As I noted last month, there is a growing trend among adult fiction writers to test the young adult or juvenile literary waters. James Patterson with his Maximum Ride series gets most of the attention, but he is hardly alone. A complete list would probably take more space than I’m allowed. However, here are some examples of crossover titles and their authors. Peter and the Starcatchers / by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, came out in 2004, and has been followed by Escape from the Carnivale, Peter & the shadow thieves, Peter and the secret of Rundoon, Peter and the Sword of Mercy, Cave of the Dark Wind and Science Fair : a story of mystery, danger, international suspense, and a very nervous frog. The books involve Peter Pan and some pretty funky characters who might have been in the original book if the author had been clinically insane. One of my personal favorites (and I could make the case that ALL of his work crosses seamlessly from one age group to the next) is Charles De Lint, arguably the father of urban fantasy. If you want a couple YA treats, pick up Little Grrl Lost or Dingo. You won’t be disappointed.
John Grisham got into the act in 2010 with a juvenile mystery called Theodore Boone : kid lawyer. He followed it up this year with Theodore Boone : the abduction. I haven’t read either one, so I’m not in a position to judge how well he crossed over. Kathy Reichs is one of the more recent authors to join the party with Virals, featuring Tory, the niece of her major character, Temperence Brennan and with Seizure: A Virals Novel, debuting this coming Tuesday. I started Virals and will probably go back and finish it eventually. I had a problem with the teen language seemingly slapped on as opposed to sounding like I hear teens speak on a daily basis. Clive Cussler gave the genre a shot a few years back when he wrote The adventures of Vin Fiz . Several Paranormal romance authors have made the transition recently and with significant success. After all vampires and werewolves are hot stuff these days. Among the more notable (and successful) are Rachel Caine with her Morganville Vampires series, Richelle Mead with her Vampire Academy series and a spinoff series called Bloodlines and Sherrilyn Kenyon with her Chronicles of Nick series.
There are several good reasons why so many authors are entering the juvenile/YA market. First off, teens are reading–a lot. When they look at the world we’re handing them, a few vampires, a kinky werewolrf and a zombie boyfriend seem like a walk in the park. Second, many, many of them are getting e-readers, providing this new aspect of the fiction market a healthy jolt right toward the most technologically savvy group out there. Thirdly, because teens are so plugged in via Twitter, Facebook, etc. they can give a hot title tons of promotion at no cost to the author. There’s another reason I’ve seen in person as a librarian. First off, there is a very significant reverse influx into YA fiction by adults who are jaded by a lot of the contemporary stuff out there. Credit the Twilight series for opening the door. I saw a bunch of mothers go from looking suspiciously over their daughter’s shoulders to coming in and asking for an extension so both could read the next book in the series. They haven’t slowed down and, as they have gotten more sophisticated in their reading, they have spent lots of time browsing the YA shelves. The final reason is that the genre gives writers some new freedoms and a chance to cleanse their creative palate, so to speak. A few of the crossover authors have probably written better YA stuff than their traditional books as a result.
I’m highlighting a book that I hadn’t planned to read, but decided I should since I’m guest blogging here. It turned out to be one of the best books I’ve read all year. Shelter: a Mickey Bolitar novel by Harlan Coben (9780399256509 G.P. Putnam 2011),is what YA fiction is all about. The author has made a seamless transition to a new genre and in doing so, created an immersive mystery that screams for a second book. There are several plot elements that make it a stand-out entry in the genre. First is the historical tie-in that will arouse curiosity in many young readers to learn more about a major event in world history. Second is the interaction among the teens in the book. Third is the way Mickey’s mother’s addiction and rehab is handled. It’s pretty close to real life. Coben didn’t slide into formula in the boy/girl relationships, choosing, instead to create some real decent relationship challenges/dynamics that will certainly resonate with intelligent YA readers. This one kept me up until 2:30 in the morning.
I was intrigued by the way Myron Bolitar, a Coben stalwart, was relegated to secondary (and not terribly favorable) status in the book, so I contacted the author and asked him how difficult it was to take a long time major character and effectively ‘dis’ him. I also wanted to know if another book was forthcoming. Mr. Coben replied promptly as follows:
1) It was easy because, well, it wasn't HIS story. It was Mickey's. 2) Oh yes. This is the first in a series. I've signed on to do at least three. Thanks!! Best, Harlan Coben Next month, I'm going to review and comment on a couple first efforts in the YA mystery genre I discovered one evening when judging a story slam for teens at the Edythe Dyer Library in Hampden