Around the last decade, the young adult book market has thrived in a way that exceeds the adult book market by leaps.
This fact, however, does not necessarily mean that teens have turned their back on other social activities to embrace the literary world. In fact, research has found that adults comprise more than half of the young adult book customers, though this number also includes parents and elder siblings of teens.
According to the Young Adult Library Service Association (YALSA) the young adult target audience ranges between ages twelve and eighteen.
Books that targets this audience are usually told from the perspective of a teen, but not necessarily so. Because of the high emotional stakes and life drama present in the young adult books, it attracts readers from all ages; And so, the young adult books has become one of the major leaders in the publishing market.
Authors have become aware of this fact, and to satisfy all readers, began adding mature contents to the story to keep their readers engaged.
Some of these authors, conscientious about the target audience, add a tag warning the readers about the mature contents, though the books are still shelved as young adult.
The addition of mature contents to a young adult book is more common for the books pertaining to a series, mostly from the contemporary romance, coming to age and the fantasy genre. Usually in a series with more than five or six books, the first two or three installments of the series is published in an appropriate manner that corresponds to the target audience, but once the series gains popularity (or lacks one) the author begins adding mature contents, either to keep the readers engaged or to engage new ones.
However, despite the parent’s complaints, there are still a large number of adults who believe the mature scenes to be educational, but who would still hesitate to give a twelve, or a thirteen-year-old, books with such contents.
In a recent Discussion, adult readers who now enjoy young adult books stated that if they picked up such books when younger, they would either skim through the scenes or stop reading the book altogether. In this same discussion, adults argued that parents should be more aware of what teens watch on TV and be happy that their kids are reading at all.
Some authors have been addressed as well, and one particular author addressed her unhappy audience by telling them to stop reading her books.
“…If you’re unhappy with my books, and have decided you never want to read another thing that I write; great. I mean that. Life is too short to read books you don’t like, so if you’re not having a good time, stop doing it. …”
This quote was taken from a long letter written by author Laurell K. Hamilton addressing her ‘negative readers’ from the Anita Blake series; a series that began as young adult but later evolved into BDSM. In the Anita Blake series, most of the original fans of this paranormal crime fiction began avoiding the later books after the story took a hundred and eighty-degree turn and focused only on Anita’s personal and sexual life.
Karen Marie Moning began her fever series as young adult, but the story took a sudden twist on book four when mature contents found its way into the story with alarming frequency.
In the popular Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas kept the first four books free of mature contents but more than made up for it on book five, Empire of Storms.
The adult vs. young adult controversy is a topic discussed in most major and minor media pages, and the quality of the read, although plays a role in the popularity of the book and might, therefore, attract attention, does not factor in these discussions. Other factors are sometimes taken into consideration, as cultures differ from country to country, and what might be accepted in one, might not be in others.
It is true that there is a vast range of developmental and eye-opening experiences between age twelve and eighteen, and most would agree that in this day where technology exposes all about life, a fifteen-year-old is already aware of these ‘mature’ contents. Nevertheless, most would also agree that twelve and thirteen-year-olds are still at an influential age, and books that makes light of stealing, lying, drug abuse, alcohol excess, swearing, rape, explicit and graphic violence and sex scenes are inappropriate for their eyes and shifting minds.
Suggestions have been made for these tags to be reconsidered, with the twelve/fourteen-year-olds being removed from the young adult’s category, but so far, no action has been taken.