Crossing Over: A Look At The Adult/YA Crossover Reads Panel At BEA

At the "You're Reading That?!?" Adult/YA crossover panel this morning at BEA, Barbara A.Genco of Library Journal hosted a collection of authors and industry personalities. Genco kicked off the panel by talking about the enduring power of crossover reading material saying, "YA authors continue to strike a chord with adult audiences." Each panelist went on to discuss a different aspect of the idea of Adult/YA crossover reads.

Lizzie Skurnick, columnist and author, among other titles, Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading, said, "we can learn about the future of YA from what books for childred used to be." She spoke at length about how the way that teens used to read adult books (noting Jaws and Clan Of The Cave Bear as two such titles) and now adults read teen books.

Skurnick's new favorite title is Justin Cronin's The Passage. A vampire tale, she was prepared to find herself bored by a theme she calls "tired" but instead was impressed by the way the tale deals with vampires in an "unfrilly" way. She said The Passage brought to mind The Andromeda Strain as they are "part of the same tradition of 'nerd books'."

Jennifer Bailey Hunt, the editorial director of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, said she only wants "to think about the audience a book is intended for, not the crossover potential" while she is editing. Her main concerns are "authenticity, voice and emotional connection that feels real." And she "would hate" for the YA genre to be co-opted by the idea of crossover appeal, as the quality of the stories (and the crossover reading experience) would suffer.

The Editorial Director is very much interested in children's stories that don't get told. Her examples were  Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes, a coming of age story that takes place during Katrina, and Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian.

Ellen Loughran is a professor who was served on several award committeds and councils. She offered a quick reading list for people searching for crossover reads. A few of her selections are The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Loughran also calls Stitches by David Small the best non-fiction in a graphic format, "especially if you hate graphic novels."

The last speaker, author Libba Bray, talked about the disconnect with adults and the YA genre. She repeatedly heard the sentiment that in the last decade, "writing for teens was something 'less than' really writing - thankfully those days seem to be a thing of the past."

Want more Adult/YA crossover read suggestions? Check out the teen scene section of our magazine each month!