Bolder, better YA literature is sniffing air – pacy mythological thrillers, complex graphic novels, stories set in conflict zones are on offer.
Ameya Nagarajan, editor, Inked (Penguin’s imprint dedicated to young adults) says Indian writers attempting YA literature seem to have understood the thumb rule — negotiate this complex space without talking down to your audience, and that, by itself is half the job done. And take more risks.
The key change, feels Nagarajan, has come about because people are hearing about ‘unusual’ themes in books and a market is being created in India. “It’s taking a while for the readers to invest in a book by an Indian. We have been told we should try and use non-Indian pseudonyms for some of our international level YA, for example. The problem is the general feeling that Indian’s can’t really manage to write at international standard in English. The solution of course is very simple, find the people whocan and then publish them. The market will learn,” she explains.
“Nothing is off limits. If as a parent or publisher, you think you are sheltering this age group by not making them read some themes, you’re really oblivious,” smiles Khan. The only thing she considers a no-no when writing for young adults is glamourising negative behaviour. “I have had characters in my books who have large breasts, I’ve used a cuss word, I’ve even dealt with sexual manipulation between a teenaged couple. But all with a consciousness that someone out there might take all the wrong things from it, and my style will have to walk some very tricky ground,” she explains.
Publishers, writers and YA readers call this phase ‘growing up’, and they expect much trial and error, and very tricky times ahead. There’s much to be done, and a marketing model to be cracked for such a tricky segment.