A few weeks ago, I did something I've never done before.
I walked into my local bookstore and bought not one, not two, but four new hardbacks.
(Believe me when I say I'm notoriously stingy with my dollars, and before this I would wait for the paperbacks or peruse the used section. But I also paid off my mortgage at the beginning of the year, and eight months later, that sunk in to the point where I could actually let myself buy BOOKS.)
Two of these were sequels to books I already own. Two were from authors I'd never heard of, but I'd seen reviews in various places and thought they would be something I'd like.
All four of them were from the same genre--Young Adult.
Now, this is a new development. I've started making the YA section of my library a regular stop, even though I'm a *cough*few decades*cough* past the target audience. It's actually a rather pitiful little section that could use a major expansion, but it does hold such gems as Andrew Fukuda's fantastic Hunt series. I'm sure I've gotten a few sideways looks from the teenagers sitting up there browsing their Facebook pages, or playing whatever video games are popular nowadays, when I go to dig through the New Arrivals shelves.
Because as far as I can see--and this has been true for a good while--some of the best new fiction being published today is Young Adult.
Maybe The Hunger Games started it all. But the coming-of-age/angst-ridden/high school/sexual-awakening stories (Paul Zindel, Judy Blume et al) I remember aren't there now, not as they used to be. What I see now are dystopias. Tons of them. Along with science fiction and fantasy worlds of all stripes. Vampires, werewolves, and zombies abound (Carrie Ryan's Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy, for example, hands down the most depressing books I have ever read) along with lesser-known beasties like water horses (Maggie Stiefvater's fantastic The Scorpio Races).
All these books have teenage protagonists (usually female) dealing with life-and-death issues no teenager should ever have to deal with. First kisses, crushes on your best friend's sibling, and the infamous What I Did On My Summer Vacation essay are right out as problems in these kids' lives.
Instead, you have things like: a souped-up global warming scenario crossed with the Greek pantheon, and discovering you're really Persephone, snatched away from the Underworld, and your mother is the cause of the former; and humanity, decimated by a virus that rebirths a few select teenage "survivors" as intelligent, emotionless, non-decaying killer zombies.
(These are the plots of two of the books I bought. I'll review them in detail soon.)
I love this kind of stuff. It's right up my alley. I keep adding books to my Amazon Wish List, not necessarily to pick them up second-hand as soon as they come out (I've contributed my fair share of hardback royalties this year, I think), but mostly to keep track of them; it seems like there's another terrific-sounding book being released every day.
I don't know if I'll ever write Young Adult myself--everybody and their second cousin is doing it nowadays, it seems, which of course means it's in danger of overexposing itself. But even if it is in the middle of a boom-and-bust cycle, and the pendulum is going to swing back soon (as it always does), we're getting some wonderful stories in the meantime.
Let's enjoy them.