I have lately seen an outcry in the Bookstagram community from some that YA has become too mature. I can’t deny that this is true. I have had to become more careful over the years when I choose YA books to read because the spectrum of clean to explicit content is more all over the map in the genre than I believe it was 10 years ago. But this didn’t happen overnight. The writing has been on the wall for a while. Not to mention, a lot of previous YA-heavy readers abandoned ship a few years ago because they wanted something more mature.
I know that for me, while I am writing YA and still love pockets of it, I have slowly gravitated away from a lot of it as well. For me it’s not about YA being too immature, though there are YA books out there like that for me, but it feels too much like a minefield amongst the newer and unknown-to-me authors in the genre in terms of content. One of the things that gravitated me towards YA when I got back into reading a decade ago was that it was generally cleaner. Now that it’s harder to guarantee that, sometimes I just prefer to pick up something I know without a doubt will be clean.
What exactly defines clean is a whole other topic that could be discussed, but it’s not something I wanted to get into for this post.
As someone who is trying to break into YA publishing, it’s a little concerning for me to realize I might be a little bit “behind,” because the YA I want to write is closer to YA that was published in 2017 than YA being published in 2022. Though it’s not exclusively the case. For example, Caroline George is a good example of an author whose footsteps I would like to follow. And the truth is not that I can’t keep up with reading in the current market, and I still do have my pulse on pockets of it as previously stated, but the reader I am targeting is the one who preferred the style of YA books we were getting a few years ago (but seem like decades ago in 2022 publishing world). Does this make me outdated? I’m sure some would say so, but I see a lot of interest for this within the bookish community. Like I saw friends on Facebook asking for dystopia recommendations years after publishers were releasing new material in the genre.
A lot of clean YA fantasy authors are thriving with their works being self-published or published at Enclave, but there doesn’t seem to be the same community for contemporary. Again, I do believe the readers are there. There just hasn’t been a coalition of YA authors who write clean contemporary that have been formed that I am aware of. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments!
In case it sounds like I’m obsessed with exclusively squeaky clean books, that’s not the case. But there is something to be said about continuing to publish these books for the people who want them. As Charles Shulz once said, “There’s always a market for innocence.” I don’t think clean and innocence are necessarily interchangeable, but I do think there is something to that.
So yes, it’s my first blog post in two years and again, no promises that I am back regularly, but it felt high time to revamp things around here. So take a look around, and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram, where I’m at entirely too much.
Happy reading, friends! Let me know what you think in the comments about the current state of YA.