The latest article is this one from the Huffington Post. One bit really stood out to me, and since I have no way to cram this analysis into my paper, I'm putting it up here:
"Why is YA so often about plot, so very rarely about language? Why can't there be more books like The Book Thief, which is about war and literature, about dying and sacrifices, about love? It's a book about the big things, and that's what we want to read."There are a lot of reasons for this, and I'll try to tackle each separately.
1: It's a lot easier to sell a book if it's easy to describe. Literary novels, which are character-driven, rather than plot-driven, are hard to summarize quickly. Therefore, it's a lot harder to build up an ad campaign about it, or to generate interest in people who are just passing by. This isn't a cost-effective strategy for most of the books on a publisher's list. There are a few books like this that a publisher can invest in, but they might not recoup their investment. Most publishers won't take a chance like this on a newbie author, which is what a significant portion of YA is composed of right now.
2. I've fallen into this trap A LOT lately, so I'm good at recognizing it in others: don't try and speak for all teenage readers. There is a reason for all the plot-driven books. They sell well. Most people like them, or they wouldn't sell, and there would be fewer of them on the shelves. If you want more literary novels for teens, write the publishers and tell them. Support the more literary-minded authors. Don't just ignore the plot-driven books, because you're in the minority, as far as publishers are concerned.
3. According to Orson Scott Card, (who wrote Ender's Game, the subject of my paper, and also cited as one of the authors these teens liked) one of the main differences between adults and children as readers is that children read for the story. They don't care about the fancy language, they care about plot. Some teenage readers are more like children* in this way, and others are not. Because of the marketing reasons I mentioned above, unless there's a really good reason to believe otherwise, publishers are going to push the plot-driven books.
4. Plot-driven books can be about the "big things" too. Look at Beth Revis's Across the Universe trilogy. Those books are plot-driven, and they are definitely about the "big things". It's about the survival of the human race, for crying out loud! How much bigger can you get?
5. There are plenty of YA books like The Book Thief out there, if only you would look. Literary YA isn't usually my thing, but I can tell you, there's a lot of character-driven "big thing" books out in the world right now. Code Name Verity, The Cardturner, I am the Messenger, and If I Stay would fall in this category, I think. (Oh, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Although there are arguments as to whether this book is plot-driven or not, Laini Taylor is damn good at writing pretty words.)
But it sounds like these teens are looking for Epics, not literary novels, in which case, they're barking up the wrong tree. It takes time for a genre to produce epics, to gather enough of a following to make it feasible. My best example is in science fiction, which originated in the early 1900s, (in book form, though the penny dreadfuls had been around for about 30 years by then) and took until Asimov came along in the late 50s to produce its first Epic.
YA, as its own section, has been around for about thirty years by the biggest estimates, but up until the late 1990s, the genre was pretty much just issue books. It's only in the last fifteen years that the genre has exploded into as many different varieties of writing as adult has.
I think I've exhausted the objective points of my argument, but there is one last thing I cannot resist adding: The examples of the prose written by these teens is so self-aware that I couldn't take it seriously. A lot of teenagers don't read; this has been well-established. More prose like this is just going to turn them off more. We don't need all books to become as snobby as the literary section. Reading is for the masses, and creating a culture of "only the educated can dictate what's popular", we destroy knowledge for all.
* Children is not being used here in a way to imply immaturity, but rather as a way of differentiating between reading tastes, in the same way Card used it in his Acceptance Speech for the Margaret A. Edwards Award, from which his points are summarized.)