Five years ago:
I am in the bookstore, surreptitiously checking out the YA titles.
The saleswoman comes up behind me. "Anything I can help you find?"
I jump like I've been caught stealing. "No. Yes. Well, what are some really good YA books?"
"Hmmm. Depends. What age is the child you're buying the book for?"
"Excuse me?" Her painted lips have gone slack and one of her eyebrows disappears underneath her bangs.
"Thirteen...something... like that. You know, around there."
"Oh!" Obvious relief registers on the woman's face. "I thought you said...never mind. Let me show you these..."
Two years ago:
I'm at the YA shelf again. The saleslady comes up. "Can I help you find something?"
"What's good?" I motion to the stacks of books on angels and werewolves.
"Depends. Who is it for?"
I hesitate a millisecond. Then I say, "Me."
The woman whips her head around to see who else is in the store and squeezes my shoulder excitedly. "Oh my God! Wasn't The Hunger Games just fantastic!?!?"
I still make my trips to the bookstore, but they are now trips born out of guilt: I don't want to let my local business down. But most of the time I turn on my Kindle. Do the one-click. Buy as many books as I want immediately, no matter how inappropriate for my age.
According to the latest news, I'm not alone. Over 50% of YA readers are more adult than young. It's no longer something to be embarrassed about. Go on Goodreads and you'll find thousands of "mature" adults listing YA as one of their interests. (And to respond to a comment made by an acquaintance: many of us have degrees and hold down jobs at places other than Dairy Queen, you literary snob!)
So what is it? Why does YA attract not only high school students, but college graduates as well?
I'll talk about why I like it in the next post. Right now I'm wondering: how about you?