Tuesday, September 6, 2011

One Teen Reader's Thoughts About YA Literature

Friends, I have a special treat for you today. My beautiful niece, Amanda, has agreed to answer some questions about books on my blog. She's 17 and a senior in high school. I thought it would be fun to get an honest snapshot of one teen reader's opinion of YA literature. Whether you write young adult fiction or not, it's fun to see what's on a teen's mind. Here goes:

Amanda, what genre of books do you like to read?
"I like romance novels, and dystopian. I read Two Way Street, which was really good. I loved Hunger Games, and I'm now reading Catching Fire. I'm so nervous for Katniss!"

What types of books do your friends like to read?
"They also like romance books, like guy meets girl stories. And they also love a good mystery."

Can you tell us what draws you and your friends to these types of books?
"We get to live vicariously through the characters. It's fun to see ourselves in the character's lives, instead of going back to our own, less exciting lives."

What do you like and dislike in romance novels?
"It's exciting to read about romance, and experience it along with the characters. Graphic sex can ruin it, though. We want to use our imaginations. I like it when the writer outlines what's happening, without going into too much detail."

What's something you don't like in YA novels?
"A bad ending. Like, when an important character that you love dies. If the book doesn't end well, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth."

What might surprise writers to learn about teen readers?
"Maybe it's that teens do love to read, but it takes a special spark to get us hooked. All through school we have books forced onto us that really don't interest us at all. A book needs that certain catch. For instance, a book the school makes us read catches the attention of an adult but not necessarily a teen. Our minds work differently, but if you hit it just right it'll spark our interest. Don't think so much like an adult."

What would you like writers to know about teens?
"We're deep thinkers. We pick up on details and connect them to other parts of the story. We get it."

Amanda, thank you so much!

Writers, did Amanda's answers surprise you? How did they compare with what you already knew about teen readers?

If you'd like to ask Amanda more questions, feel free to do so in the comments. We could do a follow-up post on another date!

44 comments:

  1. I love how Amanda mentions that teens do live livind vicariously, seeing themselves in a character. Wonderful questions, Julie!

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  2. She was very honest with her answers. And I have no problem not thinking like an adult!

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  3. Thanks so much for this, Julie and Amanda. I am not surprised. I've heard the same thing from many teens. My question for Amanda is: how do you choose which books you'll read?

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  4. I'm a teen reader and I completely agree! Thanks Amanda!

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  5. What a great interview! Thanks Julie and Amanda. :)

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  6. I enjoyed this. It just confirmed what I already suspected, that teens are *gasp* just like everyone else - some read, and some don't :-)

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  7. Great interview! I like that Amanda pushes that teens are certainly smart enough to piece complicated plot lines together. They aren't children anymore!

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  8. Hey, fun post! Yay, Amanda! I remember loving to read romances as a teen, and it was so great to get a break from the boring "adult" books I was required to read in school... :D

    I wonder who Amanda's favorite YA romance author is-?

    Thanks, Julie!

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  9. AWESOME post!!! Thank you, Amanda for doing that. It confirms that we shouldn't talk down to teens. ;D Question for next time? Do you beta read?? LOL! You could start a business!

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  10. love it -- thanks for sharing these insights. Glad to know boy-meets-girl remains high on the priority list. :)

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  11. Thanks Amanda. She sounds like a reader and why we all love to read! And, um, if she doesn't like characters dying or sad endings, she might not want to read Mockingbird. ;)

    Good idea, Lisa. Teens should start charging some $ to beta read.

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  12. This was great! I love that she said that teens are deep thinkers. No need for YA authors to dumb down their books. :)

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  13. Thank you so much Amanda, this was fantastic! I love that you pointed out that teens are deep thinkers, so true, and some authors forget that. I'm also excited to hear that my novel genre is something that you and a lot of your friends read. :-)

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  14. Thanks guys for welcoming Amanda!

    Laura, I'm plugging my ears!!! I haven't read Mockingjay yet either!!

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  15. Thanks Amanda. Everything you said was helpful. We all hope to hook you and your friends in the near future with something intelligent, but not adult.

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  16. I always love hearing from teens about what they're reading. It's such an invaluable insight. :) Great post!

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  17. Oh, this was fun! I've got a 16 year old daughter who I think likes a slightly darker vent--they definitely give a fresh perspective, though. I think out schools have done a pretty good job picking books-important choices. My daughter isn't an enthusiastic reader, but has usually liked the books that have been required.

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  18. What a great interview! I love her point that teens are SMART ENOUGH TO GET IT. I hate when people talk about YA being "dumbed down" literature. Not at all! I've read and written deep YA, because teens can get it-- and often love it.

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  19. Your niece is lovely. :)

    Loved her insights. I think a lot of people may think romance is overplayed but I think teens (girls especially) still love to read it.

    I also loved that she said teens think differently than adults, you really have to get right to the story to catch that spark.

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  20. Awesome interview. Amanda's ideas made me think more about literature in school than it did writing for teens. I understand the need to teach classical literature to our kids. But why can't there be a mix? Why not alternate a classical piece with something a little more modern? Why not teach technique and method through a book that is actually interesting to our students? I'm sure the problem lies in finding books that parents will all agree on, but they don't really do that with the classics, do they? It just frustrates me to no end that we seem so determined to make school tedious and boring. No wonder so many of our kids come out of it having learned as little as possible to get by.

    Sorry. Off-topic, but that's what this interview made me think of. Thank you, Amanda and Julie!

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  21. Thanks Amanda! So great to hear from Teens!

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  22. As a teen reader, I'd like to agree with pretty much everything your niece said. XD

    I'd like to add that I'm getting tired of Girl-choosing-between-new-supernatural-guy-and-old-best-friend-guy-and-maybe-is-supernatural-herself plots... XD

    Other than that... Yeah, I pretty much agree what she said. ^^ Except for me, I like when romance is secondary to the overall plot of a novel. Romance can be fun, but I get a little tired of it being the main, main thing in a book. Give me arcing fantasies, mind-boggling science fiction, and plot twists that make me bounce up and down in my seat. Give me surprises. Give me more than just these-characters-love-each-other-cause-I-said-so. ;)

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  23. I have a 16 year old daughter, so I can appreciate this post… it nice to hear their input. I am glad to hear teens like to read.

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  24. It truly was fun to get inside a teen's head and see what they like to read. I know each teen is different, and girls are so different from boys, but still. Amanda taught me a lot!

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  25. What a great interview. Thank you to Amanda for sharing her viewpoint and to Julie for thinking this up. Her thoughts got me re-evaluating some things.

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  26. Great interview. I like this - "We're deep thinkers ... we get it." This is something parents of teens need to realise too. Thanks Amanda :)

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  27. Amanda, you are a rock star. Great candid comments worth their weight in gold. Amanda, are you available for beta reads?

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  28. I enjoyed this interview. I'm always interested to hear what teens think about books since I write for them.

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  29. Thanks, Amanda! What a cool interview. I liked hearing about endings. It gives me renewed confidence in the new ending I'm concocting for my WiP. :)

    Thank you!

    Amy

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  30. Its great to meet you, Amanda. And I agree about the ending. I'm a happy ending kinda guy, although I like a lot of action and conflict in order to get there. I need closure at the end, the bad guy dead, and the good guy ready, though battered, to fight another day.

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  32. Thanks, Amanda and Julie! Great honest snapshot. I keep thinking about Amanda's answer about the books they have to read in school--that spark an adult's attention but not the teens'. And publishers are all adults! But apparently they know how to get SOME books that are more teen-friendly out to the right audience.

    Good point about happier endings; I also hate it when some main character I admire dies in the end. Booo! That's why I don't write my endings that way. :)

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  33. This is great, Julie! I'm glad to see that she had a similar response to the group of teens I interviewed recently. They also said they did not want graphic sex, but definitely romance. Because I write YA Romantic Suspense, I'm thrilled to hear she likes romance and mystery! Woot!I do love me a happy ending, so I have to agree with Amanda:)

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  34. Ah, yes, teen girls and romance. I remember loving to read about romance when I was there age. Great interview with your niece!

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  35. This is a great interview! Thanks for sharing, Amanda!

    Julie - just so you know, I tagged you (apologies in advance. hehe):

    http://thefarseas.blogspot.com/2011/09/broome-meme.html

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  36. This is a great interview. I totally agree about unhappy endings in which an important character (like the sweet love interest) dies. I don't like them at all :P

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  37. Thanks everyone for your kind comments to Amanda!

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  38. Thanks Julie and Amanda. I hope to write a YA book as a story is gathering momentum inside my head. Will keep Amanda's answers in mind while writing.

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  39. Wow, thanks to Amanda for taking the time out to do this. This was lovely and insightful - does Amanda know she's like a pot of gold to us LOL?

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  40. Nice post!

    Amanda is right--we teen readers are deep thinkers. I often think of the workings of the plot and characters, along with picking out details and clues to guess twists.

    I only read a couple of sex scenes in YA, and both of them gloss over most of the stuff. I wonder what's an explicit sex scene in YA like. I guess I'll just have to wait to stumble onto one.

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  41. Hi Amanda... Thank you for telling us what you like! And... I knew all the answers. :) Perhaps I'm still a young romantic too. And, the reason I love to read romance.

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  42. Great interview--kudos to Julie for thinking to interview her niece and share this great insider info! :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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