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Reality Returns to Young Adult Literature

“It’s time, I think, to get more real,” says Oetinger’s publishing director, Doris Janhsen.

By Dennis Abrams

In her capacity as editorial and then editorial publishing director at several German publishers—List Verlag, Claassen Verlag, and Droemer Verlag—Doris Janhsen published a wide-ranging list of authors including Eoin Colfer, Michel Faber, Wally Lamb, and V.S. Naipaul. She joined Verlag Friedrich Oetinger as publishing director in September 2010.

At Oetinger, she’s been happy to see that more and more German authors are being published “and being published very successfully, appropriating genres coming out of the US and UK.”

And what are those genres? “There’s thrillers and suspense, but what I see happening is more realism — authors like John Green. And that’s the same I think in both the US and Germany—more realism in any form.”

Doris Janhsen of Germany's Verlag Friedrich Oetinger

“I think that people in the YA audience are getting tired of paranormal because it’s the same thing over and over again, and you can only read it so many times. So it’s a question of ‘let’s get more real, please.’ We’ve seen vampires, we’ve seen werewolves, we’ve seen this and that. And part of it is that bookstores and booksellers themselves are getting tired of it. We’ve published a new series, Night School by C.J. Daugherty (to be published by Atom, Little, Brown in the UK and Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins in the US), that’s suspense but not paranormal. And it seems to be working well—pre-sales and booksellers’ reactions are saying that the books are suspenseful, and booksellers have been displaying it in the front of the stores and getting a strong reaction.

“It’s time, I think, to get more real.”

DISCUSS: What’s Next for YA and Teen Books?

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4 Comments

  1. Posted November 20, 2012 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Great ! BecauseI believe in reality writing… that’s what I like best ! ;)

  2. Posted November 20, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I so agree!

  3. Posted December 10, 2012 at 4:27 am | Permalink

    Whilst, fantasies and paranormal thrills and keeps the YA hooked, realistic fiction helps them connect to their own reality, which is also very important.

  4. Xyzzy
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    Shamim Padamsee: I’ve known plenty of people like myself that spent their young adult years only reading “realistic” fiction when forced to for English class, and none of them had the least bit of trouble remaining connected to the reality all around them. They were usually the ones that (like me) needed a bit of help disengaging from reality because it had shown them too many harsh truths at too young an age — which also makes it quite difficult to empathize with typical realistic-fiction protagonists as their problems are rarely life-threatening, extremely painful, emotionally devastating, terrifying, or some combination of the above.

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