A recent survey that analyzed library lending and recommendations sheds some light on the popularity of speculative fiction in our culture, especially as it relates to young adults. This survey drew responses from thirty-five teen and children’s librarians regarding the books they recommend and the books most checked out in their libraries.
While all the librarians in the survey tailored their recommendations to fit the individual, some clear trends in favor of the speculative emerged. Out of the top twenty-three librarian recommended series for teens, twenty-one were speculative (fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, dystopian, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and supernatural). Stand-alone titles were more mixed, perhaps because speculative fiction tends to release series, but speculative fiction still made a strong representation.
Librarian recommendations appeared to directly reflect reading interests, based on what books circulated most. Out of the twenty-eight series reported as most circulated, twenty-four were speculative.
Though I don’t write YA fantasy (as of now), I still find the results relevant, primarily because I believe many young adults read adult speculative fiction as well. This survey didn’t examine that topic, so I’m mostly relying on observational evidence. Avid teen readers tend to read both inside and outside the young adult category.
CS Lewis observed this trend back in his day, saying, “I need not remind such an audience as this that the neat sorting-out of books into age groups, so dear to publishers, has only a very sketchy relation with the habits of any real readers. Those of us who are blamed when old for reading childish books were blamed when children for reading books too old for us. No reader worth his salt trots along in obedience to a time-table.”
While I understand the purpose of publishers making divisions and categories for the sake of marketing, my experience suggests that the avid readers of YA speculative fiction are likely to consume adult speculative titles as well, making this library report good news for both young adult and adult writers alike.
What is your view on the cross-over between adult and young adult fiction? Do you think young adult interest in speculative fiction carries over to adult titles? I’d like to hear what others have observed and experienced.