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Checking in on YA part II—what teens really read

I’m sure all you dedicated DGLM readers recall my recent post citing Sue Corbett article in Publishers Weekly about the current state of YA. No? I’m hurt… Okay, quick recap: Basically Corbett surveyed authors, agents and publishers about what kinds of things are working now in YA, and where we might be headed next. This week, we get the final piece of the puzzle—what teens are actually reading now.

YALSA just released their 2011 Teens Top Ten, i.e., the ten most popular YA books as voted on by more than 9,000 teen readers. Of course, the first thing that pops out is that every title has some kind of paranormal or fantasy element, which certainly bears out Rosemary Stimola’s observation that despite a sense of fatigue among the professional class, the actual readership isn’t tired of these stories yet. Seems like Alessandra Balzer is also justified in her comment that there aren’t any categorical taboos in YA anymore—within the global “fantasy” framework, you’ve got angels, dystopia, sci-fi, action/adventure, even werewolves! Plus, talk about smart packaging—check out the slideshow to see just how impressive YA cover treatment has become.

Okay, where does that leave writers and agents? Well, I certainly take it as good news for fantasy writers that the genre seems alive and well. In fact, if you look at the annotated list of nominees, the breadth of fantasy is pretty astounding. And we as agents are definitely still pitching it—read the most recent DGLM children’s newsletter, and you’ll see it’s all fantasy of one sort or another. Of course, with any long-running trend, finding something new to say becomes increasing hard, but I think it’s fair to say my cohorts and I are finding writers whose work we feel rises to the challenge.

Still, for those of you writing other YA genres, don’t give up the good fight! I take the inclusion of Before I Fall as a welcome sign that there’s still room for contemporary YA, as long as its high-concept. And while I guess Before I Fall includes a supernatural aspect, it’s a lot closer to classic kids book concept like Freaky Friday than the vampires of Twilight. Think about that other monster contemporary YA hit, 13 Reasons Why—totally realistic, but totally high concept. Or Will Grayson, Will Grayson? The books are out there, folks…

But that’s enough from me—what’s your take?

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