Sep 10 2009 5:05pm

What YA Lit is and isn’t

This past year I’ve met with a lot of book clubs, several of which were adult book clubs. Many were surprised that The Adoration of Jenna Fox was a teen book. They had never read a teen book before—at least not since their own teen years. They didn’t really know what YA fiction was. They are not alone. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about young adult literature. Who writes it? Why do they write it? Who should read it? Who shouldn’t? What are the author’s responsibilities? What should their responsibilities be? What is YA lit? What is it not? Is it “safe” literature? Being a YA writer, all these questions make me feel almost subversive at times.

Can you imagine having these same suspicions, er, I mean, questions about any other kind of literature? Adult books for instance.

Why do those writers write stories about adults?
Science fiction? Shouldn’t those adults grow up and read real fiction?
Hemingway is just watered-down fiction when adults should be moving on to complex stuff like Kafka and Tolstoy.
Do adults really need to read McCarthy when we have Dickens? It was good enough for our grandparents.

(Or fill in the author substitutions of your choice.)

I wonder if everyone’s very strong opinions about this one segment of literature comes from our attitudes about the teen years? We fear them. We want teens to “get over it” quickly, and heck, let’s not mess with books that just dwell more on the teen years! Move on! How many times have you heard someone practically offer condolences to someone upon hearing they have teenagers? I’ve never understood that. Maybe that’s why I like writing about the teen experience. I find it amazing. Let’s face it. When we are teens we ARE adults, albeit young ones. Hm. Young. Adults. I wonder how they came up with that? And we are making important and complex decisions. It’s a fascinating period in life. Why shouldn’t there be books that explore it?

So back to some of the misconceptions and questions:

Who writes it?

People like me. People who find the teen years fascinating and the nuances of teen literature a challenge. I am not writing it as “practice” so I can one day write an adult book (I am asked that a lot.) Young adult books are not a lesser, watered-down version of adult books. They are not any easier or harder to read than adult books and they are certainly not any easier to write. They are just different. Just as with adult books, some teen books are easy and breezy and meant to be that way, and others, like Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, or Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan, are complex and mulit-layered. They can offer social commentary, as with The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, or The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart, while being immensely entertaining at the same time. They can examine our flaws and failures and our hopes and dreams in quiet, elegant prose as in Thursday’s Child by Sonya Hartnett, or with fun, quippy prose as in Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins.

I think sometimes there is still this basal reader mentality when it comes to teen books, like it is a stepping stone to the “grown-up stuff.” Basal Reader Year 10. Hm, no. It is simply its own unique type of literature that explores the teen experience.

Recently I’ve heard some discussion about the “responsibility” of YA books and YA authors. Oh, I hate that word when it comes to books. I’ve heard complaints at both ends of the spectrum, far left and far right, wanting books to “guide” readers one way or the other.  Their way, I imagine. Or not include sex or language or whatever, and sometimes the whatever is pretty ridiculous, under the guise that we must “protect” young minds. I have to say, I have seen just as much harm come to children who are over-protected as those who are not paid any mind at all. I have seen parents who sequester their children away from the world in order to protect them, but hey, the world is there, and one day the kid will be out in it. Do they really want to spring it on them cold turkey? Often the results aren’t pretty. Or wouldn’t they rather have their child test the waters while they are still under their wings and can come to them with questions?

But all of this is neither here nor there. The bottom line is that YA books are not meant to raise children. They are everything any adult book is. They are entertainment. They are a place to see ourselves. They are a place to get lost for a few hours. They are a place to make us think and wonder and imagine. They are a place to evoke anger, disagreement, discussion, and maybe tears. Books have no other responsibility than not to make the reader hate reading.

Who should read it?

Anyone who wants to. There are some folks who think YA shouldn’t be a classification at all. That teens shouldn’t be steered to YA books. They are “ready” for adult books. Of course they are! Adult books aren’t necessarily rocket science, ya know? But teens are also ready for YA books, and darn, if they just might not want to read a book that has characters that on some level might be like them. Where the character is voicing their thoughts and their experience. There is nothing wrong with wanting to see ourselves in books. Sometimes we want, and even need, to see our peers or own lives between the pages.

In some ways, I am fine with getting rid of the classification. Lump YA in with all the other books. However, while we are at it, let’s get rid of all the classifications. No mystery. No science fiction. No series fiction. No historical fiction. No romance. No self-help. No non-fiction. No graphic novels. Etc, etc, etc. Make the bookstore and library one big happy room of books in alphabetical order. Maybe we all need to venture beyond our usual reads? It might take a wretched long time to find the book that you want though. Maybe Dewey had a good system after all.

My point is, there are all kinds of books for all kinds of reasons. One is not lesser or more than the other. Books introduce us to different kinds of worlds and thank goodness there are so many to explore.

Finally, I might try to take a stab at some sort of characteristic that sets teen books apart and say teen books are short. I would be wrong. Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

I might say they always have a teen narrator and sensibility. I would be wrong. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.

I might say they end on a hopeful note. I would be wrong.  Inexcusable by Chris Lynch.

I might say that somewhere in the book they explore the teen experience. And maybe there I would be right. But the teen experience is just as varied as the “adult experience” or “senior experience” or “childhood experience” so that doesn’t narrow it down a whole lot either.

One thing I am happy about is that the audience for YA Lit is growing. More adults are discovering it and more older teens are doing the same. I guess for a subversive lot, we’re doing okay.  So tell me, what was the last teen book you read?

Mary E. Pearson is the author of five novels for teens, most recently, The Miles Between just out in September, and newly out in paperback, The Adoration of Jenna Fox which has been optioned by 20th Century Fox for a major motion picture and translated into thirteen languages, both from Henry Holt Books.

Eugene Myers
1. ecmyers
Thanks for clearing that up a little, Mary :) I usually tell people that the best way to understand YA (or at least begin to understand it) is to read it. The books you've mentioned in this post make for an excellent beginner list.

The last teen book I read was (Re)cycler by Lauren McLaughlin, but I'm on page 332 of Diana Peterfreund's Rampant and looking forward to the commute home...
2. alisonw
Probably the last teen book I read was SUNSHINE by Robin McKinley. Except, is that really a teen book? I mean, I first read it when I was a teenager, and I remember really enjoying it because it didn't talk down to me, or act like I couldn't handle the world. Now I'm 22 -- admittedly not far removed from the teen years -- and I still love that about the book. And many other technically teen books!
Chris Hall
3. bookwormchris
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Need to get a hold of Rampant.
4. Smog1
The last one I read was Looking for Alaska by John Green. I love YA because the scifi/fantasy there seems to be fearless and much more original then another LOtR ripoff
5. margot222
I wrote off YA lit for quite a while, but my niece insisted that I pick up EVERYTHING SUCKS by Hannah Friedman, and I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. It was witty, poignant, extremely well written, and touching. I enjoyed it more than any other book I've read this year, despite the fact that I am well out of the target age demographic. I think that this genre is a marvelous development and I hope it gets kids hooked on reading!

Sherwood Smith
6. Sherwood

During my stint as a teacher, I dealt with a lot of parents anxious to protect their kids from various aspects of adult life. I would give parents some reading guidelines tailored to their kid if the kid was known to me, but the bottom line was always "If you are worried, read the book first. Talk it over with your kid."

There's another aspect besides possible R rated stuff, violence, tough issues (and the whole Problem Novel situation is not new) and that is, teens have teen tastes.

There are some wonderful books being published for the teen reader now--brilliantly written, full of good ideas, complex characters, thoughtful treatments of tough issues. There are also books that many of us call crackfic--over-the-top situations, unbelievable characters, dialogue that hearkens back to Buffy's best seasons. Which one suddenly zooms to popularity among the teen audience? Very often the second one. But many times both--and also, teens will come back and try the first one after happily splashing about in a steady diet of the second.

I see people railing against the bad example that Twilight sets, but I know if I'd read that book at thirteen, I would have adored it. Well, come to think of it, at thirteen I was glomming down a lot of those early bodice rippers, with heroes pretty much like Edward Cullen for wooden stalkeryness, they just didn't sparkle. But I was also reading a phenomenal range of classics--and rereading old comfort fave, Enid Blyton. I can't see that any of them did me any harm (though a couple of the classics scared the willies out of me.)

Teens very often see different things in books than we old-time readers see. They're having fun with the equivalent of books (and comics) that our teachers and parents dismissed as trash. . . . one of the 'trash' books of my high school years was Lord of the Rings.
Wen Wen Yang
7. muteddragon
Last book was Patricia C. Wrede's new book, Thirteenth Child. A bit disappointed, but I suppose I'll have to wait for the rest of the series before making a judgment.
Sometimes books are placed in the teen section and it turns off adults. A friend saw _Mark of the Demon_ in the teen section and thought it was interesting but didn't pick it up. Now that I've recommended it to her (and explained there are no teens, no teen issues) she'll be giving the excerpt a look. Yay for passing on good books.
8. Kristan Hoffman
Hey, AMAZING post. Thank you. I hope you don't mind if I quote a tiny bit and link back to you?

I'll try to blog it later tonight or tomorrow, and you can find it at

I'm here via Bibliophile Stalker, btw.
9. Shveta Thakrar
Yes! This was awesome. Thank you.
Sandi Kallas
10. Sandikal
I just want to know if I'm the only person who remembers a time when there wasn't a YA section in libraries and bookstores? I was a teen in the Seventies and we had Juvenile books and Adult books. "Catcher in the Rye" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" would have been found in the adult fiction section, as they are today. If they were published today, we most likely would find them in YA. I think the classification is totally arbitrary and a marketing ploy.

Why isn't "The Secret Life of Bees" shelved with YA?
11. Alyson Beecher
I most recently read "Little Brother" by Cory Doctorow which was well written and enjoyable even for a non-computer geek. I have also read this summer...Libba Bray's Great and Terrible Beauty, Holly Black's Tithe, Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver and Lament, and the Adoration of Jenna Fox (which I adored)...and the list goes on. I love YA fiction...I think often times it is better written then some adult fiction.
12. Rob T.
Not counting Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, John Scalzi's Zoe's Tale (all of which were up for this year's Hugo) or Terry Pratchett's Nation (which should have been up for the Hugo), the last YA title I read was Blake Nelson's Paranoid Park. Having heard about Gus Van Sant's movie version from the indieWIRE critics poll (it placed 6th), I was intrigued to learn it was based on a YA novel, bought it (it wasn't in the local library), read it, and enjoyed it.

Though I don't obsess over the annual Locus poll the way I used to, I'm glad it currently has a YA category and hope to track down a few titles that show up there. At present the Locus-suggested YA title I'm most likely to read soon is Justine Larbalestier's How to Ditch Your Fairy.
13. MTG_Dublin
Many thanks, Mary, for a very thought-provoking post.

One thought provoked - maybe the 'Young Adult' label is a problem in itself, given the propensity to judge it to mean 'intermediate to progress toward adult fiction'?

Perhaps a better label would be akin to 'Teen Experience Novels', but something much more zing-ey than that, I'd hope...
Ian Gazzotti
14. Atrus
I've been able to get my hands on a lot of free-or-almost YA books these last few years and I must say that, with a few exceptions, they've all been wonderful reading. I became particularly fond of Michelle Paver's Chronicles of ancient darkness series (sadly just finished) and the teen fiction by Canadian publisher Orca Book.
15. Hannah E.
The last YA book I read was Sara Zarr's incredible SWEETHEARTS. I dare any adult to read that book and not think YA has a place among the best and most beautiful literary fiction.
Andrew Mason
16. AnotherAndrew
Sandikal: There were teenage books in the 70's (though as far as I can remember they weren't called YA); Penguin had a teenage line called Peacock, which was distinct from their children's line, Puffin (though I suspect handled by the same department; the Puffin Club, of which I was a member, publicised both).

And while some books now sold as YA/teenage would once have counted as adult, others would simply have counted as children's. What I typically see in a bookshop is an area marked 'Children's', in which the shelves are divided into sections marked, say, 5-7, 8-12, and teenage. I see no problem with using these classifications to direct readers to the kind of book they are likely to like, though of course intelligent children should realise that some books worth reading will be found outside 'their own' section.
Amy Young
17. ceara
I often tend to read YA books when I'm emotionally tired, just because the odds of them being anxiety-inducing (for a jaded 31-year-old) are lower than for a run-of-the-mill book off the general shelves. It's not a sure bet, but a safer one than many.

The last few included _Inkdeath_ (which was one of the exceptions, to be sure), _The Whisper of Glocken_, _The Hero and the Crown_, and _Black Unicorn_. This lineup makes it fairly apparent that I don't spend much time in the YA section of new bookstores, though, as three of the four books in that list are kind of old - I really need to do something about that.
18. Jessica Strider
I work at a bookstore and am constantly amazed at the people who, when told their 'adult' book is in the teen section become flustered (the best example is the Book Thief, which a lot of adults read in their book clubs). I see no problem with a YA section. I think it helps youth who want to read about issues that affect them find books.

The last teen novel I read was The Adoration of Jenna Fox, which I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here:

Thanks for writing an interesting, thought provoking book!
Liza .
19. aedifica
The last one I read was The Mislaid Magician by Wrede and Stevermer, which was a fun continuation of the series. I also recently read two of the Firebirds anthologies Sharyn November edited, they're very good!
Peter Nein
20. gimpols1908
Most recently I read Nation by Terry Prachett. I absolutely agree, there was nothing teen about that book except the age of the main characters. Some really difficult topics from infant death to first attraction to dealing with your family all being wiped out by a natural disaster...

Great book
Andy Leighton
21. andyl
Probably the last one I read (apart from the Hugo nominated ones + Pratchett's Nation) was Patrick Ness's The Knife Of Never Letting Go. I also enjoyed Stephen Baxter's The H-Bomb Girl.

I think that for me the best YA also offers something to the older reader - all the ones I have mentioned do.

I do think that there may be an issue with a widespread adoption of YA as a niche - that some teenagers will not feel comfortable stepping outside that marketing niche and picking up books which are not published as YA but are still perfectly readable and enjoyable by a teenager. This might be amplified by parents only picking from the YA shelves at the bookshop too.
22. JennaA
Excellent article! I'm 17 and I read a lot of YA fiction, but also have read my share of "adult" fiction as well, and I think nowadays there's an unfair stereotype about people who read YA. I think if we did merge the YA and adult the library would be a better place. :)

The last YA book I read was The Luxe by Anna Godbersen, which I just finished yesterday. Awesome book, I can't wait to read the rest of the series.
23. Norah
Thank you for this post! I'm constantly defending my choice of reading material and seem to be looked at sometimes as a specialist in something not as high brow or well-cultured as adult books. As a school librarian, there's nothing better than connecting middle school kids with books that they love to read - books about people like them who lead lives like theirs or go on adventures on which only the ink on the pages could take them. I also happen to think that YA literature is, in general, more satisfying, interesting, and thought-provoking than many adult books I've read.

I'm currently reading "Come Juneteenth" by Ann Rinaldi, one of my favorite YA authors. I also love all books by Donna Jo Napoli. "Savvy" by Ingrid Law was an amazing surprise of a gem. Kathleen Benner Duble will be visiting our school this year; her books "The Sacrifice" and "Hearts of Iron" are excellent. I could go on...

Thanks again!
Torie Atkinson
24. Torie
Excellent post, Mary--thank you for writing it. I never read YA until I was an adult. I wish I had discovered it as a teenager.

The last YA book I read was Ellen Klages' White Sands, Red Menace, which was excellent (just like its predecessor, The Green Glass Sea). Her prose is so clear and evocative and her characters are so rich and real. I fell in love with both books. They're the first I've read in a while that treat girls/young women as, you know, people. They may make mistakes but they're not stupid, and they have a strength and integrity that really stuck with me.
Dave Robinson
25. DaveRobinson
I don't like most YA. I buy it regularly.

I have a 16 yr old stepdaughter, and that's what she reads. She likes books about the teen experience, I like books about space battles. Different books for different people.

I know there are lots of good books in the category, and a lot more that aren't as good but are really popular.

As far as I'm concerned, what matters most is that people are reading, not what shelf of the bookstore or library the book comes from.
26. El reader
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Impossible by Nancy Werlin

Guardian by Julius Lester/ while listening to the audio of To Kill a Mockingbird- quite an experience!
27. Shannon M.
Maybe I'm not the best person to have agree with you because I even read--gasp--middle grade...and I'm 27 years old. But I've never found anything inferior about middle grade or teen fiction. Yes, some are shorter, and the characters are younger, but the stories are still captivating regardless of how old you are (in my humble opinion, at least). I just finished Catching Fire and am now working my way through the Ranger's Apprentice series, and after that I'll be reading Barry Lyga's Hero-Type. And I would recommend them to anyone of any age.

Personally, I wish they would treat books more like they do music. Sort it by genre, alphabetize it, and if it has a lot of language put a small parental warning or rating on it. I don't have to go to the "teen" section of the music store to find Paramore or Linkin Park or Taking Back Sunday--even though the majority of their fans are likely in that age demographic. Shoot, even true teen acts like Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus are lumped in with the rest of the pop albums. Why do books have to be any different? I think a lot more people would read YA if it weren't so often sold in a section with Dr. Seuss art on the walls.

Anyway, thanks for the post. Hopefully it will change some minds.
Mary Pearson
28. MaryPearson
I am loving all the book suggestions. Lots to check out.

ec, yeah, as clear as mud now, right?

Sherwood, I was at the other end of the spectrum with primary students--they were devouring Goose Bumps by the boatload--my feeling was if that is what got those eyes moving across the page, great. Your advice to parents to read first when in doubt is spot on. I think a lot of doubts are calmed when they actually read the book.

Kristan, feel free to quote and link.

Sandikal, I agree about The Secret Life of Bees. I think it is totally a marketing decision. It could have just as easily been published as YA.

Jessica, thanks for the review!

Dave, yes, I agree that's what matters most, that people are reading.

Shannon, no need to gasp. I read MG too. As CS Lewis said, "A book worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then."
29. Amanda R
Excellent post - I agree wholeheartedly.

As for the last YA I've read - just finished Just Another Hero (Sharon M. Draper) and Along for the Ride (Sarah Dessen). About to start Mississippi Jack (L.A. Meyer) as I've fallen way behind in the Bloody Jack books.

I also really enjoyed The Adoration of Jenna Fox and have recommended that one several times recently - so thanks!
30. MomOfSix
I would like to see books rated like movies, ie G, PG, PG-13, R...and with an explanation for the rating: brief sexual passages, graphic sex, violence, language.

I prefer books that I can share with my kids, so even though I can quickly scan a section I find offensive or gloss over the profanity, I do not want to recommend books containing these to my teens.

There is a big difference between a brief sexual encounter and a four-page, anatomically correct description of the same encounter. Rating the books would give some help to avoid the latter selections. And, as with movies, there could even be an age limit for purchasing books rated R.

With that in mind, the ratings should apply to the "classics" as well, some of which are not as pure as the driven snow. I am from a generation that was not "forced" to read the classics in school. We went through a time when the schools did not make students read old books, as they figured it did not really matter what we read, as long as we were reading something. So many parents are clueless as to the content of books like "The Scarlet Letter" or "To Kill a Mockingbird" and others whose storylines include adultery, rape, murder, torture.

The bottom line applies to books as it does to movies. Parents should never let their children see a movie, or read a book, they have not previewed themselves. Besides, it makes great fun to share the books with your kids; it gives you a chance to use the characters and quotes around the kitchen table, like a secret family language.
31. Nightmry
I recently read "Wake" by Lisa McMann. I loved this book, it was short, but very engaging and dealt with waking dreams (other people's) in a way I had never seen addressed before. Little Brother by Doctorow was awesome, as well.

I often think that YA is more inclusive than Adult reading. In adult, we make categories distinctions like Mystery, Romance, etc. which are often not made in YA areas. Also, YA authors tend to cross those boundaries easier than Adult authors -- I mean is Twilight a romance or a Fantasy novel... in most cases it is neither -- it is YA.
32. David Macinnis Gill
My name is David, and I write science fiction & fantasy books for teens. Like Mary, I write stories for teens to enjoy, hopefully on several levels. I'm also the parent of three teens and don't look to books to raise my children for me or for ratings as a shortcut for responsible parenting.

The last book for teens I read was Going Bovine by Libba Bray. I'm looking forward to Mary Robinette Kowal's Shades of Milk and Honey.
33. David Macinnis Gill
My name is David, and I write science fiction & fantasy books for teens. Like Mary, I write stories for teens to enjoy, hopefully on several levels. I'm also the parent of three teens and don't look to books to raise my children for me or for ratings as a shortcut for responsible parenting.

The last book for teens I read was Going Bovine by Libba Bray. I'm looking forward to Mary Robinette Kowal's Shades of Milk and Honey.
34. hapax
Last YA book I read was (um, looks in bookbag) THE REFORMED VAMPIRE SUPPORT GROUP by Catherine Jinks (highly recommend, but I can't think of anything by her I haven't loved).

I love YA literature. If I had to give a quick and dirty categorization, I would say that "YA literature are those books that allow new adults to try on being different people, before they decide who they are going to be." (Of course that covers a lot of traditional "adult" literature as well as "children's" literature, and you got a problem with that?

I love YA sff in particular, because for the most part it takes the whole "willing suspension of disbelief" idea seriously, and doesn't waste my time trying to convince me to buy the premise before getting to good stuff.
35. hypespringseternal
MomofSix@30, Shannon M@27

Wow do I disagree with the labeling idea. When you buy a cd, it's hard to know what's in it. Not so with a book. You can open a book and look through it and almost always get a good idea for what is inside. Every once in a while a book will be misleading, there will be a light and fluffy book with a suicide ending, or a clean cut book with sudden foul language, but usually those things are telegraphed in the cover copy, or in the first few pages. That's better information than you will EVER get out of a stupid label. And you won't have some industry mook trying to tell you how you should judge books for your kids.
36. kathleen duey
Well said! I think YA is the bravest, most interesting category in all of bookworld now. And it is written for people who are wide open to possibility, ideas, and experience.
For a writer?

Thanks for your wonderful books!
37. Isis222
I loved Everything Sucks too!
Sam Rateliff
38. savings
I haven't read YA yet, but I'm intrigued now.
39. DonnaG
All I have to say is THANK YOU! I'm an "adult" YA author (and avid reader!), and it's so frustrating to have people ask me why I write "kids'" books. So few adults understand the value of YA novels, and maybe it's because the genre didn't really start to flourish until the past 15 years. Slowly but surely, the readership base is growing (the YA book blogging universe is incredible!).

I used to feel embarrassed being a college student (and now a working adult) buying YA titles, but now I'm proud of it! "Adult" books rarely capture my interest like YA.

I joke that YA authors have to work harder to write engaging novels because they have the most fickle and critical audience around -- but once you hook them, they're dedicated.
40. kittent
The last YA book I read was The Adoration of Jenna Fox because I saw this post. Great book.

I love YA lit and when I buy things for my grandchildren (almost 16 and almost 13) I read it first...not because it might be "inappropriate" but because I might never get the chance to borrow it back.
Fuzzy Gerdes
41. fuzzy
The last YA book I read was The Magic Thief: Lost by Sarah Prineas, unless that's a children's book. Oh, those pesky classifications.

A minor correction: the author of the The Book Thief is Markus Zusak
42. Dawn1
I've been reading YA books since long before they were called that. I am currently a 'young' 54 :)

In recent years, I've been under the impression that the "YA" classification (in libraries anyway) had more to do with the age of the protagonist than it did with the age of the reader. For me, it doesn't really matter one way or the other. They all have words in them, and I enjoy how different authors put those words together -- no matter what the classification is. Which means I would buy YA books even if they were called something else.
43. SteveC
This is a multifaceted topic, and almost demands breaking down into subcategories. These would be SF versus mainstream and YA fiction written today versus the equivalent when I was a teen.

I grew up with the Winston Juveniles, and later the Heinlein Scribner juveniles. Plus hardback series both SF and non-sf including Tom Swift Jr. Tom Corbett Space Cadet, The Hardy Boys, Rick Brant, Tom Quest and Bomba the Jungle Boy.

Interestingly, by the time I discovered Heinlein I was reading "adult" SF and didn't really distinguish between Heinlein's juveniles and the Future History books.

Fast forward to the present. I enjoy non-sf YA fiction for the window it offers into teen culture. I really enjoy the "Poseur" series by Rachel Maude, as well as "Audrey Wait" by Robin Benway.

Then I discovered Scott Westerfeld via his non-SF "So Yesterday" and found out he had also written both YA and conventional SF. I'm reading the Ugly series and so far I've finished "Uglies" and "Extras" (Okay, I'm taking them out of order....and?)

I've also tried to read the Gossip Girl books, mainly because Josh Schwartz was involved with the TV show and I really admired what he did with the OC. But I can't get into the books.

Presently I'm about halfway through "Red Lightning" by John Varley. Despite having a teen protagonist who is also the narrator, it is inexplicably shelved under SF (which it is) rather than YA which, arguably, it also is.

Additionally, I'm in the beginning stages of a first novel which will be YA, about a group of high school kids who start a band and stand up for the right be be different. (Working title "Dandelion Lawn"). I'm contemplating the issue of cussing, and I've decided to leave most of it out, except for "sucks" and perhaps the occasional b-word. This isn't because the kids don't let fly on occasion - my protagonist's dad was in the Navy and she's heard plenty ans uses it on occasion. But, my protagonist is also the narrator, as she writes the story of how the band Dandelion Lawn came to be, and she has respect for the diversity of their fan base and potential readers - everybody from very young kids to people's grandmothers. And, out of that respect, she prefers not to put cusswords in her audience's face.

44. JanniLS
Wonderful post--thank you.

My last YA was Kathleen Duey's SACRED SCARS, middle book of the trilogy begun with SKIN HUNGER. Both of which can easily stand their ground amid books from any section of the bookstore or library, IMHO.
45. Novashannon
I am surprised that anyone would have to explain "young Adult" books to anyone! I read them all the time, despite being decades past my teen years. I think any YA book could be just put in the adult section, but if having their own section makes teens want to read more, then it is good. O have never met anyone who refused to read a book ust because it is YA, but I think many adults do not think to browse that section. Their loss!
46. Jo.
I think the last thing I read that was more YA was the Twilight series, unless The Shape-changer's Wife by Sharon Shinn is considered YA (a wonderful short read I might add). I'm 26 and gobbled the whole 4 books of Twilight down within 3 weeks. To each their own, right?

I think this article could also be posed towards the graphic novel/manga section in book stores. Yes, they are "cartoons" but their subjects are often much more adult than you'd expect. Who should read them? Well I've seen people from the ages of about 12 to people in their 30's and 40's browsing the section, myself included. My mother has been trying to get me to give away my collection to my dad's old small town library for "kids" to enjoy. Heck, I'm still a kid and I enjoy em.

I find myself browsing the fantasy section and graphic novel section more, but I still like to go and see what YA books are out. I actually prefer looking in these sections as opposed to the Fiction section because it's much harder to find the type of books I like in the big range of plots that the Fiction section holds. Maybe the Fiction section could be divided into sub-genres?
47. Gimlis
I'm really sick of YA. Everything's a bad Twilight clone filled with romance and love triangles now. I won't be the last person who turns on this genre b/c of excessive romance, either.
48. Lisa Potts
Excellent post, Mary. I'm tired of having to explain myself every time a co-worker sees my current reading selection sitting on my desk. "No, this doesn't belong to my daughter" has become part of my daily vocabulary.

On the plus side, my kids think I ROCK!
Robert James
49. DocJames
Heinlein's juveniles were the YA books of the late forties and fifties, and are often still thought of as the best things he ever wrote by many people.

My personal favorite YA, although not SF, is Cynthia Voigt's "The Runner." I also think this is one of the better novels of the last half of the twentieth century, and nobody knows about it because it is written for teens. I've been teaching it for the past sixteen years, and it has this amazing statistic: I have never met a student who said they didn't like it. This is beyond rare; students tell me all the time what they think about other books, and few books ever get above 50% approval by these informal and totally unscientific counts. I know few other books that take on the tasks of civilization, racism, Vietnam, the sixties, growing up, friendship, the role of art, death, and cross country. Ok, no other books do

It's just wonderful.
50. Laurence Knighton
Lousy luck followed a rare tomebeetle when he zigged instead of zagged and stumbled
into a yellow spinspider's silky web. He should have been wrapped with silk and hung up
to cure like spiders do so very well. Only, to elude a sticky situation, the clever beetle
bartered a story for a bit of the spider's time.

Narrated in the classic spirit of 1001 Arabian Nights, the stories are a collection of the
beetle's travels throughout the fantastical world of Tossledowns where imagination lives
on every page.

A world of magical farriflies, wogs, and waterwarts, Tossledowns is a place where
red-faced howlergoons frequent the infamous Bloodbridge, where sour grippers bicker over
random nonsense and a prankish ghost curls her wild red hair into a frightening bow. It's
about places like windy Scatterocks and the eerie muddy waters of Perchmire Swamp-and
towns like Lowdly, Barfoo, Nanknanny, and the teensiest of all, Mynoot, somewhere out in
the vast Tunder.

Might you find interest in this juvenile reader fantasy series, be sure to visit my web
preview at:

Thanks in advance, I hope you enjoy the read.

Laurence Knighton

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