When Blink Young Adult, an imprint of HarperFocus, launched five years ago, its mission was to fill what it saw as a huge gap in the YA market: books that reflect a “clean teen” ethos. For ages 13 and up, it publishes literature that is “PG-13,” with a hopeful message.
Its mission states that the “literature published by Blink is a positive reflection of what is inspiring and heartening while maintaining a tradition of imaginative and exciting storytelling.... Readers will see themselves in all facets of Blink’s literature and will find new levels of entertainment that enrich and uplift.”
It all started with independent bookstores. Before the imprint’s launch, Annette Bourland—senior v-p and group publisher, Zonderkidz & Blink, and interim acquisitions editor for Blink—traveled across the country, asking indie booksellers what they needed in their stores. “They said they needed to be able to hand-sell YA fiction that they could give to their customers with a clear conscience,” she says. “Many had questionable material given to them that they didn’t feel comfortable selling to families. I thought there was a need for really good literature that didn’t push the boundaries of what you might see in the movies or hear on the radio, just a really good book, without having to worry that your teen was picking up something that you haven’t talked to them about.”
She adds that Blink wants to give readers the opportunity to see there are many answers to the questions they are facing in life. Teens may feel social or peer pressure to think one way about a problem, but there are a lot of angles and colors and approaches to how they can face different issues. “Whether it’s decision making, grief, peer pressure, we want it to be multifaceted. We want teens to feel free to wrestle with the challenges of life, and to walk away from a book feeling like ‘that was a fun read and I am more empowered to face life,’ rather than having to look, act, or sound like everyone else around them,” says Bourland.
Fifty books later, Blink has accomplished a lot. On its list are works by acclaimed, bestselling writers including Kwame Alexander, Nikki Grimes, Denise Grover Swank, Heather Maclean, and CJ Lyons. Many of Blink’s titles have received starred reviews in PW, Kirkus, and Booklist, and are frequently chatted up on the social media blog Epic Reads.
Bourland couldn’t be more delighted: “We’ve found that there are agents with really good books to publish, but most publishers weren’t interested in PG-13 books. They were looking for more shock value. These great books wouldn’t be published if there wasn’t a place like Blink to publish them.”