Friday, July 31, 2009

the teen scene: hot, new, and introducing…

Earlier this week, the newest YA imprint on the block launched its debut title. After much anticipation, My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent was released from Harlequin Teen. Yes, that’s right. I said Harlequin. But hold on just a second. Maybe you’re thinking…. bodice ripper? Fabio? Swooning lovers? This is the part where I tell you how so very wrong of a perception that is when it comes to this new, exciting imprint from quite possibly one of the best-selling publishers in the world. Yes, the world.

You see, Harlequin has always had its finger on the pulse of what’s new, what’s hot, and what readers want. Through chick lit highs there was Red Dress Ink. With the woman-as-hero influx came Bombshell. No matter the demand, Harlequin has consistently stepped up to bat to give their readers satisfaction. While it has been a long time in development – wanting to do things the right way – we all knew it was only a matter of time before this mega-publisher introduced a program featuring books for the YA market.

What is noteworthy is the crafty marketing behind the imprint. The team behind this new adventure decided to use the Harlequin brand to their advantage, while offering something new, young, and cutting edge that distinguishes it in a class of its own. If you go to the Harlequin website, you won’t see the Teen books splashed all over the main page. However, in targeting the appropriate audience, you will find a devoted website to the new imprint. Oh yes, they have done their research. In fact, an entire Teen Panel website is dedicated to the lengthy research conducted with readers aged 13 to 17. What better way to discover the types of stories teens want to read than by asking them directly?

With the mega-parent Harlequin brand backing them, the new Teen imprint aims to give young adults exactly what they want: a variety of stories about them and the various challenges young people go through and push to overcome. It’s about the kinds of characters teens and tweens can relate to. That doesn’t exclude adults from enjoying the scope of titles coming soon to a bookshelf near you. In fact, as editor Natashya Wilson has discussed all week in her Harlequin Teen blog tour, the authors and stories will likely appeal to a much wider audience than your niece, nephew, and babysitter. Adults are eating up the YA market, too, which is no surprise when you consider the quality of character development, story arcs, and author voices houses like Harlequin are seeking.

Where Harlequin Teen is super smart, is in recognizing a good thing and making it better. Yes, paranormal and fantasy are both hot right now and thus we are introduced to the titles My Soul to Take, Intertwined, and Elphame’s Choice. However, not everyone on the planet (although it may seem so at times) is as addicted to these hot genres as others may be. Which is why Harlequin Teen is keeping their catalog open to offering a variety of genres and styles. The blog tour stop at YA Book Nerd is an exceptional preview for those who want to discover exactly the variety I am talking about. Editor Natashya Wilson shared the many exciting titles coming out over the next year, including a re-issue of Carrie Pilby (quite possibly one of the most moving and funny books I have read, ever) by Caren Lissner, Tagged by Mara Purnhagen, and The Oracle of Dating by Allison van Diepen. Teen readers can also look forward to books based on the ABC Family series GREEK! With a line-up of such diversity, you can see why I think Harlequin Teen is onto something good here.

In writing, and especially in teen fiction, it’s impossible to keep up with the trends. By the time a writer realizes a trend is hot, hot, hot… the trend is already on the downswing. Considering the diversity of the scheduled titles Harlequin Teen is touting for the next year – and beyond – the one thing they are guaranteeing is variety. Whatever those teens in the research panel said must have taken hold with the editorial team behind Harlequin Teen, because we – the readers and the writers – are in for some surprises, bodice-rippers not included. But that’s exactly the kind of fiction-forward thinking that is behind the scenes at this new imprint.

So what about you, dear reader? Are you a fan of Gena Showalter and can’t wait to devour Intertwined? Have you already consumed Rachel Vincent’s My Soul to Take? Are you like me and eager to get your hands on Tagged? Share your thoughts here and be sure to bookmark the Harlequin Teen website and share it with your younger friends. Also, I highly recommend following Harlequin Teen on twitter so you can catch links to the rest of Natashya Wilson’s blog tour.

One last question: if you were a trend-setting YA author (and maybe you are) what are the kinds of stories you hope to see Harlequin Teen publish?

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