Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Tuesday Thoughts: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love YA

I was recently asked to take part in a feature that the fabulous M and Little M of We Sat Down are doing on Boundaries in YA Fiction. It's going to run on Thursday, I believe - so check their site then for it! - but it got me thinking about my history in reading children's and YA books... so here it is.

I used to read a lot as a kid myself but generally went for older stories, such as the Jennings, Just William, Chalet School and Abbey Girls series. I wasn't aware of a huge amount of good stuff being released for children in the late eighties and early nineties when I was growing up - honourable exceptions going to Christopher Pike, Judy Blume, Paula Danziger, and possibly a few others I've forgotten. I moved on to adult novels, including vast amounts of crime - Agatha Christie, Reginald Hill and Ruth Rendell being favourites of the time, while I also enjoyed the work of authors such as Lyn Andrews, Judy Astley - still a favourite - and Mike Gayle.

About 10 years ago, though, I was looking for something different to read and borrowed my sister's copy of The Past, The Present and The Loud, Loud Girl, the first in Karen McCombie's Ally's World series. I was hooked immediately - and it cost me a fortune because I was reading faster than she was so ended up buying the nine she hadn't got myself! That's more of an MG series than YA, but it opened my eyes to the children's and teen sections of the bookshops for the first time in a while. I picked up Cecily Von Ziegesar's Gossip Girl, which was relatively new at the time - long before the travesty of a TV adaptation - and the snarky voice, wonderful narration, and decidedly more adult plot than I was used to in a teen book had me hooked.

Even then, I was splitting my reading relatively equally between adult and YA/MG books for the next six or seven years, until I found the fabulous Bookbag site. I started reviewing for them, reviewed a couple of adult books with mixed success, grabbed some YA and MG ones and found I had much more to say about them. LJ Smith's Dark Visions bind-up and Lauren Kate's Fallen were the first two YA novels I reviewed and I basically raved about both of them, while I found a few flaws in Rick Yancey's The Terror Beneath, first in his Monstrumologist series, but had lots to say about it. (Strangely, I've reread all three recently - and The Terror Beneath is by far the best on second reading!)

I'd now say I read about 90% YA or MG, with the exceptions being a few adult series I'm completely hooked on - Daniel Abraham's The Dagger and the Coin being the stand out - and an occassional literary fiction-type book I take a chance on for the Bookbag, which paid off massively when I was able to review the fantastic Sri Lankan novel Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka and the Danish seafaring epic We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen.

I'd love to hear how long my readers have been fans of YA for! Leave a comment below if you have a story to share.

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