Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Salon: YA Musing and Reading Omnivorously

This past week has been Spring Break for my kids. Aside from a quick long weekend to visit family, we have mostly stayed at home. But a vacation for me is not complete without a visit (or three) to a bookstore (or three) and my children usually jump at the chance to come with me. Not only do they like books, but they like browsing in bookstores much more than the average bear. This is generally a good thing but can also be an expensive thing since each of them can amass quite a stack of "must haves" almost as fast as I can. So it was a bit of a surprise when my 16 year old daughter came away from the first bookstore (I wasn't kidding about three of them, by the way) with only one book that she needed for school. She had browsed through all of the likely YA offerings and come up empty.  (Knowing our family, she already owns everything that was even half appealing.)  I suggested that at 16 she was more than welcome to look in the regular fiction section as well. She didn't want to. And that led me to thinking about YA as versus "adult" fiction.

When I was growing up, there wasn't nearly the YA market there is now. Or at the least, there wasn't a dedicated section of fiction marketed specifically to kids on the verge of adulthood so I was reading what would now be considered "adult" fiction from a very early age. I'm sure there were books coming out in the 80s that would be designated YA if they were being released today but I'm having trouble thinking of too many of them. Are there really more books being released today that fit this demographic than there used to be? Or does it just seem that way because some marketing genius somewhere decided to segregate the books into these subsets and go directly for their target audience? Are books without teenaged main characters less appealing to these readers? If yes, is that because they have so many choices, conveniently shelved together for ease of discovery, that offer main characters of an age with them or is it something else entirely? I don't really have any answers and I'm not suggesting that my daughter needs to or should "age out" of the YA books but I have to admit that it made me sad that she didn't even want to consider looking in the general fiction shelves when she didn't find anything in the YA section. After all, I occasionally browse through the YA myself to see if there's anything of interest (for me as well as for her). I guess I want her (and her brothers) to be omnivorous readers, not restricting themselves to one area just because it is marketed to them. After all, there are joys to be found in every section of a bookstore, although to be honest, I've not yet found any for myself in the business section. ;-)  Do you browse in many sections of the bookstore or do you restrict yourself to one tried and true spot?

This week's reading adventures were not many, it being spring break and all. The weather has been beautiful and has drawn me outside to work on my flower beds (I'm not a very green thumb though) and play some tennis among other things but I did still get in a little reading. First, I spent the better part of the week in the back country of eighteenth century North Carolina with a Highland Scot and his time travelling wife. Then I jumped into the very end of the Regency period in Britain with a married couple getting to know one another after a two year period apart in which they both changed into different, much more confident people. And now I am in Seattle with a crew of freshman rowers as they come together on their road to the 1936 Olympics. Where have your reading travels taken you this past week?


  1. I'm not terribly sure what YA means. I don't remember reading anything I'd call YA as a teen. I do remember when my mom brought home Gone With the Wind for me. I never looked back.

  2. I'm almost positive there was very little "YA" books when I was a teen. There was Nancy Drew and some other mystery type book - Phyllis Whitney wrote some kid mysteries along with her adult romantic suspense. I kind of moved from Nancy Drew to Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney and Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters when I was in junior high - at the librarian's suggestion. I think there are more books now that feature teen characters. Wonder what we would have read if those had been more available when we were younger? Not sure. Interesting question though.

  3. Perhaps your daughter is ready to make the jump from YA to Emerging adult books. The characters in these books are a bit older and often in the first or early years of college. Another thing you might look into are ALEX AWARD books. Every year the Young Services division of the Amer. Library Assoc. selects ten adult books which have crossover appeal for teens. Often these books are a bit edgier that your general adult books, the kind of stuff that appeal to teens. The Martian by Andy Weir is one I recommend that is an Alex Award book. READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline and Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore are two others. For the full list check out the link
    Hope you find this helpful for your daughter.

    My Sunday Salon

  4. I completely agree on the YA front. I'm in my mid-late 40s and also went from Nancy Drew to adult fiction. I do remember some 'Sweet Dreams' teen romance novels, but I recall getting into Agatha Christie and Perry Mason in my mid-late teens!


  5. I think there is a lot more to offer on the YA front these days. I know that I jumped headlong into adult books at an early age. But of course I am nearly 70, so that will tell you something. I did not travel nearly as far as you did this week. Only to Texas to visit a young woman opening a cooking store called Grate Expectations.


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