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This Writer Played Hookie and Learnt Something

Here's a little insight into the life of a writer ... yesterday I found myself stuck with a decision: wait for the edits from my publisher, or start draft 3 of my new book. But if I start that draft I won't want to stop when the edits arrive from the publisher. Maybe I should just wait?

So I actually did something I never allow myself to do - I played hookie (or as my writing group friend called it - I played 'bookie'). Well it was all in the name of research! I went to watch the movie Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, based on the book by Ransom Riggs.

Interesting fact: Ransom is married to the wonderful Tahereh Mafi, author of the Shatter Me series. Can you imagine what it's like around their breakfast table with their awesome imaginations existing in the same room? I wonder if they can write in the same room?

Anyway, back to my point, which is this - I was once again watching an amazing movie based on a young adult novel. So many movies coming out of Hollywood are finding blockbuster stories in the Young Adult aisles of the bookstore. But why?

Most people think movies based on young adult novels began with Harry Potter, but they began way before then - think The Wizard of Oz in 1939, The Outsiders in 1983, The Princess Bride in 1987, Little Women in 1994, and even Alice in Wonderland which has been made into a movie ten times. But it's fair to say there's been an influx lately from Divergent, The Hunger Games, and Twilight to The Book Thief, Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars and If I Stay. I did a little research and found out some interesting facts:

  • 55% of YA readers are actually adults according to a study from 2012.

  • YA novels appeal to teens and adults alike because of their escapist nature--whether it's retreating to Narnia or going back in time to high school, adults enjoy the escape from reality as much as teens. Adults love to revisit times in their past too, high school included.

  • The issues raised in YA novels, from coping with death, to accepting who we are and more, are addressed in a safe place and it seems many adults are still keen to confront these issues in books to perhaps help when coping with them in real life.

  • YA authors don't talk down to their readers. Apart from the fact that the novels contain characters who are teenagers and address issues relevant to teens, they are written just as beautifully, convincingly and memorably as adult novels, therefore not excluding adults from their fan base.

  • Though young adult novels are quite a new category in the history of book publishing, many teens who began reading Harry Potter are now adults. Just because they're now 24, doesn't mean they stop reading what they loved to read ie Harry Potter and other YA labelled books. They don't necessarily jump to liking classics or 'adult' genre novels, just because they are now legally adults. This is good news for YA authors as their audience doesn't 'leave' the YA section and indeed fans continue to use word of mouth to spread how much they enjoy teen fiction, while at the same time younger children are growing into teens, expanding the young adult audience at both ends of the target age group.

So I guess the reason for the popularity of these movies across all age groups is their universal appeal that continues to grow year on year, not to mention they are based on amazingly written original novels that appeal to out emotions, our desire to make sense of our lives, and our need of escape.

Long live the YA novel!

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