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Kid lit gets an older audience

CREATED May 26, 2014

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Amy Stender is 31 years old, but when it comes to reading, she prefers to embrace her inner child, choosing books written for kids half her age. She explains, "The story and the themes behind it are very adult and universal. They are very simplistic but yet very complex, all at the same time."

She's not alone. A study found 55% of buyers of young adult books are over the age of 18.

Shannon Peterson is President of the Young Adult Library Services Association. She explains, "I used to talk a lot more with teens about teen books and now I'm sort of talking to everyone about teen books."

Gateway books like Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games first gave adult readers permission to browse the kids section--and they haven't left since.

"I think it's awesome. I think there's amazing, amazing books out there for readers as young as eight and I think it's wonderful that more adults are seeing that and appreciating that," Peterson says.

Literary agent Kristin Nelson sees this as part of a larger trend today--the blurring of the lines between what appeals to adults versus kids. "I can listen to the same music that my teenage nieces and nephews listen to. There are adults who play videogames. There's less of a distinction between, oh this is only for adult readers and this is only for kids."

Many big name adult authors have also gotten in the game--including John Grisham and David Baldacci. Peterson adds, "This is a hugely growing field, as we know, but also very competitive. So the quality of literature that's being published as young adult titles is, is pretty phenomenal."

But with so many adults picking up kids books, is there a concern that authors will start slipping in adult themes? Nelson doesn't think so. "They shouldn't be writing with that audience in mind, because their true audience are the young readers and that's the only people they need to satisfy with their stories."

More evidence of the blurring of the lines between entertainment for adults and kids--some books written for adults now have special appeal to teens as well.