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Did you read YA as a teen?

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The more I talk to people about my job as a teen librarian the more people say "There was nothing like that when I was a teen, I wish there had been!"  It amazes me how much library service to teens has changed over the years and it's exciting to be part of it.

That being said, I'm curious to know how many people who write YA read YA as a teen?  So many people I know went right from middle grade to adult books.  There was either no YA section, it was hidden or it was considered uncool compared to adult books. 

Some of my favorite YA's in middle and high school:

Anything by:
Christopher Pike
Lois Duncan
Cynthia Voigt
William Sleator

"The Tricksters" by Margaret Mahy
"Howl's Moving Castle" by Diana Wynne Jones
"This Place Has No Atmosphere" and "There's a Bat in Bunk Five" by Paula Danziger
"Granny Was a Buffer Girl" by Berlie Doherty
#1 - August 13, 2009, 09:41 AM
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I totally read YA as a young teen. I read some of the thin paperback romances (gobbled those up--loved them!). I also read Sweet Valley High (when I was 13-14). And of course, I loved Christopher Pike and Cynthia Voight too, among other things.
#2 - August 13, 2009, 09:54 AM

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I remember there being a young readers section (in the Library) that I plundered pretty heavily when I was in grade school through early HS (in the 80s). I don't remember there being separate YA and MG/Chapter Book sections as I see now in many of my local libraries. I think I had pretty much exhausted what I could find for fantasy/sf (my favorites) in the kids area by the time I was 14 or so, and at that point I moved on to reading more adult fantasy/sf. Until suddenly all this great YA and MG fantasy started popping up and I moved back to focusing on that!

Some of my favorites that I would consider more YA than MG include: Meredith Ann Pierce (Darkangel, etc), Robin McKinley (Hero and the Crown, etc), Anne McCaffrey (Harper Hall), Cynthia Voight (Jackaroo).
#3 - August 13, 2009, 11:02 AM
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I read a lot of Christopher Pike and RL Stine, but I was mostly reading regular/adult fantasy and sci fi in high school.  I think I read just about everything that Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey had written through 1995.
#4 - August 13, 2009, 11:30 AM
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I remember there being a young readers section (in the Library) that I plundered pretty heavily when I was in grade school through early HS (in the 80s). I don't remember there being separate YA and MG/Chapter Book sections as I see now in many of my local libraries. I think I had pretty much exhausted what I could find for fantasy/sf (my favorites) in the kids area by the time I was 14 or so, and at that point I moved on to reading more adult fantasy/sf. Until suddenly all this great YA and MG fantasy started popping up and I moved back to focusing on that!

Some of my favorites that I would consider more YA than MG include: Meredith Ann Pierce (Darkangel, etc), Robin McKinley (Hero and the Crown, etc), Anne McCaffrey (Harper Hall), Cynthia Voight (Jackaroo).

Can't believe I forgot Robin McKinley.  She's only the author of my favorite book ever, "The Hero and the Crown." ;)

Also loved Cynthia Voigt's fantasies--Jackaroo and On Fortune's Wheel.  Haven't gotten into her later ones as much though, but I read and reread those two.
#5 - August 13, 2009, 11:48 AM
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I loved Cynthia Voigt (Homecoming/Dicey's Song and a couple others that were spin-offs from some of her minor characters in those books), also loved Madeline L'Engle's, Meet the Austin's and the others in that series with Vicky and her siblings. I wanted to be Vicky! Of course read Judy Blume's Forever, and also liked some of Norma Fox Mazer's books.  

But, a lot of those were read around age 13 or so. By the time I was in high school, I was pretty much hooked on Danielle Steele, and V.C Andrews.
#6 - August 13, 2009, 11:50 AM
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YA is mostly all I read in high school–I was just thinking about that this morning. I read very little fantasy (not even Lewis or Tolkien until I was in my twenties!! Horrors!), probably because there was very little fantasy.

I read any cheesy teenage romance I could get my hands on, as well as Christopher Pike, Lois Duncan, Julian F Thompson, Richard Peck, Susan Beth Pfeiffer, Paula Danziger, Ellen Conford, Caroline B Cooney, S E Hinton, Paul Zindel...I probably still read some MG stuff, like Betsy Haynes and Ann M Martin...and a little bit of the odd YA sci-fi and some Heinlein.

Oh, and of course Cynthia Voigt. Of course

I never really stopped reading YA and moved on to adult fiction–I more just sort of scattered some adult into my steady diet of whatever YA I could find. (At 26, I began to wonder if there was something wrong with me, that I loved books about teens more than grownup books...I finally decided no.)

Oh, and I did read VC Andrews–but that was in grade school, before my parents figured out what it was.
#7 - August 13, 2009, 12:01 PM
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Can't believe I forgot Robin McKinley.  She's only the author of my favorite book ever, "The Hero and the Crown." ;)

The Blue Sword was my "favorite book" when I was a teen. I still remember being outraged at the snooty and disdainful reaction I got when I said so at a HS gifted and talented program I attended. My first experience of the prejudice against both YA and fantasy! Grrr. It still makes me angry!
#8 - August 13, 2009, 12:04 PM
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I was about 12 when I decided to finally explore the "teen" section of the library. It was discouraging, though -- it was about 1/6 the size of the wonderful MG section, and about half of it was yellowed paperbacks from the early '80s. But I was such a voracious reader that I tore my way through a lot of those paperbacks (they were Sweet Dreams Romances, mostly), and lots of Sweet Valley High and Christopher Pike and Fear Street and other paperback horror stuff.

Back then (early - mid 90s) YA wasn't really replicating what I liked in MG. I loved contemporary stories that were insightful, yet full of humor. Stuff like Lois Lowry's Anastasia Krupnik books, and Judy Blume's Superfudge, and Harriet the Spy, and stuff by Beverly Cleary and E.L. Konigsburg. YA seemed dreadfully dramatic and "lesson-y" compared to MG, and so many of the covers had either photos or paintings of really morose-looking teens. Oof. I didn't want my reading material to be so serious, you know? And I was, for some reason, fundamentally opposed to reading most SF or high fantasy or historical fiction back then. (I'm glad I eventually got over that.)

But I did like:

Paul Zindel
Norma Klein
Caroline B. Cooney
Lois Duncan
#9 - August 13, 2009, 12:08 PM

Some of my favorites that I would consider more YA than MG include: Meredith Ann Pierce (Darkangel, etc), Robin McKinley (Hero and the Crown, etc), Anne McCaffrey (Harper Hall), Cynthia Voight (Jackaroo).
These were some of my favorites, too, especially Anne McCaffrey and Cynthia Voigt. I also read Tamora Pierce's Lioness Quartet and L.J. Smith's vampire books (which are making a huge comeback these days, and there's a TV series this fall-- how neat!).

I always read a mix of adult, MG, and YA. I don't think I really paid much attention to what it was, especially because I worked through the books at the library pretty quickly, so I was just happy to have multiple sections to choose from.
#10 - August 13, 2009, 12:24 PM
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OH dude, I completely forgot about VC Andrews. I gobbled those books up. And RL Stine, too. LOL
#11 - August 13, 2009, 12:25 PM

Interesting how many of us are citing Cynthia Voigt.  I always thought it was cool that she wrote both contemporary realistic and fantasy.  Her sensibility has definitely informed me as a writer of contemporary realistic and her stories have resonated with me throughout my life.  I wonder if this is across the board with YA writers--if she could be considered the inspiration for a generation of YA authors in their 20s-40s?

Her first, Homecoming (what a tremendous debut) came out in 1981.

And it also seems pretty universal that Robin McKinley inspired a generation of fantasy writers.
#12 - August 13, 2009, 02:04 PM
Youth Services librarian and YA writer. Wisconsin SW (Madison area) Rep.
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I may not completely fit in this thread, as I'm currently in the last year of my teens, but I do remember being 10/11ish and not starting to peruse YA books because there weren't any to peruse!  I think the first one that caught my eye was Tamora Pierce's First Test, but I didn't read it at the time because ... um ... I thought it looked kind of boring.  (I am now a major Tamora Pierce fan, including the Protector of the Small series!)  I was lucky enough to spend my teen years during the first wave of YA fiction.  Now it's like it has always existed, but I know from experience it hasn't.
#13 - August 13, 2009, 03:03 PM
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Also loved Cynthia Voigt's fantasies--Jackaroo and On Fortune's Wheel.  Haven't gotten into her later ones as much though, but I read and reread those two.

But!  But!  The Wings of a Falcon is the best one!  I have never cried over a book the way I cried over that ending.

That said, I didn't discover her, or any other YA author, until I was an adult.  I can hardly believe I’m admitting this, but when I decided to read The Three Musketeers in High School I was APPALED that I’d have to venture into the YA section of the library to get it.  I was as embarrassed as a kid buying "protection" at the drugstore.  I'm glad things have changed.
#14 - August 13, 2009, 03:07 PM
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I may not completely fit in this thread, as I'm currently in the last year of my teens, but I do remember being 10/11ish and not starting to peruse YA books because there weren't any to peruse!  I think the first one that caught my eye was Tamora Pierce's First Test, but I didn't read it at the time because ... um ... I thought it looked kind of boring.  (I am now a major Tamora Pierce fan, including the Protector of the Small series!)  I was lucky enough to spend my teen years during the first wave of YA fiction.  Now it's like it has always existed, but I know from experience it hasn't.

Um... Ok, I want to make sure I'm clear on what you're saying.  You're 19, so you've been a teenager since 2003, right?  And you're saying there wasn't any YA before that?  Am I reading that right?

#15 - August 13, 2009, 03:19 PM

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I read almost exclusively YA as a teen. I probably started reading YA in the late 70s, when I entered junior high school, and read it at least until 1984-85, which was my first year of college. So, it was definitely out there. Some authors I remember reading were Judy Blume, Paul Zindel, Paula Danziger, Ellen Conford, Julian F. Thompson, Richard Peck, Katherine Paterson, Hila Colman, Marilyn Sachs, Lois Duncan, Madeleine L'Engle, Zibby Oneal, Norma Klein, Norma Fox Mazer, M.E. Kerr, S.E. Hinton, Francine Pascal (*before* Sweet Valley High, which I never read), and also some of the Sweet Dreams and Silhouette series romances, but I preferred the standalone books. I remember seeing Fast Times at Ridgemont High as a "book based on a true story" before the movie was ever made. I also remember one YA novel by science fiction writer Andre Norton.

A few of those went into what would be considered midgrade territory now (protagonists around 13 years old), but that was considered YA at the time. I still have some old paperbacks for that age group with "young adult" on the spine. But some were definitely at the upper end of YA and edgy, with one book I remember being labeled YA but having a 19-year-old protagonist (and sex, drugs, and suicide...). I went to the bookstore probably once a week to buy a new book or two, usually Waldenbooks or B. Dalton at the mall, or a local Texas chain then called Century Books, and I also remember going to Half-Price Books and other used bookstores, and also hanging out in the library a lot... and never finding what I wanted in the "grown-up" section. In the children's/YA section, I would pull book after book off the shelves to read the jacket copy or opening pages, and nearly always find a few that piqued my interest, but doing the same in the adult section always seemed frustrating. The adult novels usually had plots I couldn't relate to or just didn't care about, and the pacing was usually too slow for my tastes.

I am embarrassed how little adult fiction I read, or in fact have ever read! When I got to college and felt too old for YA, I only read a few novels a year (including some that had kid or young adult main characters, anyway!), because I never found a lot of adult books that appealed to me in the way midgrade and YA books had, until I was about 24 or 25 and realized I'd always wanted to write YA, so I gave myself permission to read YA again and write it.
#16 - August 13, 2009, 03:36 PM
« Last Edit: August 13, 2009, 03:47 PM by Alison »

I didn't want to quote the whole thing, Alison, but pretty much everything you just said is true of me, too. Every sentence I was like, yes, yes, me too, totally, exactly...The hours I would spend in B Dalton, poring over the backs of books...

Well said! Thanks for sharing!
#17 - August 13, 2009, 04:20 PM
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I didn't want to quote the whole thing, Alison, but pretty much everything you just said is true of me, too. Every sentence I was like, yes, yes, me too, totally, exactly...The hours I would spend in B Dalton, poring over the backs of books...

Well said! Thanks for sharing!

That's funny because I almost just quoted your original post and put "What she said"! ;) The only reason I didn't is that I never read Cynthia Voigt! Not sure why... I certainly remember seeing her books on the shelves. Probably just always found something else to read instead.
#18 - August 13, 2009, 04:24 PM

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I picked up Piers Anthony's A Spell For Chameleon at a librarian's suggestion as my first adult fantasy when I was in 4th or 5th grade and never looked back. I can't say that I'd ever read a single YA book until this last year, and even then I skew more MG. In fact until 07, all I read was adult fantasy and Sci-fi, only then delving into hardboiled detectives, mainstream fiction and essentially anything I can get my hands on...
#19 - August 13, 2009, 05:01 PM

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There wasn't really YA in my libraries that I remember, and I'm not that old (born in 81). Even some of those titles you mention as YA were just shelved in juvenile, like Howl's Moving Castle and Homecoming, so I just jumped from juvenile to adults. I think what we really have a lot more of now is what I write -- upper YA. Stuff that definitely could not get away being shelved in MG but has teen protagonists.
#20 - August 13, 2009, 06:10 PM

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Nope, I moved to adult books at age 12. I've got an old soul ...
Vijaya
#21 - August 13, 2009, 06:18 PM
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I am feeling really old. Nevertheless, there was a shelf in my hometown library between the children's and the adult sections, which would now be called YA. I remember feeling really intimidated when I took my first book from that section (L'Engle's THE ARM OF THE STARFISH) because the text seemed so small and there were no pictures. But after that, I read lots of YA, from Betty Cavanna romances to the Dragonriders of Pern to Heinlein juveniles. At the same time, I was reading a lot of science fiction and fantasy that was published for adults.
#22 - August 13, 2009, 07:01 PM

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I read a little YA, but was way more interested in magazines - Vogue, Seventeen, Cosmo. You know, the airbrushed stuff that does wonders for a teen's ego and body image.

As for novels, I mostly read whatever my Mom was reading, which were books on the best seller list.
#23 - August 13, 2009, 07:03 PM
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YA hadn't been invented when I was a teen, and if it had, Sister Louise Anne wouldn't have let us read it...
#24 - August 13, 2009, 07:12 PM

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I don't think I ever stopped reading YA. I do remember a thin time when I'd read all the library had, and couldn't find anything interesting in the adult section--but that was because I grew up in a retirement town, and most 15-year-olds aren't interested in stories of people trying to regain their lost youth in resorts in the Caribbean.

I still read very little adult lit.
#25 - August 13, 2009, 09:29 PM

There wasn't really YA in my libraries that I remember, and I'm not that old (born in 81). Even some of those titles you mention as YA were just shelved in juvenile, like Howl's Moving Castle and Homecoming, so I just jumped from juvenile to adults. I think what we really have a lot more of now is what I write -- upper YA. Stuff that definitely could not get away being shelved in MG but has teen protagonists.

I think the idea of YA as a valuable genre/subset is still relatively new.  Looking back on some of the mass-market paperbacks available then I am amazed by the poor quality.  Characters not talking like real teenagers would ever talk, predictable plots, etc.  Drivel still gets published but I feel like once upon a time "teen fiction" was seen with a kind of throwaway attitude.  It's part of the mindset where some people consider teens only as being partway between being a kid and being a grown-up, rather than acknowledging the teen years as valuable in and of themselves.  I am so pleased that publishers are willing to put so much money behind such good YA fiction and so pleased that there is such a wide variety to choose from.  And I am pleased that there is so much knowledge and so many life lessons to learn through fiction but never in a preachy way . . . compared to a lot of the trite stuff I read when I was a teen.  (There was good stuff when I was a teen too but it was much fewer and farther between than it is now.)

I love that having a teen space is becoming more de rigueur with libraries.  Even small libraries are rethinking their tight space and making areas designated for teens.  There are whole books on the topic.

http://www.amazon.com/Teen-Spaces-Step-Step-Makeover/dp/0838909698/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1250244266&sr=8-1

Like I said it's exciting to be writing YA during this time, and it's exciting to be a teen librarian and being part of the movement . . . I need another project like I need a hole in my head but I'm hoping to present teen programming ideas around the state of Florida next year and would like to start contributing journal articles and maybe writing a chapter in a professional book like this one based on my experience doing teen programs, developing the collection, doing book discussion groups, etc.  

Sorry for the ramble!  And thanks for all the replies to this thread, this is a great discussion.
#26 - August 14, 2009, 03:06 AM
« Last Edit: August 14, 2009, 03:08 AM by Amanda Coppedge »
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Nope, I moved to adult books at age 12. I've got an old soul ...
Vijaya

Me too, LOL!

When I got my "big girl" library card at 13, I went straight to the adult section and read all the horror and sci-fi I could get my hands on!

It's really weird that I didn't really start reading YA again until college.

I remember reading a lot of YA in middle school, though. I loved Judy Blume and Beverly Clearly, and the Sweet Valley High series (yes, it was the 80's).
#27 - August 14, 2009, 05:51 AM

Really interesting conversation.  I read voraciously up until about 13 and then I ran out of things to read.  I know that sounds dumb, but I had read most of the books that looked interesting in my library, and wasn't interested in the teenage romances and horror (Sweet Valley High, Christopher Pike, etc).  I think my local libraries must have looked a fair amount like yours, Maggie.  I just don't remember upper YA books that weren't romance or horror.  In high school I eventually moved on to adult sci-fi / fantasy.   What I would have given for some librarian or teacher to pass some good books my direction!  Though I'm still totally indebted to my 6th grade social studies teacher who told me to read ALANNA by Tamora Pierce.
#28 - August 14, 2009, 07:45 AM
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I think YA has always been with us, it just hasn't always been called YA.  (I read Treasure Island enough times as a kid.)  I graduated from HS in 1970 and I don't recall ever having heard the term YA until well after I started teaching; but of course look at the list of Newbery winners from the beginning and most of the early winners are truly YA.  I really think that the genre predates the term.

When I was growing up, our public library had a classification called YM (Young Moderns) which seemed aimed mostly at girls; I'm pretty sure this is where everything we now call YA would have been shelved.

And no, I didn't read a lot of it as a teen, I was far more interesting in reading history and biographies.  My love of fiction came along much later.
#29 - August 14, 2009, 08:12 AM

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Nothing was ever classified as YA when I was a teen.  I think if the subject matter was considered to advanced for the children's room, they placed it in the adult section.

I do know that in 6th grade, tests showed that I read and comprehended at an 11th grade level.  However this does not mean I left kids books behind, I just sort of read what appealed to me.  I read lots of mysteries - both kids, some that might be considered YA now and adult.  (By the time I was a Junior in HS I read all of the Agatha Christie novels that were in print (she was still alive for five more years).  I jumped all over the place with reading. 

For some odd reason when I transfered school districts I was placed in the 'slow' English class.  I remember that we were to go pick out a book from our teacher's desk for a book report.  He wouldn't let me do this because he saw I was reading Lord of the Flies on my own and made me do the report on that book.  I remember being disappointed because some of the books he had picked out looked interesting. Go figure. 

I was an avid mystery reader as soon as I discovered them.  I also loved the Childhood Biography series that used to exist when I was in elementary school.  Perhaps not always accruate, but they were a great read.

No YA section and you had to have an adult card to check out adult books. boo hiss.
#30 - August 14, 2009, 09:04 AM
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