DISCUSSION: Don’t Forget The Young In Young Adult
Hello everyone! Lately, there’s been some discussion that pops up about the YA book community, specifically about the lack of teens/teen authority. Now what I mean by that is:
- there seem to be a lot fewer teens in the community (aka people 19 or younger)
- and, adults in the community seem to have more authority than teens
Want evidence? In a Twitter poll I did today asking “are you a teen YA book blogger or an adult YA book blogger”, 37% said they’re a teen and 63% said they’re an adult, with a total of 161 people answering (so 60 teens, 101 adults). The poll is still going on, so, if you want to vote, you can do so here. Of course, a twitter poll is not the most concrete way of getting answers (lack of a large sample size, varying demographics that follow me, time of day asked, etc). However, it seems to be a reasonable indication of what it is like in the YA book community.
The statements above are both problematic for the community, in many ways. Regarding statement one, young adult books are meant for young adults which primarily focuses on teens (19 and younger) and can include 20 – 25 year olds, depending on who you ask (though the latter should be considered new adult in my opinion). This, of course, doesn’t mean no one else is allowed to read YA books (they’re amazing; everyone should read them). Nevertheless, as a result of the target audience being young adults there should be more of us in the community and we should have more authority.
Though teens are the main demographic of YA books, we don’t have the authority. Instead, when it comes to issues, everyone looks to the adults first as they talk about them. When it comes to what books people recommend, adult bloggers are the first we look to, as well. Most adults have had their blogs around longer and thus have built up a reputation and authority on said books however they shouldn’t be the first person people look to. For example: I am a Middle Eastern woman living in the US, and let’s say one of my friends who happens to be a black woman also lives in the US. When it comes to issues in the Middle East, people will/should look to me as I know more about the Middle East and know what it’s like to be Middle Eastern in the US right now. However, when it comes to issues dealing with black people, people will/should look to my friend as she is black, knows more about such issues, and knows what it’s like to be a black woman in the US right now. There is a certain authority that comes with pieces of your identity and the same goes for being a teen vs being an adult in the YA book community.
Edit/Addition: I know that at one point, all adults were teens but you aren’t teens *now* and, as is frequently pointed out to teens, times have changed. Aka adults don’t know what it means to be a teen in 2019.
I’ve been noticing the imbalance especially in regards to who does and doesn’t get ARCs (advanced reader’s copies): adults are the ones who get more ARCs and more praise from publishers. Teens, on the other hand, usually have to be either a huge blogger (which isn’t really the case since most of us start when we’re teens), or they’re somehow able to go to blogger-centric conferences (like BEA or Book Con) that seem way too expensive and are thus not catered to teens who may not have enough money to go.
Now I could keep going with the list of problems that all these situations create, however, I’m just going to list my solutions:
- let teens do the talking first – when it comes to issues regarding diversity, look to the teens who are a part of the community being discussed (like Muslim, LGBTQA+, Asian, black, disabled etc.).
- at the same time though, let them make mistakes when it comes to the issues. Allow people to have varying opinions and have polite discussions. Adults in their 50s still probably don’t know everything and are still figuring themselves out. Don’t expect teens to know everything/have the answers to everything either.
- get ARCs in the hands of teens and if one of the books features a Muslim main character, get it in the hands of a Muslim teen – since teens are the target demographic of YA, we should also have early access to YA books.
- reduce the cost of going to conferences and add more conferences (esp free ones)- this past year, a ticket to BEA (for bloggers) cost $300 (early bird) and $400 (after early bird, on site). In 2016, though, a ticket to BEA (for bloggers) cost $188 (early bird) or $288 (after early bird, on site). That’s a $112 increase in both categories. And this doesn’t include travel, hotel, food etc…..that’s insane! Now I know some conferences are free ticket wise (also doesn’t include travel, hotel, food etc) but there’s not a ton out there, especially not outside the US so the locations (and prices for non-free ticket conferences) dramatically reduce the number of people who can go, and even more so limits teens. In adding more conferences, and reducing the prices, more teens can go and meet their friends, learn more about the book industry, make connections and pick up a few books along the way.
- support teen bloggers through monetary and non-monetary ways – a lot of people nowadays have a Kofi or a PayPal (I personally have PayPal) where you can show some monetary appreciation for what teens do in the community. If you’re uncomfortable or unable to do so, a simple like, RT or comment can do as well. Read more teen’s blogs and boost their views and your TBR/knowledge.
Those are just a few of the simple ways we can bring the young back to young adult. Most are not hard to do but help teens a ton. If you have any other ideas for solutions/ways to help, drop a comment and I’ll add it to the list (with a shoutout to you for the idea of course)! Also, what do you guys think? Have you noticed fewer teens around? Let me know in the comments below (and be polite as you do so please)! Thanks, have a great day/night and tata for now!