Young adult literature is coming of age

The biggest challenge of writing for readers who fall in the category of young adults is how to grab their attention. Author and journalist Nandini Sengupta said all her daughter had to say when she told her about her book on Kalidas was “so boring”.
Author Deepa Agarwal agreed that while writing for young adults was certainly difficult, what is important is the choice of theme. Fictions based on historical context are always exciting but sometimes they are construed as true rather than a work of fiction, she said about an all-too-familiar scenario of our times in the session on “Young Adult literature: How the fables have turned” at the Times Litfest being held at the India Habitat Centre.

Talking about themes in young adult (YA) literature, publisher Jan Weitendorf said works based on history, good vs evil, romance remain all-time favourites. “However, of late, this genre is seeing a lot of violence. This is due primarily due to video games,” he said.
Author Stephen Alter gave an insight as to how and when this genre transitioned from having a focus on nature to talking about more everyday things. “Books I read during childhood, like Call of the Wild, etc., have as their primary focus nature or struggles with nature. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens can be termed a crossover in this sense as its focus shifts away from nature,” Alter said.

Weitendorf made an interesting point about the content coming of age. “Content is changing. It is more about adventure coming of age. It is more dystopian. Books based on video games like Hunger Games, Dragon Age, Diablo, Assassin’s Creed have found very good response. Also, the segment is witnessing a change in the profile of readers. Now, age of the average age group of readers is below 12,” he says.

“Maybe it is a reflection of the kind of despair youths face or, may be, the times are dark,” said Deepa. Talking about the Indian context, she said the scene here is somewhat different. “The Indian YA segment is mostly based on chick lit, historical fiction and romance,” she said.

But all the panelists agreed that humour is the need of the hour. “Not many authors use humour. These days, humour changes into irony,” Weitendorf said.
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