WATERSTONES CHILDREN’S LAUREATE TO CHAMPION BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS
Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman has announced a campaign to support fiction for young adults in the UK during her two year term in the post. A highlight of this will be the first ever YA Literature Convention, hosted at the London Film and Comic Con in July 2014. Blackman will also be working with Booktrust on a search for the rising stars in the UKYA community.
Blackman was announced as the Children’s Laureate in June this year. As the first Children’s Laureate best known for writing for a teenage audience, she is ideally placed to act as a cheerleader for books for young people. From the moment she was appointed, Blackman has passionately voiced her desire to get “more people, reading more”: whether they choose a classic literary novel or Twilight, the important thing is to get young people to pick up a book. The statistics show there is still much work to be done in this area, with recent research showing that only 3 in 10 young people read daily out of class and a fifth of young people saying they would be embarrassed if a friend saw them reading (NLT 2013).
Malorie Blackman comments:
“We are incredibly lucky to have such a wealth of fantastic children's authors and illustrators in this country who create incredible stories for young adults to enjoy. It's so important to encourage, sustain and where necessary instil a love of reading in our teenagers. Reading opens doors and creates life opportunities. That's why I want to do my utmost to promote YA books for all our young (and older!) readers.”
A highlight of Blackman’s campaign will be the first UK Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) which will take place at the London Film and Comic Con 2014 (LFCC). This convention will bring together all the UK’s YA publishers to provide a host of author events in a dedicated Book Zone, with talks, workshops, signings, a book sales area and publisher stands promoting new and upcoming titles. Blackman will act as a curator for the two-day convention, uniting authors and publishers throughout the UK community. 2014’s YALC event will be the first time a large scale public convention around YA books has taken place in the UK, and its setting among the fans of cultish film and TV will set books at the heart of entertainment for teens and young people.
At this weekend’s Winter LFCC, a one-off special event on Sunday 6th October will trail the YA Lit Con with a panel of award-winning authors lined up to discuss YA books that have been adapted to film. The panel will feature Meg Rosoff, whose novel How I Live Now is released as a major movie today, starring Saoirse Ronan and directed by The Last King of Scotland’s Kevin Macdonald. The panel also comprises award-winning authors Anthony McGowan and Lucy Christopher and will be chaired by Blackman herself, whose book Pig Heart Boy was adapted for the BBC and subsequently won a BAFTA.
Young Adult fiction has seen a boom in recent years with titles such as Twilight, The Hunger Games and The Mortal Instruments series all enjoying millions of copies sold and blockbuster movies to accompany their success in print. Between 2006 and 2012, sales jumped 150% and last year, Young Adult fiction accounted for over £36 million of sales in the UK alone (Nielsen BookScan). Despite many literary prize wins for UK authors including Carnegie Medals for Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon, Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls and Monsters of Men and Meg Rosoff’s Just In Case, US authors continue to dominate the market, with 18 out of 20 of last year’s top YA bestsellers written by American authors.
However, Young Adult books regularly face controversy. Last week, the American Library Association revealed that teen fiction is the most targeted by censors, with a number of YA books appearing on their yearly Banned Books List. Recent issues around teen and YA books have centred on the inclusion of sexual content, levels of violence and the trend for “Sick Lit” – books featuring young people suffering from mental health issues or life threatening illness. Malorie herself has already voiced views that teen books should include realistic portrayals of loving sexual relationships in order to help educate young people and is keen to continue the debate on these topics.
Further events and elements to the campaign will be announced in due course. Blackman will also be working with Booktrust to choose her pick of YA books available, and she will be on the hunt for new and upcoming talent in the Teen and YA books sphere.