Was it the universal audience for Harry Potter that struck the final blow between the boundary between children's and adult literature? If any part of it remains, it's pretty porous these days. Although writing for both audiences is hardly new (Judy Blume's Wifey, anyone?) it's become increasingly common in the last decade, as authors from Harlan Coben and James Patterson to Joyce Carol Oates have started dipping their toes into middle-grade and YA. Children's authors have been equally willing to cross that line in the other direction—think Ann Brashares or Melissa Marr.
Next February, two more will make the leap. Patrick Ness, an American author living in London who has won the Carnegie Medal twice for his work for teens. In his first adult novel, The Crane Wife (Penguin Press), which was published in April in the UK to rave reviews, Crane draws inspiration from a Japanese myth to inject a little bit of magic into the prosaic life of George, a middle-aged shop owner. Favorite character: Amanda, George's opinionated 20-something daughter, whose conversations with her bitchy Queen Bee friend Rachel are a delight. (You can read an excerpt from The Crane Wife here.)
Matthew Olshan's Marshlands (FSG) also has a hint of parable to it. Part allegory, part fable, it's the story of Gus, a man released from captivity in a foreign land to return home disoriented and alone. The novel then goes back to the beginning, before Gus' captivity—and to his first meeting with the woman who will become his savior. Olshan purposely blurs the boundaries between "us" and "them" to show that in conflict, there are no real winners. He also ably captures the appeal of the tribal culture. It's a big switch from his previous project, The Mighty LaLouche, a picture book that he collaborated on with illustrator Sophie Blackall—and would certainly be a stretch even for the readers of his works for teens, Finn and The Flown Sky.
While the more commercial authors seem to see branching out into YA or adult literature as a way of expanding their brand, the more literary ones seem to view it as a way to expand their writing muscles. Are you intrigued when an author changes genres?