Bronte Coates, the Digital Content Coordinator at Readings Books, talks YA fiction in preparation for the Readings/KYD OzYA event on the 14th of July:
This month, I’ve been gathering questions and comments from teens in preparation for our upcoming panel on the state of Australian young adult books. (Find the details here.)
Having met with the Level 87 Book Club at 100 Story Building earlier this year, I though I would ask them for their thoughts: What did they love about OzYA? What did they hate?
In response, they emailed me through a recording of their most recent discussion on the topic. You can listen to the full audio here:
If you haven’t got time right now to listen to the full podcast (though I definitely recommend it!) I’ve compiled a brief list of five themes from their discussion below…
1. How does OzYA compare to international YA?
The book club agreed that OzYA books were just as good as their international counterparts – usually better! But, they felt that they didn’t get to hear about the Australian ones as much, saying the American blockbusters overshadowed them.
2. Is YA a genre or target audience?
The book club debated whether YA could be considered a genre or a simply a target audience. The one thing they all agreed on was that people should just read what they want to, and not be put off by a genre tag.
3. Exactly what goes on in the restricted section of the library?
The club was interested to hear what made a book end up in the restricted section of their school libraries – was it the content or the language or something else entirely?
4. What do they want to see more and less of in YA fiction?
- More diversity, more complexity, more messiness
- More stories set in the cities (as opposed to the outback or small coastal towns)
- Less romance simply for the sake of romance
5. They want stories they can relate to.
A common theme of this whole discussion was relatability. More than one of the teenagers talked about how they wanted to read about characters, or relationships, or settings that they knew – that were familiar to them.
When I listened to the full discussion, I had two important takeaways:
The first was just how valuable ‘gatekeepers’ are for helping teenagers in their reading journeys. By gatekeepers, I mean people like librarians, teachers and bloggers – all of us who are in positions to pass on our knowledge of books to teenagers. To share the responsibility for ensuring teenagers who love reading, continue to love reading as they become adults, is a sobering realisation. (Not to mention, to also encourage teenagers to fall in love with reading in the first place!)
The other thing I took away, which was equally sobering, was that these particular readers weren’t being exposed to the vast range of books available in the OzYA community. The joy of my job is to have that community at my fingertips. The challenge is how to draw teenagers closer to it, so that the new #LoveOzYA drive isn’t just an industry tag but a way of directly connecting with the younger members of the YA readership.
Either way, I’m looking forward to hearing the panellists discuss these kinds of issues and more at our event.
Level 87 of 100 Story Building is all about books. And the people who read them! We share and discuss books that we’re reading, books that we’re going to read. We share our thoughts and recommendations. But no spoilers! Find out more here.