Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Random question of the week: Did you read YA as a YA?

Lately I've been reading more "grown-up" books, but like many others here, I am usually on a steady diet of YA novels. But did you read actual YA books when you were a YA yourself? For some people, like Margaret, I know that only means a few years ago, but for others of us, it is a good chunk of years ago. So, when were you a teenager and what did you read? Did you read YA, or jump straight into adult books? How did you find your books (on your own, neighborhood librarian, through friends, etc)? I'm curious to know if you remember any YA books that really stood out, or that were talked about/controversial, or if the concept of YA even registered on your radar. I'll have to answer this question later myself, but I just wanted to throw it out there for now.

10 comments:

Jess said...

Good question! I was a teenager/YA in the 1990s, give or take a year. It's hard to say exactly what I read, since I read just about everything I could find, but I do think by the time I was a teen it was mostly adult books, maybe with some YA. But thinking of the YA books, I remember them being older (as in not contemporary to the '90s, published in the '60s-'80s) mostly. I wonder why that was? I don't think I ever really quite realized there were current YA books I could read. Very strange. I mostly found books on my own, and through recommendations from teachers and mom (maybe this is why the YA books were older?). Though I didn't feel embarrassed or childish reading YA books as a teen, I don't think I ever really discovered contemporary YA until college. I worked in a library and had to make lists of recommended children's and YA books for education majors. Then I had a bunch of new books to read!

Amanda said...

Since I am 30 (much like Jess will be next month!), I too was a teenager in the 90s. Also like Jess, it somehow totally escaped me that there was a whole world of contemporary YA books out there. I read A TON as a child, though a lot of it was series fiction (Ann M. Martin, Sweet Valley books, Christopher Pike, and other such books). By the time I was reaching my teen years, I just moved right on to adult books. In high school, I really liked Armistead Maupin, Michael Chabon, Douglas Coupland, John Irving, and so on. My family always bought a lot of books, but I don't ever once remember looking at the teen section. I got ideas for what to read from a high school journalism teacher (hi, Annette!), my friends, and by picking up books by authors who'd have a blurb on the jacket of a book I already liked. I guess it just never crossed my mind that there were YA books out there. I was like, well, it's time to stop reading The Babysitters Club, I wonder what's on my parents' bookshelves? In college, I liked to study tucked back in the children's section, where no one ever went, and I started to pick up YA books there. So, again like Jess, it wasn't until I was in my 20s that I really started to read books specifically written for teenagers (I think this explains an awful lot!).

Dawn said...

Ooh, am I the eldest of this group at 33? I guess the timing of my teen years doesn't matter as much as what kind of reader I was at the time (though I do wonder what I would have done had Rachel Cohn or John Green been publishing books in those days...), but I too made the jump from middle grade to adult books except for the occasional Cormier or Zindel title. Judy Blume was always a favorite, but I had read all her YA books before I was 13. It wasn't until Cathie Mercier's Children's Lit seminar, taken when I was a sophomore, that really uncorked my love and respect for YA.

Julie said...

I had a very similar experience to what you've all said already - jumped straight from Sweet Valley High to whatever was on my parents' bookshelves. I think in part I avoided YA because in my very small public library, there was a great children's section in a bright, cheery room. One day the mean librarian, in an attempt to "shape" my reading, showed me their "new" YA section - it was in a tiny room that may have once been the mudroom, back when the small library was a house. The books (all 2 dozen of them) were propped on a 2 x 4 that itself rested on a bunch of concrete blocks. The books were dusty and old, and most of them were in the "young girl with distant parents is kidnapped, develops amnesia, and no one believes her story except the hunky cop" Joan Lowery Nixon vein. (Apologies to Nixon fans - sometimes I like plots like that, anyway.) So it was this totally unappealing space and I swore off YA. Then many years pass and I meet Amanda and I realize how cool YA is and that's about all I want to read! Now I'm holding Libba Bray accountable...

rebecca said...

dawn, you're certainly not the oldest: i'm 38. i read YA all along and never stopped. never grew out of it.

Leo Landry said...

I seem to have had a different experience as a teen in the late seventies! Although I devoured books as an elementary-aged kid, I wasn't that big of a reader in high school -- I HATED anything that I HAD to read for school. Therefore, I ended up going the route of Stephen King and various other types of 'horror' novels (that whole 'boy' thing of "cool! listen to how gross and disgusting this is!). I never really had a good librarian (or other type of adult that read) to guide me to more 'literary' choices, or even YA choices. So hear I am now at the age of 44 in a YA book discussion group!

Cassandra Mortmain said...

It's so funny to be asked this question by you Amanda, and on a blog shared with Leo, Erica and Sherry no less, because I feel like all four of you must already know my answer so well. For everyone not affiliated with the Children's Bookshop, however, here goes:

I most definitely read YA as a YA, and almost nothing else. I would devour books in a day or two and read them during classesy craftily hidden them inside my textbooks and read them on the bus on my way home and read them under bushes, on top of walls, and in trees when the weather was good and read them when I was supposed to be doing homework and I really only put them down ever to pick up an Agatha Christie novel.

As for how I found what to read, I had a couple of good methods. First: plundering my older brother's bookshelves. Many EPIC BATTLES have since been fought over which copy of what belongs to whom, and much bartering has been bartered over certain coveted but undisputed titles (read: I want his hardcover first edition Dealing with Dragons books. He won't trade them for anything but my signed first edition His Dark Materials books. I am obviously NOT going to trade those. And so instead I whine.)

In addition to this wealth of books, I was lucky enough to have a next door neighbor who was a third grade teacher who a) adored me b)had excellent taste. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, she spoiled me rotten with toys and art supplies and, best of all, books and gift certificates from the Children's Bookshop. To this day I think I *still* have credit there- I am surprised we haven't dispensed with the gift certificates altogether, and simply set up a tab . Thanks to the absolutely perfect staff at this absolutely perfect store, I was led to books both old and new that I never would have found otherwise. You guys were- and are- a wonderful resource.

Last but not least, although i did not get many recommendations from my local librarian, but if I found an author I liked, the library was my next stop, and their entire published catalog my goal therein. I'd go on Lloyd Alexander kicks, or Joan Aiken kicks, or Lois Duncan kicks and I would absolutely clear shelves out. This, incidentally, is how I have read so much Agatha Christie- I'd take her books out 6 or so at a time, and neither I nor the library ever ran out of titles. Mostly, I was a fantasy junkie, and still am, and I think I read as much children's and YA as I did because I was a fantasy junkie who didn't also happen to be male, sexually frustrated, or possessed of violent tendencies (despite the Agatha Christie obsession), so the adult fantasy market had little to offer me.

lindamaria said...

I am a virgin blogger and I'm not sure I know how to do this. I am really, really old (almost 65) and they didn't have YA lit when I was growing up. I devoured everything from the classics to dog books starting when I was about seven. I didn't get into YA lit until I was an adult and thus began a serious addiction.

Sharona said...

I was an obsessive library user (although I never ever ever spoke to anyone there) who ate YA books alive, looking for romance, disaster, heartbreak, and really good sex scenes. Doesn't everyone?

kristin said...

I seem to be like some others who've posted, in that I didn't really know about contemporary YA when I was growing up (I'm 31). I wonder why this is? The YA I read was a lot like Jess's-- older stuff. And it wasn't until the Simmons YA class that I began reading contemporary YA. This is weird! I wonder if it's different for teenagers now? Are kids more tuned in to what's currently being published, and if so, why? Or were we the anomalies? Should we have known about contemporary YA? Can I blame my library?