There have always been children, teenagers, young adults and undergrads. They haven’t always been defined as readers, though. Even if it is possible that there have always been people writing for them.
The child was recognised about 1740. The teenager didn’t appear until the 1950s. The young adult, at least as a defined reader, exploded into common existence between 1995 and 2005. Now something else is about to happen.
“I decided I wanted to write something for people my age,” wrote one on my students. She was on my Writing Novels for Young People module last year and had done rather well. She was doing rather well in her current course also. She was definitely writing for her classmates. What she wrote would not have been that interesting to people over twenty-five. And people under twenty-five would find it enthralling.
That this new reader may exist is perhaps confirmed by what is now appearing at the top end of the range written for young adults. I would count my Babel in that category. Kaleem and Rozia are almost too mature for what we have up until now defined as young adults, yet to the fully fledged adult they still seem quite naïve. They’ll be that much more mature in the third book.
What should we call this new reader, though? Undergrad is hardly adequate; not everyone goes to university and these new stories would still suit young postgrads. Maybe “new adults”, “young aged” “emergent professionals”? Nothing yet has quite the right ring to it. No doubt a name will appear as the genre consolidates.