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In recent years, the lines between young adult and adult fiction have grown increasingly blurry, and are growing blurrier still thanks to a number of bestselling adult authors such as Kelley Armstrong, Victoria Schwab, Meg Cabot, James Patterson, and Carl Hiaasen who successfully cross back and forth between categories.

 

In 2019/2020, a number of YA authors released their first adult books, hoping that their existing and maturing audience would follow them into the adult space, or better yet, that they’d find a new audience with adults who are unfamiliar with their YA works. But how much of a gamble is it? Judging by the estimated print runs for these new novels, their publishers believed it was a solid one.  

 

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo / a snake slithering through the titleLeigh Bardugo, a wildly successful YA author delivered her first adult novel Ninth House  to much excitement.  Bardugo is no stranger to success. Her books have collectively sold more than 3 million copies in English, have been translated into 41 languages, and are being made into a Netflix series. Ninth House opeed with a 350,000 copy print run, and a ton of marketing behind it.

 

To put it in perspective, other than high performing established authors such as J.D. Robb who see 750,000 copy print runs for their works, a popular author with this publisher might receive a 100,000-150,000 copy print run, while a debut or midlist author would be substantially less. Bardugo’s novel has received 4 starred reviews from prestigious book review journals such as Booklist, and Kirkus, and Stephen King has blurbed the book calling it the “best fantasy novel” he’s read in years. The title also received tremendous buzz on social media, and has appeared on a number of must-read lists.

 

Also from this past year was Stephen Chbosky’s first book since he published the highly Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky / a figure in the far distance walking into a beam of lightacclaimed young adult novel Perks of Being a Wallflower twenty years ago. Imaginary Friend is a horror novel with a child protagonist, and has been dubbed an homage to Stephen King. The book was chosen as one of 2019 best books by People, EW, LitHub, and more, and had blurbs from Emma Watson, Joe Hill, and John Green to boot.

 

2020 saw two even more highly anticipated adult debuts from Divergent author Veronica Roth, and Throne of Glass author Sarah Maas.

 

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth / vines twisted around the letters of the titleRoth’s novel The Chosen Ones released in April 2020, and of course, her fans were excited. While YA tends to examine what happens when teens take on adult burdens, Roth’s adult novel examines what happens to those teens once they become adults. The novel follows a group of twenty somethings ten years after saving the world in their teens who are pulled into a brand new quest when they discover the defeated Dark One was never really defeated at all, and still exists. 

 

Mass’s novel House of Earth and Blood is the first book in her new “Crescent City” trilogy, and is another superlead title for Raincoast with a 250,000 copy print run. Unlike her previous works, the novel is set in a modern world with technology similar to ours, but with all of the fantasy and romance elements thatreaders love about her other books. Since Maas’s YA novels already tend to feature more adult characters, writing an actual adult book isn’t a huge stretch, and her audience is sure to follow.

 

Crescent City by Sarah J. Maas / a young woman's face framed by a crescent moon, while a crow takes flight in the foregroundSo why are so many of these YA authors crossing over into the adult space? Partly because young adults aren’t the only ones who read them.  An estimated 55% of YA readers are adults, so it’s not a leap to think that they would get excited about an adult book written by one of these authors. YA has also become increasingly dark and sophisticated, and there is a lot more crossover than there used to be.

 

From the author perspective, writing for an adult audience isn’t that different than the YA stories they already tell. Yes, it does allow them a bit more freedom in terms of themes, but they are still telling a story that they want to tell with their own voices. As Maas explained in an interview with PW, writing an adult book wasn’t a conscious choice. It was simply a case of certain characters and ideas popping into her head, and her own realization that the characters were in their twenties and not teenagers.

 

Being one of those adults who still unashamedly enjoys YA novels, all four of these books were definitely in my reading pile last year, and as a trend I look forward to waht comes next!

 

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Happy Reading!

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