (we all know this but people like to forget that fun fact)
According to a 2017 study done on the New York Times Best Seller list, there’s always been more male writers
We are getting delightfully close to that 50% but we still have way more books written by men, because, historically, men have had more books published
3.2- “That’s because women don’t write!”
Writing that hurt my brain
Why wouldn’t women publish just as much as men? That is a great question that most people ignore. As I mentioned before, JK Rowling was encouraged by her publisher to cut out the “Joan” so she could actually sell copies of Harry Potter.
According to The Guardian Books by women priced 45% lower, study findsAnalysis of more than 2m titles shows that on average, male authors’ work is strikingly better valued” So why would anyone enter a business where she knows her work will be discredited and undervalue just for the fact that she was the one who wrote it?
And so we get saddled with thousands of books written by men who have had little interaction with the female experience. Obviously they would pain their hero as a man as well (a great deal of writing is projecting) or try and fail to write a strong woman, because the women they see are either written by other men or they are all family/partners.
Another huge thing for me is the variety in genres
No, YA is NOT a genre
Young Adult usually has themes of believing in yourself, finding the hidden power that was inside you all along, fighting against injustice in the world and defending your beliefs no matter the cost. All of this comes in any genre imaginable, YA can be a murder-mystery, or a fantasy set in an imaginary world, or a contemporary tale, or a historical action-packed novel. Any genre you can think of can be YA. The only difference are those underlying ideas that you can change the world, no matter the scale.
Adult books seem always so resigned, it’s like they’ve lost the will to fight. They are about adults frustrated with their reality and tired of everything but instead of trying to make things right, they get a divorce and fuck a woman way younger than them.
To be fair, there are a few books that do try to make the world better, but even they have an air of cynicism about them, of trying despite the world and the people instead of trying for them.
And all this is doubly so for stories with queer authors, authors of colour and disabled authors that try to tell their own stories
Let’s not forget that this problem isn’t just agains female writers but aslo agaisnt any kind of deviation from the abled-allo-cis-het-white-male (which is an awfully small portion of the population if you think about it, and yet)
In the words of great author Marie Lu:
Is all hope lost? Will we always be reduced to the wild teenager or the quiet adult?
Thankfully, not. This trend in adult books is slowly (ever so slowly) shifting. More authors are speaking out about the difference in treatment, about their pay and the hoops they have to jump through to get published.
There’s no denying that we still have a very long way to go, though. VE Schwab, one of my favorite authors often gets her adult books put in the YA section just for the fact that a woman wrote them and so, publishers and retailers assume it’s YA, because women only get so far, obviously.
I have hope that, over time, we will egt much more diversity on the adult genre but the publishing business needs to realizes all the untapped potential that lies there and for that to happen we need to speak up. Here’s my small way of doing so: support all good adult-fiction authors out there, buy and promote their books to the best of my ability and call out bullshit when I see it.
Also support the platforms that are trying to make publishing a better enviroment, I’m most familiar with WeNeedDiverseBooks but there’s a few more out there that are working hard
Let’s all try and boost adult fiction writers so that we will have more stuff to read in the future
and in the mean time, enjoy any books that make you happy