Today's post is a little bit of a mash up. At the end of the post, I'll be giving two short reviews, one for upcoming release, This Splintered Silence and one for the All The Bright Places audiobook.
But right now, I want to have a short discussion about an area of YA that's very small. It's college aged YA. Sometimes, it's called NA (for new adult), but the category isn't widely used, and, sadly, NA has come to mean sexy YA. This turn has started to destroy that market as its 18-25 year old intended audience tend to go for YA or adult reads instead.
What got me thinking about the need for more upper YA was an amazing post I came across on Twitter by Vicky Who Reads (you can check it out here) who discusses how YA is forgetting it's core audience... teens. She discusses how we need to serve all teens both younger (bridge from YA into MG) and older.
Off the top of my head, I can only think of two books that feature college protagonists (Fangirl, Emergency Contact, and Nice Try Jane Sinner). While I'm sure there are more, the majority of YA takes place junior year regardless of the themes or traits of the characters. While YA taking place all throughout high school, there is so much getting published that the umbrella of college YA can totally expand whether branded as upper YA or NA.
If you look at trends in the age group reading a book and the age of the protagonist in the book, kids almost always read up. Once you're out of your early years of high school, though, like with middle school, you hit an awkward ceiling when reading up becomes jumping to characters close to middle age with problems and concerns that are hard to imagine will ever be your own.
That's why many upper high school and college students stay with YA, which is wonderful, but there needs to be more characters applying and going to college to allow teens to have a preview into that experience and the challenges that come with it. Considering people often name college as one of the most interesting times of life, it's strange that we don't have many stories that highlight real protagonists starting to navigate the changing world of college and it's unique challenges. Though publishers seem to choose books mostly by seeing what is doing well (even though Fangirl is one of the most beloved books in YA), it's hard to vote with your dollar for work that barely exists. Hopefully, publishers will listen to what teens ask for and help make room in the market for stories that have previously been erased.
Now for the mini reviews:
This Splintered Silence by Kayla Olsen (November 13)
I was really hoping to love this one. The basic story is that Lindley Hamilton is faced with running the space base that she lives on when all the adults suddenly die from a mysterious virus. Though they think the kids who have been born at the base are immune, they're quickly proven wrong when members of the second generation start dying as well. Their mission is to beat the virus before it takes everyone. As thrilling as that sounds, though, the writing just couldn't carry the story. Unfortunately, even in the most pressing moments, everything felt one dimensional and lethargic. Though I love the idea of a future YA taking place in a space colony, this book can't quite deliver.
All The Bright Places (Audio Edition) by Jennifer Niven
As everyone who's been following my blog knows, my favorite book of all time is ATBP. After my best friend read it, she wanted to discuss all the details, and I realized I didn't remember them (I read the book almost two years ago), so I decided that I'd explore it again. While I had a hard time rereading in print, I picked up the audiobook and had a blast listening as I worked. I'd almost forgotten how wonderful it is to be read to. The book itself holds up, and, as for the narration, I loved the voice actor (Kirby Heyborne) who narrated for Finch. While Violet's wasn't my favorite, I quickly adjusted, and I loved that Jennifer read her own author's note at the end.