Tuesday, 2 September 2008

For The Kids

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a little while, but a discussion on The Board Formerly Known As Outpost Gallifrey has prompted me to actual put pen to paper. Then I remembered it would have to go on the internet, so I would have to type up my handwritten notes. Could have saved myself some time and some ink. Anyway …

… ‘the New Series books are for eight year olds’.

They aren’t. The New Series books fit very comfortably into what publishers call YA, or ‘Young Adult’.

These are books with one eye on (book reading, therefore smart) teenagers, but YA books have been the publishing phenomenon of the last ten years. The key thing here is that YA books don’t just appeal to teenagers – almost the thing that defines them is that they’ve found a huge adult audience, too.

The charge was led by Harry Potter, of course, but there are other examples.

For this entry, I’ll do a short reading list of YA books. This isn’t comprehensive, or meant to be. For my next trick, I’ll explain how this applies to Doctor Who, the New Series novels and specifically my book, The Eyeless.

I’m a huge, huge fan of Philip Pullman’s books, particularly his masterpiece, the His Dark Materials series. Pullman’s work has, in places, a lot of Doctor Who feel to it. And, conversely, the end of Doomsday and Rose’s departure is … reminiscent of the end of His Dark Materials. Pullman was delighted by this, and is even writing the introduction to The Writer’s Tale.

His Dark Materials starts with the utterly superb Northern Lights.

I co-wrote a book about His Dark Materials, Dark Matters.

Which predicted that the film wouldn’t work. Well, my thoughts on that are here. And the stage play script shows just what we could have had instead …

There’s a huge boom in YA books. Not all of them are fantasy … or at least not all of them are set in fantasy worlds. Skellig is a great example of how grim and strange YA books can be. Elsewhere, YA books deal with drugs, sex, pregnancy, domestic violence, racism … it’s almost a cliché that they’re grim and gritty.

A fantastic example of a modern YA book is Strange Boy by Paul Magrs.

Meanwhile, Charlie Higson, author of one of my very favourite books, Getting Rid of Mr Kitchen, has written a range of Young James Bond books that are really quite sly and rewarding for adults, too.

While it was discussing television, rather than novels, Screen Wipe showed exactly how grown up fantasy kids shows were compared with more modern ‘realistic’ shows for teenagers and inadvertently clarify why The Sarah Jane Adventures are actually more ‘grown up’ than Torchwood. The discussion starts at about 5:30, and be warned that there’s some language unsuitable for children right from the start.


Justin Brown said...

Y'know, just this evening I was listening to the audiobook of Anthony Horowitz's YA spy novel 'Scorpia'. I turned it off when my kids (8 and 10) came in the room; I felt the section I was listening wasn't entirely appropriate for them.

I'm encouraged by your comments to try some of the new Dr Who novels, Lance. So far I've only read 'The Clockwise Man', and that was pretty good.

sroman said...

There's a lot of quality material in YA books today. Harry Potter opened the door to wide, mainstream sales, but you've also got Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" vampire novels, the works of fantasist Charles de Lint, F. Paul Wilson's "Jack" YA trilogy, spun off from his "Repairman Jack" adult horror/adventure novels, and Marcus Zusak's award-winning "The Book Thief."

Even Stephen King's "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon" could be considered YA since it stars a young girl, but the writing and horror is definitely for YA and up. I'm sure the pop-up book adaptation that came out for kids a couple years ago caused quite a few nightmares for younger readers...

Garpu said...

There's definitely a place for the older Doctor Who novels, and they have a nice place in my memory when PBS affiliates lost their licenses and the show was off the air. But I like the new Who novels, too.

Thanks for the recommendation on the YA books! My nieces are around that age, and they've got me reading the Twilight series. So I'm always on the lookout for intelligent things for them. I've tried to get them into the Sarah Jane Adventures, but the oldest (12) is a serious Star Wars fan. Think I'm fighting a losing battle.