YALSA’s upcoming YA Literature Symposium will explore the future of young adult literature. The symposium begins on November 2nd, but we wanted to get a head start here at The Hub, so we’re devoting October to 31 Days of the Next Big Thing. Each day of the month, we’ll bring you forecasts about where YA literature is headed and thoughts on how you can spot trends and predict the future yourself.
Everyone’s been talking about the YA Literature Renaissance — young adult books are becoming film blockbusters and spawning massive teen and adult fandoms — but there’s one group that might have been left behind: boys.
Last fall, a New York Times article claimed that the largest markets in young adult literature are female-oriented. Girls and women tend to read more than boys and men and consume more books, and understandably publishers want to capture this large market. Perhaps as a result, many of the big blockbuster series have a lot of girl appeal: love triangles, female protagonists, and a focus on relationships.
In the future, when we all hope the YA Renaissance will bloom and come into its own, a big question is: what books will be there to capture the interest of young men? Recent developments might point to an answer: thrillers.
Publishers have speculated that, in the wake of the massive paranormal and dystopia boom, thrillers are on the way up. The nature of thrillers — which focus on a fast-moving, action-filled plot — might make them more appealing to male readers than dystopian or paranormal books, which often focus on the romantic relationships between characters and their feelings for each other.
Some new, bestselling series that fit into the thriller style include the Mickey Bolitar series by Harlan Coben and the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans. The Mickey Bolitar series is a spin-off of Coben’s bestselling Myron Bolitar series for adults, following Myron’s teenage nephew as he solves mysteries. The Michael Vey series is a futuristic thriller in the vein of James Patterson’s Maximum Ride, following a group of teens with unusual, electricity-based powers as they try to escape a powerful conspiracy that seeks to exploit them.
Several adaptations of YA science-fiction thrillers are also slated to come out in theaters in the next few years, including The Maze Runner by James Dashner and The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. While perhaps growing out of the widespread popularity of The Hunger Games, these stories focus less on the dystopian elements of societal organization and rebellion and more on the post-apocalyptic elements of survival, danger, and uncertainty. These films, if successful, could spawn greater interest in post-apocalyptic thrillers, which are more boy-oriented, as opposed to romantic/dystopian books like Matched, Divergent or Delirium, which are more girl-oriented.
What do you think? Are thrillers becoming more popular in your libraries? Do you notice that boys and girls have different reading preferences, or do they like the same books? Is it sexist to even talk about teenage guys like they need their own special genres of books? Let us know in the comments!
— Maria Kramer, currently reading The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater and enjoying it a great deal