New Delhi, March 05: After decades of publishing books for adults and children, publishers are now targeting the young adults segment, which is through with its quota of Enid Blytons. On offer is a quaint mix ranging from thrillers to vampire romance.
The idea is to keep the young adult, between the age group of 15 and 20 years, clued to the printed word.
Penguin-India, one of the leading publishers of contemporary fiction and non-fiction in the country, is formally launching its young adult series at the ongoing Spring Fever literary festival with two titles, "Swayamvara: The Return of Ravana Book 2", a fantasy adventure by David Hair, and "Skunk Girl" by Pakistani American writer Sheba Karim.
While "Swayamvara..." narrates the lores of the Ramayana and Prithviraj Chauhan, a Rajput king of Kannauj, in a contemporary context, "Skunk Girl" is a contemporary story about the angst of growing up in an open world.
A book by Subroto Bagchi on business and the working life of young Indians, for which the writer spoke to several 16- and 17-year-olds, will open the non-fiction run later in the year.
Sudeshna Shome Ghosh, the editorial director of Penguin Young Adult, said the series would be closing a "gaping hole in the Indian publishing scene for books for people between 15 and 20".
"We decided to start a series of books with a distinct identity for this readership. The books are international in look and feel, fun to read and will appeal to a variety of tastes," Ghosh told IANS.
"We are launching the series with two titles in February and shall be following up with four more by the end of the year. We will publish around five more such titles in subsequent years," said Ghosh, who is also the editorial director of Puffin, the children's imprint.
"The story needs to appeal to young adult readers. In terms of content, we do push the boundaries further than what we would for our children's books for language, sexuality and violence. The protagonists in these books are often young adults themselves," Ghose said.
David Hair, the author of "Swayamvara...", thinks the key to successful young adult fiction is pace.
"The writer needs to set up the plot and characters quickly to keep the action moving with surprises and twists. I think in our busy modern world, books need to grab the attention of the reader more so than ever before," Hair said.
Hair has just completed "the fourth and final book of 'The Return of Ravana' series".
"I am really excited by it and very proud of the whole series. Right now, I'm revising the latest draft for the fourth book of my New Zealand-based fantasy sequence, 'The Aotearoa Series' (comprising 'The Bone Tiki', 'The Taniwha's Tear' and 'The Lost Tohunga')," Hair said.
Publishing giant HarperCollins has a young adult kitty of more than 700 titles under its Harper Teen imprint.
Three new titles, "Paranormalcy", "Fireflight" and "Kisses from Hell", combining dollops of supernatural thrills, romance and mushy chick tales are making waves this year.
Fans, mostly young women in their teens, are drawn to these books by elements of the supernatural and romance.
"How can you go wrong with vampires and love," quips Christine, a fan of teen supernatural romance writer Claudia Gray on the Harper Teen Review website.
A spokesperson for the publisher said last year HarperCollins India "reconnected Indian young adults to tradition with 'The Slayer of Kamsa', a racy account by Ashok Banker of Lord Krishna and his battle with the demon-king Kamsa".
The genre of contemporary young adult in India took off around 2007 when the "Twilight" series of vampire romances landed in Indian bookstores, much to the delight of young urban readers.
The genre of young adult fiction is not new to India, thanks to a steady flow of foreign teen thrillers into the country since the 1970s.
"We remember reading Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigator series as children in school. But it was not touted as titles for young adults. The distinction of the genre is new," says S. Ganesha, a 43-year-old Delhi-based graphic artist.
Ganesha's oldest child, a 15-year-old daughter, is "passionate about Stephanie Meyers", the artist said.