when good books need more face time: in support of under-rated YA titles and genres

Over at her blog, New York Times best-selling author Laurie Halse Anderson talks about the popularising of certain genres in YA (namely, the dude-ification of YA – also known as the John Green effect) and the oversight of others.

 

And here’s her suggestion:

I’d like to see everyone who is pissed off about the uneven coverage of YA books (and authors) to call The Damn Media on the carpet and tell them what they are doing wrong. Gather the contact information of the reporters, editors, editorial boards, and corporate owners of media outlets that are writing skewed or under-informed pieces about YA literature and share them publicly. Share what you write to them. Contact Hollywood peeps and tell them about other great books that could be movies.

Then seek out and talk and blog and vlog and shout about the books and authors that The Damn Media is not talking about yet.

 

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Hear, hear.

 

Often, due to limited bookshelf space, bookstores only bring in popular titles or titles from popular writers or genre. For instance, Stephen King is a mainstay. So is Sophie Kinsella, Jodi Picoult, John Grisham and the like.

 

And in recent years, YA fantasy – particularly vampire novels – got a lot of attention, which I call “the Twilight effect”. After that, bookstores mostly brought in books centred around vampires and other supernatural creatures. Which is why most of the Young Adult section is filled with books in the fantasy genre. Veronica Roth, Carrie Ryan, Kimberly Derting, Suzanne Collins, Rick Riordan, Gayle Forman, etc.

 

 

Nothing wrong with those writers or their books, of course. We should all be glad there are now so much YA books out there as compared to ten years ago.

 

But demand begets supply, after all. If bookstores find that more people are reading vampire novels, they’d bring in more vampire novels. But then if vampire novels are the only sort of books found in bookstores, the only sort of books available, the only sort taking up most of the space on bookshelves, then where do the others go? There are many more books out there than those about vampires or angels or zombies or werewolves.

 

 

Of course, this is hyperbolic, since vampire novels aren’t the ONLY sort found in bookstores. I’m just saying, this narrows down the space available for other types of books, like contemporary. Unless you’re a stalwart like Sarah Dessen or Deb Caletti,

 

 

 

or a super-hot breakout author like Rainbow Rowell,

 

 

 

chances are your books aren’t going to get much exposure or reach out to your readers as much as you would like.

 

Kelly Jensen posits the same thing over at her blog:

 

Readers generally see the [New York Times] List as a status symbol, but it’s that status symbol that influences bookstores in terms of what they’re putting on shelves and what books get exposure and more exposure and thus more push and more face time and do you see where I’m going?

This isn’t about taking someone out. It’s about how to lift others up and have their stories and voices heard and seen, too. If what people see on shelves is the same thing, then we’ll continue to get the same thing through the market. We’ll continue to have those sold to us and marketed to us and while they’re not BAD, they’re reductive and limiting and offer us fewer and fewer choices.

 

So if there’s a book that you really like but you feel is completely under-rated, recommend it to a friend, and have that friend recommend it to another friend. Word of mouth is the best form of publicity when it comes to books.

 

Or, better yet:

 

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Fangirl/boy about it. If you love a book, go nuts about it. Trust me, you’ll make the author’s day. Plus, more people will get to enjoy that book and you won’t be alone in your fangirl/boying. That’s why I always rave about the books I love.

 

For some reason, there are a lot of best-selling titles I’ve never been into, like the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, or The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I have nothing against these writers – they’re obviously doing something right if so many people enjoy their books – but I’m just not into dystopian fiction or sci-fi.

 

 

What I do wish to see more of in bookstores, however, are books like those from Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti and Cath Crowley. Contemporary YA with flawed, REAL protagonists who learn to be strong and kind and accepting of themselves and others. Contemporary YA with quiet, beautiful prose that creates a storm of emotions in the reader. Contemporary YA that allows us to learn more about ourselves and the world.

 

 

from The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen

 

from Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti

 

from Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

 

from Graffiti Moon

 

And where YA fantasy is concerned, more character-driven stories like Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, or epic ones like the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor (but hers is just too perfect, in terms of plot and prose – practically in a league of its own – we can’t expect every writer to write like her) should totally get more attention. Not that they aren’t already. The writing speaks for itself, I always say.

 

But first, the books need to be able to reach their readers.

 

What are some books or genres that you think deserve more attention and appreciation than they are receiving?