Daily Archives: June 15, 2008

Frank Cottrell Boyce and “Young Adult”

Thanks to Jenny Davidson who led me to this review by Frank Cottrell Boyce of Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go. I was curious to see what Boyce thought since I’m currently listening with great pleasure to his latest (Cosmic due out in the US next month— thanks to Kelly Herold for pointing out its availability at audible.com). He thinks very highly of it (and now I’m very eager to read it too!) and uses his critical knife for something else. (BTW: Jenny quoted this on her blog too; I’m quoting it here as well because I know this will be of interest to those in the YA world, some of whom may not read Jenny’s blog.)

If I have one quibble, it is that I think it should be sitting proudly on the shelf next to these books, rather than being hidden away in the “young adult” ghetto. There’s been a lot of fury among authors recently about the proposal to “age-band” children’s books, but in a way they’re too late. The real disaster has already happened. It’s called “young adult” fiction. It used to be the case that you moved on from children’s fiction to adult fiction, from The Owl Service, maybe, to Catcher in the Rye. There were, of course, some adult authors who were more fashionable with teenage readers than others – Salinger, Vonnegut, Maya Angelou. But these were chosen by teenagers themselves from the vast world of books. Some time ago, someone saw that trend and turned it into a demographic. Fortunes were made but something crucial was lost. We have already ghettoised teenagers’ tastes in music, in clothes and – God forgive us – in food. Can’t we at least let them share our reading? Is there anything more depressing than the sight of a “young adult” bookshelf in the corner of the shop. It’s the literary equivalent of the “kids’ menu” – something that says “please don’t bother the grown-ups”. If To Kill a Mockingbird were published today, that’s where it would be placed, among the chicken nuggets.

Variations of this idea have been bandied about before. Thoughts?

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