Vonnie Winslow Crist is the author of a YA fantasy novel, The Enchanted Skean, two YA-friendly story collections, The Greener Forest and Owl Light, and other books. A firm believer that the world around us is filled with mystery, miracles, and magic, Vonnie celebrates the power of myth in her writing.
The Young Adult/Cross-Over Market by Vonnie Winslow Crist
Young Adult books are written for the teenage reader, so they usually have a teen protagonist. But some books that feature young adult characters, like Stephenie Meyer’s vampire-werewolf Twilight series, Cross-Over and become bestsellers in the adult book market, too.
My newest book, The Enchanted Skean, is a YA/Cross-Over novel filled with action, adventure, and magic. Its central character is a 14-year old boy who’s living a quiet life in the seaside town of Queen’s Weather when his grandmother sends him on a journey to Ulfwood to retrieve his father’s bones and a family skean (dagger). After reaching Ulfwood, Beck discovers the skean is magical. Soon the dagger and its owner attract the attention of dark mages, goblins, ogerhunches, and Skullsouls. With the help of wisewomen, warriors, shape-changers, and a dragon, Beck faces danger and treachery. He soon realizes there’s a developing confrontation between good and evil, and he and his enchanted skean have a role to play. I’m hoping teens and grown-ups alike will enjoy the book.
I chose to write a YA/Cross-Over fantasy because I’ve always been a fan of them. Adults of all ages can enjoy a Cross-Over book’s plot twists, varied characters, and carefully constructed world. One of the earliest Cross-Overs I purchased for my bookshelf was JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Though Bilbo Baggins is middle-aged in human years, in hobbit years he’s a young adult. And readers get to watch Bilbo mature as he journeys through Middle-earth.
Tolkien’s meticulously-built world with its own races, geography, history, creatures, rules of war, clothing, and magic is also the setting for The Lord of the Rings trilogy which features another young hobbit, Frodo, as the protagonist. Adding to the YA feel of The LOTR trilogy is the boyish friendship of Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin. But the tangle of plots, subplots, themes, and characters that weave their way through The Lord of the Rings are rich enough to snag countless adult readers.
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis and the rest of his Chronicles of Narnia are also YA/Cross-Over books. Written for the teen (and preteen) reader, the series continues to be read by adults young and old.
Another Cross-Over series I’ve filled my book shelves with is The Sword of Shannara and its sequels by Terry Brooks. These aren’t really YA books, you might say. But I submit to you that indeed they began as a coming of age story about 2 young men, Shea and Flick. And then, the Shannara books topped the New York Times bestseller list and became a favorite fantasy series for many adult readers.
The last cross-over series I’ll mention is J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter. Harry, Ron, and Hermoine, the three main characters in Rowlings’ classic coming of age tales, begin their literary journey as 12-year-olds. And as such, attracted a faithful readership of preteens and teens. But it’s the Cross-Over into the adult market that has help make the books one of the most successful fantasy series ever published.
I’m not the only one to notice and celebrate the increase in both the numbers and quality of YA/Cross-Over books. The Baltimore Sun, March 14, 2010, p.4, A and E section featured an article by Susan Carpenter in which she quotes Lizzie Skurnick, author of a collection of essays about YA literature: “I think part of the reason we’re seeing adults reading YA is that often there’s no bones made about the fact that a YA book is explicitly intended to entertain…YA authors are able to take themselves less seriously. They’re able to have a little more fun…”
And that’s why YA/Cross-Over fantasy novels rock! They’re entertaining, enlightening, and thought-provoking – but most of all – they’re fun!