A tangential question that came up when we were discussing digital review copies made me pull out my calculator. How much longer are books getting?
I compared fiction for ages 12 and up reviewed in the Magazine in the September issues of 2009, 1999, 1989 and 1979 (October issue; we were on a different schedule then).
Average number of pages in books for teens reviewed in 1979: 151
Now, part of this is the current preponderance of fantasy, which has always tended to run longer–the longest book reviewed in the ’79 issue was Robert Westall’s (fabulous) Devil on the Road, at 245pp. But when I took fantasy and sf out of the 2009 sample, I still came up with 280 pp. average for realistic YA fiction, almost twice as long as it was thirty years ago.
The success of Harry Potter must take some of the heat for this; another factor could be that YA has gotten older: there is much more published for older high school students than there was even ten years ago. Plus, realistic YA seems more character-driven than it used to be in the old problem novel days, and while this has given the genre undeniable depths, it may also have encouraged a certain amount of yammering on. And people are also blaming the nexus of word-processing, larger lists, and smaller editorial staffs combining to mean less pruning. What else? I suppose we have to consider the possibility that the current crop of Horn Book editors and reviewers likes longer books, but surely you know us better than that.