Reality Returns to Young Adult Literature

In Children's by Dennis Abrams

“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?

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.