Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Thoughts: Will the recession hit YA lit?

Last week there were a flurry of Internet posts about the state of the "chick lit" category, specifically that authors were finding that they had to scale back the lavish lives of luxury their characters were leading in the face of the global economic downturn, or whatever the buzz word is this week. Salon's Broadsheet (seriously, one of my favorite blogs) has a good overview of two of the news articles on the phenomenon.

Since my primary book interest is, of course, YA lit, I found myself wondering if we're going to see something similar happening in YA lit over the next year. It seems every time I go into the teen section at Barnes & Noble I see the "Rich White Girls with Problems" table. I'm sure they call it something catchier, but that's what the category comes across as to me: book after book featuring sullen-looking young white women decked out in ridiculous clothes in some fancy setting - a limo or a mansion or a boarding school. Clearly portraying a life that very few teenagers actually experience, before or after the recession.

This isn't a comment on the quality of these books - they could all be awesome and amazing and maybe I'm really missing out by not reading any of them. This isn't about whether these books have a place, but rather is about wondering if they are going to continue to thrive or if, like their grown up chick lit sisters, they're going to be scaled back and new, more budget-friendly, lives are going to be portrayed. Has the change already started to happen? Like I said, I haven't been reading the books so maybe some sort of surreptitious change is happening between the covers.


Anna Rhoswen said...

Most of the YA I've read is, you know, fantasy and sci fi, but very rarely have the characters been from rich backgrounds. Many of the stories feature characters that come from harder lives, such as farmers or the children of beggars, and have to grow up and earn their place in the world. The few times I've ventured out of my magical and glittery hidey-hole and into "regular" YA fiction, I've come across similar characters - so, really, I'm not sure that YA has the same overall setup that chick lit does, wherein the characters have tons of money to just throw around.


Angela said...

Stand alone books definitely have more diversity of characters, but I'm thinking of a lot of the series books that I see heavily promoted in the book stores, Gossip Girl, Clique, and I'm sure there are plenty others (or the displays are just really misleading and they're filling tables with a bunch of books from just two or three series; the covers all look so much alike that I really couldn't tell you). These are the books that I'm seeing set apart in a different display, highlighted as some of the best YA books out right now.

I hadn't thought about it before I started reading about how the recession is affecting chick lit (since I avoid adult books like the plague, lol), but I think books like Gossip Girl are there almost as a training step to get women into reading these light and frothy books and continue as chick lit readers into their adult years, there seem to be so many similarities. So is the new recession reality going to be reflected in these serieses, or does YA have enough diversity elsewhere that Gossip Girl and her ilk will remain a shiny anomaly as her grown up sisters face a new economic reality?

Anna Rhoswen said...

Considering I've never touched those books (although I do rather enjoy Gossip Girl on TV), and I've still found plenty of series without bubble headed socialites as main characters, I think YA has a much bigger character pool than chick lit. Chick lit generally only has to appeal to one type of reader, where YA has to appeal to one broad age group. So, really, the socialites have as much right to be in YA as the beggars children. Some kids were just born chick lit readers. :P

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