When I was a teen – and we’re only going back a few years here, I’m not that old – I remember spending hours at my local bookshop looking at the Young Adult (YA) section, which was tiny. This section was home to the Georgia Nicholson series and other contemporary books by authors like Sarra Manning, Carolyn Mackler and Anne Cassidy. There were the odd exceptions like Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series, the Point Horror books and, of course, Harry Potter, but mostly these shelves were full of contemporary, coming of age stories.
Today you can walk into any bookshop and a Young Adults section is likely to be at least double the size of my old bookshop’s. You look along the spines of the books and you are met with contemporary, historical, horror, dystopian, paranormal, science fiction… basically any genre you can think of. There are even mashups of different genres; for example The Diviners by Libba Bray, which combines historical fiction with paranormal and supernatural elements and Jackson Pearce’s Fairytale Retellings series, which could fit into the fairytale, crime, romance and paranormal genres.
This is brilliant for me because whilst I loved reading as a teenager, as I got older I felt it was right to leave the YA branch behind and read adult books. My shelves were mostly full of YA contemporary so naturally I ventured towards the same genre in adult books, particularly the ‘chick lit’ genre, yet the only adult author I found whose work I enjoyed in this genre was Cecelia Ahern. Defeated I turned to other genres, but I didn’t know where to really begin, I drifted into the horror section and towards a broader range of contemporary fiction which included Irvine Welsh and Nick Hornby, two authors who I now love. I didn’t connect with many of the books I found though and once I’d started college and university most of my reading was taken up with the books on my course lists.
A couple of years ago I realised that my love for YA fiction shouldn’t stop because I had aged. I went back to that branch of literature and I have never regretted this, mainly because I found the YA genre had grown so much in those few short years. I could find so many types of books and the genres were no longer limited. I found that I loved historical fiction although I never would have ventured into the historical fiction section of a bookshop. I have read high fantasy YA books, like The City’s Son by Tom Pollock, which have made me consider moving into some adult fantasy works, and I have found that YA is now less restricted.
I believe that this wider array of YA fiction is a fantastic development as it means that younger readers have much more freedom to develop ideas about what genres they enjoy and can do so by reading works which were specifically designed for their age groups. YA fiction no longer feels as restrictive as it once did to me and I look forward to seeing where it takes us next.