The young-adult fiction category has grown by 68% year-to-date through April 2021, compared to the previous year. The 10 million copies sold during this time also outpaced the 8 million units sold during the same period in 2014, which was the previous best-selling year for the category, according to The NPD Group. Even more notable is that this growth is occurring even without movie tie-ins that have driven the category in the past.
“The young adult category is often overlooked because it is a small and relatively stable performer in the U.S. market,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD. “However, the category is off to a very strong start in 2021, and growth can be attributed to some new consumer patterns.”
Perhaps the most interesting shift for the young-adult fiction market has been the emergence of an influential community of readers on the BookTok section of the TikTok social-media video platform. Whereas last year’s growth in the young-adult fiction category was driven by the release of new entries in “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight” series, which boosted the category by 25% over 2019, this years’ bestselling titles from January through May 8, 2021 were led by two older backlist titles that were widely shared and promoted on BookTok: “They Both Die at the End,” by Adam Silvera; and “We Were Liars,” by E. Lockhart.
“This is the first time we’ve seen an organic, social-media phenomenon push backlist books spontaneously back onto the bestseller lists without any kind of marketing or sales push from publishers,” McLean said. “While still in its early days, we’re encouraged by the potential of this growing trend when it comes to new paths of discovery for the young-adult fiction market.”