Is The "Young Adult" Boom Dwindling In Books As Well As Movies?

There's a lot riding on Divergent, which comes out this Friday. Studios are hoping it'll show there are still audiences for young-adult films other than Hunger Games, after the dismal performance of several other films. But also, says the Wall Street Journal, there's hope it'll rescue the struggling young-adult book market.

For the past several years, young-adult books have been the fastest growing sector, at least in fiction. But the WSJ says that may finally be coming to an end:

lately, the meteoric growth has started to level off for the first time in years. Publishers' net revenues from children's book sales dropped to $1.6 billion in 2013, down from $1.7 billion in 2012, a 7% decline, according to the Association of American Publishers. Some book industry analysts say young-adult sales dipped because there wasn't a single mega franchise dominating pop culture in 2013—a theory some industry experts call "The Hunger Games effect." The sales bump from "The Hunger Games" movies was so strong in 2012 that it lifted the entire category. Sales for the series, which had 24 million copies in circulation before the first movie was released, surged. There are now around 65 million copies of the books in circulation...

As the "Hunger Games" frenzy faded last year, sales sank. Publishers scaled back, releasing some 10,965 young-adult titles last year, a 34% drop from 2012.

Also, studios are getting wary of novels that feel too much like cookie-cutter copies of other stuff. Especially Twilight clones. Lionsgate co-president Erik Feig tells the Journal, "We got every single kind of Romeo and Juliet with star-crossed species that you can think of: She's an angel, he's a devil. He's a werewolf, she has a silver bullet. We did not pick them up."

Instead, the next crop of YA films is somewhat more adventurous, including the non-paranormal The Fault in Our Stars and the somewhat more literary The Giver. Still, a lot of people are holding their breath to see if Divergent does pull in $50 million to $60 million in its opening weekend, putting it in the same league as the first Twilight film (which made $69 million in 2008, or about $74 million today.) Early tracking estimates had Divergent making $65 million in its first weekend, but it sounds as though anything over $50 million will be hailed as a success.

But the larger problem remains — in books as well as in movies, there's no "mega franchise" to replace Hunger Games, Twilight and Harry Potter among the tween and teen crowd. At least, not yet. Maybe that book is being written as we speak. [WSJ]