I attended the Toronto Science Fiction Convention last weekend and one of the panels was looking back on 20 years since the first Harry Potter book came out and its influence on publishing (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published on June 26, 1997). It got me thinking about how amazing Young Adult is as a genre.
Now, sure, I know fantasy/science fiction YA books existed before — Dune by Frank Herbert and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin were YA before that was a publishing category. But YA has become a powerhouse in the last 20 years and a big part of that is there is a whole generation of writers putting out books now who grew up reading and loving books by J. K. Rowling. There are 500 million Harry Potter books published!
But I think there’s also two things that make YA so amazing:
One: It is an art form now being created by writers learning their craft during a digital and social media age. The impact of being able to interact with other writers anywhere in the world on Twitter or other social media platforms is crazy profound. You can connect with and listen to writers who are focussed on and thinking about the exact same kind of storytelling you’re excited about. Now obviously it is great to hear about folks writing other genres but it just wasn’t possible to find groups of people keen on say “YA portal fantasies” when you only could meet writers in your own city.
As well, the impact of learning to write when you can Google “How to write dialogue” and you’ll get some pretty good advice or when you can easily listen to podcasts and watch videos about any subject is huge.
I think we’re in a golden age of storytelling and YA is succeeding and growing because it is stripped down to the vital core of storytelling. It does this while having amazing description, characters and all the great things of other genres but does it all so tightly.
Two: I think of millennials as a wonderfully inclusive generation (I’m not a millennial) and the human-positiveness of that infuses YA. I’m a gay man and having grown up in a time that wasn’t as inclusive as I write YA fiction today it is just so sweet to be able to write an adventure story with a gay hero and not feel like that prevents it from potentially being published. Even if my current WIP doesn’t get published it is a lovely thing that we’re in the time we’re in and YA embraces that diversity.