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The Golden Age of Young Adult Literature in Iowa

Clare Roth
Iowa Public Radio
While arguments over what exactly constitutes Young Adult fiction persist, no one denies the genre as a whole is on the rise.

Apocalypse and romance, mythology and high school, princesses and heroines, heartthrobs and nerds… this is the landscape of young adult literature, and it’s been growing, in numbers and in prominence. Sarah Prineas, Iowa resident and author of Ash and Bramble, says that’s because of the clamor of the audience.

“When young adult readers come into Prairie Lights, they’re like, ‘Oh, I read this; I loved it so much.’ They just like hug the book to them and they love it and they want more like it, too. They want the next thing that that author wrote or they want the bookseller to step in and say, ‘Oh, well if you like that, then try this thing over here.’ And they do! They do. They’re really voracious, enthusiastic readers.”

The enthusiasm and thirst of that audience means Prineas gets to explore the world deeply, from a particular point of view.

“The other thing that’s really cool about YA that was compelling to me is that YA is written for an audience of readers for whom the world is new: their first kiss, the first time they fell in love, the first time they know someone who died, the first time they knew someone who had to go to a hospital for a terrible illness. Some younger kids, of course, have to deal with that kind of thing. But, really, it’s most intense, I think, emotionally and hormonally intense for the young adult reader.”

In this hour of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe discusses the golden age of young adult literature with three Iowa-based YA authors:

  • Sarah Prineas, author of young adult and middle grade literature, most recently Ash and Bramble, and bookseller at Prairie Lights in Iowa City 
  • Wendy Del Sol, author of the Stork series
  • Molly Backes, author of Princesses of Iowa, graduate student at the MFA program at Iowa State University
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa