Unfortunately, your access has now expired. But there’s good news—by subscribing today, you will receive 22 issues of Booklist magazine, 4 issues of Book Links, and single-login access to Booklist Online and over 180,000 reviews.
Your access to Booklist Online has expired. If you still subscribe to the print magazine, please proceed to your profile page and check your subscriber number against a current magazine mailing label. (If your print subscription has lapsed, you will need to renew.)
You must be logged in to read full text of reviews.
> Logged-in users can make lists, save searches, e-mail, and more!
> Click My Profile to create a username & password
> Try a free trial or subscribe today
February 15, 2018 BOOKLIST
Find more Carte Blanche
History was made in the year 2000 when the first Michael L. Printz Award was presented to Walter Dean Myers for his groundbreaking novel Monster, signaling that young adult books had come of age as literature. That it had also come of age as a commercial phenomenon was demonstrated by the creation, in 1999, of publishing’s first two young adult imprints, Avon’s Tempest and Simon and Schuster’s Pulse. As YA has continued to burgeon in the years since, at least 25 other imprints have joined them. With the dawn of the new millennium, YA began evolving at a dizzying pace, spinning off a near surfeit of trends.
One of the first of these trends was launched with the publication in 2000 of Louise Rennison’s Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging and with it the arrival on our sunny shores of chick lit, inspired by the British adult novel Bridget Jones’ Diary. Chick lit (oh, that phrase) quickly evolved into what was called mean-girl lit, epitomized by Cecily von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl, with its meretricious celebration of the lifestyles of rich and famous teens, so consumed by the commercial and brand names that the New York Times headlined a story about it: “Poor Little Rich Girls Throbbing to Shop.” To industry observers, the mean girls heralded another trend: the rise of book packagers, who created Gossip Girl and the spate of more-or-less racy romances that followed in its wake.
Interestingly, the mean girls weren’t the only ones who were throbbing to shop: a record number of real-life teens were buying books, 35.6 million of them in 2001. This $1.5 billion industry proved the fait accompli fact of an enduring market shift from institutional to retail, a trend that had begun with the 1998 publication of, yes, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which proved to be one of the most noteworthy phenomena in the history of publishing. The superlatives it spawned are well-known: the record-setting first printings—3.8 million for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the largest first printing in the history of publishing—sales of more than 375 million copies, and translations into 65 languages, all of which, reportedly, made Harry’s creator, J. K. Rowling, richer than the queen of England. Equally rich were the trends that Harry and his cohorts inspired: they turned boys into readers; they were the first to attract record numbers of adult readers to books for the young (more about that in my next column); they made series publishing de rigueur, along with the seeming imperative that every book match the Harrys in length (don’t forget that three of the last four Potters exceeded 700 pages); and they single-handedly turned the first decade of the twenty-first century into one of fantasy and speculative fiction. Not bad for an English schoolboy and wizard manqué.
Suddenly, everyone in publishing was searching frantically for the next Harry Potter, and it was found in the unlikely precincts of vampires and werewolves, who populated the four-volume Twilight series, by Stephenie Meyer (volume 4, Breaking Dawn, sold 1.3 million copies in its first 24 hours of publication). Stupendous sales were not the only legacy of Twilight; it must be noted that it ushered in a near-decade-long spawn of paranormal romance. The next winner of the celebrity sweepstakes was not long in coming. It was heralded by the 2008 publication of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games. Its many successes and that of its two subsequent volumes—65 million copies in sales, translations into 51 languages, and sales into 56 territories—sent publishers into raptures of ecstasy, as did the translation of all three series into the holy grail of publishing: successful motion pictures. More literarily, The Hunger Games introduced a lively trend in dystopian fiction epitomized by the likes of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, Saci Lloyd’s Carbon Diaries series, James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, etc. The dystopian, postapocalyptic novel heralded a renaissance of science fiction, as well, and spawned a mini trend in steampunk, which spilled over into the next decade.
Not all of the decade was symbolized by the supernormal, however. In 2006, Looking for Alaska, the first novel by John Green (who was soon to become the teen whisperer), won the Printz Award and reminded readers of the roots of YA, in the fiction of contemporary realism, a fact that would become preeminent in the next decade.
Though fiction ruled the roost in the first decade of the 2000s, nonfiction began to emerge as a force to be reckoned with, too, though it was a new kind of nonfiction, called narrative nonfiction, a form that, in short, borrowed the tools and techniques of fiction without compromising its roots in reality. Examples appeared as early as 2000, the year Marc Aronson’s Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado was published and went on to become the first winner of the Robert F. Sibert Medal, presented to the author of the most distinguished informational book for children. Other YA examples would include James Cross Giblin’s The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler and Jack Gantos’ autobiographical Hole in My Life.
While we’re talking about nonfiction, we need to salute a poetry renaissance, highlighted by the novel in verse, which was presaged by the 1999 publication of Sonya Sones’ Stop Pretending and later epitomized by the wildly popular work of Ellen Hopkins. Other poets whose work distinguished the form in the early aughts would include Ron Koertge, Helen Frost, Nikki Grimes, and Stephanie Hemphill, whose Your Own, Sylvia received a Printz Honor Award.
The richness of all these trends and realities lead me to call the first decade of the twenty-first century a new golden age of young adult literature, one that continues, as we will see next month, into the next decade of the century.
> Try a free trial or subscribe today