I never truly understood just how much the young adult genre had changed. I knew that it had evolved somewhat, yet I failed to comprehend the extent of it. It is weird in a way that someone like me who loves reading and wants to work in publishing has never really taken the time to think about the advances books made over time.
After lunch today, I settled down to read a book I had gotten from the library. It is a YA novel that took me all afternoon and evening to complete. It was rather good and I didn’t want to put it down –I’ll review it later. The book was written just last year; it is a hardcover with reinforced binding, a lovely dust jacket, and gorgeously vivid red endpapers. There are 287 pages of complex plotlines and an undetermined reading level that I think matches most adult novels.
After reading it, I wanted to read another young adult novel but did not have any new ones on hand. I went searching in the basement for my old books and pulled out a mass-market paperback written in 1994. The cover is rather retro with uninspiring photography of an unattractive model and rather blocky font. There are 170 pages of words meant for those with a reading level of six, aka eleven-year-olds (or younger in my opinion) and did not take me even a couple hours to get through.
The old novel is one that I used to rather enjoy, yet I found that it did not hold my attention nearly as well. It was just too… simple. The plot followed the generic formula of girl crushes on boy, boy notices girl, and they get together but have to overcome social differences that are always prominent in high school. Sweet in an uncomplicated way, but also annoying considering the characters fall in love at the drop of a hat –or flashlight in this case.
The more recently written book opened with the heroine facing adversity. Then it turns out that a boy was the cause, as he is bringing the heroine news of worse problems to deal with. There are still male-female tensions, but there is also more than just a formulaic love story. The relationship between the two characters is intertwined through the plot instead of being the plot itself. It is the main character being the heroine of her own story, rather than her life revolving around a boy. The end result is the same, but the route getting there is much different.
I am not saying one book is better than the other, as that would not be right. The books themselves share a genre, but of two different time periods. The novels of the 18th century have come a long way to the 1994 teen romance, but the latest in young adult books has also changed by leaps and bounds from that predecessor of approximately fifteen years prior. No matter which book we read, we still learn something about our society and how it is evolving, because books are evolving right along side it.
I can hardly wait to find out what changes and what will stay the same for books in the years to come…
What do you think books will be like in ten years? twenty-five? fifty?