YA Musings..

My name is Fionnuala Murphy and I am an addict.

Books are my drug of choice. When I immerse myself in someone else’s imagination I zone out from the real world. I can’t concentrate. I sneak away for at lunch so I can read a few more chapters. I avoid people, because they might ask me to meet up, talk, do stuff. 

When I’m in the middle of a good book I can’t do anything else but read.  

I spend my time between books looking for my next hit. I prowl the young-adult, fantasy and science-fiction isles in my local bookstores. I follow my favourite authors on twitter, hoping for information on their next releases. 

I may bankrupt myself with Amazon’s One-Click button.   

Like any good addict, I have my enablers. One, in particular, has gone so far as to set up a book club to support me (and others) in my habit. 

Claire Hennessy is an author of teenage fiction, a co-owner of The Big Smoke Writing Factory, and the founder of the Grown-Ups-Read-YA Book-club.

Claire loves books. She writes them. She reads them. She waxes poetically over glasses of wine about them. When asked why she set up the book-club, her response was, “I set up the book club because a lot of what I read is YA.”

Young-Adult, a genre aimed primarily at teenagers, has captured the imaginations of those who can vote and drink legally. 

Millions have read Twilight, The Hunger Games and Harry Potter (the latter was so popular with adults that two covers were produced for the books, one for kids with a cartoonish cover, and one for adults with a more reserved, grown-up look).

Claire noticed that adult conversation surrounding the genre tends to be limited. “Many of the conversations with other adults about teen books can go down the route of 'is this suitable/appropriate for teen readers' or 'would teens like it' or 'is this really what today's teenagers like?' as opposed to 'is this a good book and what did we like about it?'”

So she decided to start a book club for people who wanted to appreciate the books for their own merit. 

The club meets monthly in members’ houses, or a quiet pub. Occasionally they have movie nights, showing films that tie in with the month’s chosen book. 

Films of YA fiction are an interesting phenomenon. Series popular with teenage girls tend to be the most successful, at least in box office terms, if not critically.

The Twilight Saga is the most well-known of these, and possibly, the most controversial. 

Movie critic Mark Kermode has spoken at length on his weekly film review show about the double standards in reviewing films or books produced for the teenage-girl market.

 In a recent Guardian column, he wrote, “the fact is that the world is full of people (many of them middle-aged men) who feel not just enabled but duty-bound to be sniffy about Twilight without having seen the films, read the books, or attempted to understand why they mean so much to so many.” 

There is a gender double standard in how these books and films are reviewed. Star Wars or The Dragon Lance fantasy novels marketed at teenage boys are just as trope-heavy as Twilight, but they’re nowhere near as reviled. In fact, Star Wars is loved to the point of madness. 

Laura Cassidy, author of Angel Kiss and Eighteen Kisses, has been a Twilight fan from the beginning. She sees the influence of the franchise on other YA books as a good thing. “I think there is a new breed of female lead emerging in YA - strong, fiercely independent girls like Katniss in The Hunger Games,” she told me. “it seems like this new breed was almost like a rebellion against the character of Bella in Twilight, the series that was responsible for the explosion in popularity of teenage fiction.“

I can’t claim to like the Twilight novels, but they’re no worse than the Virginia Andrews novels I read when I was 14. 

Twilight, and other books like it, has encouraged millions of young people to read. 

Which can’t be a bad thing, can it? 

Well, unless they end up like me, an addict, pining for my next adventure inside somebody else’s head.