With all of the talk about TWILIGHT today and how it affected the young adult market, I started thinking about how I came to young adult books. It wasn’t through TWILIGHT–although I wouldn’t be ashamed if it was. Despite whatever flaws those books have, I love them because I care about the characters. Plus, I just love vampires. You could ask my parents about all the vampire shows and books I read/watched as a kid well before TWILIGHT. Anyway ….
I wish middle grade and young adult books had been so prevalent when I was growing up. The only MG/YA books I remember reading as a kid were Nancy Drew, The Boxcar Children, The Baby-Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High, and the R.L. Stine/Christopher Pike series, and I was a voracious reader. When I ran out of those, I raided my mom’s books, which happened to be romance novels, and I was hooked. I discovered Jane Austen my freshman year of high school–the ultimate romance novel. I went on to study English in college, happily reading my classics interspersed with romance, suspense, and mystery novels.
The first Harry Potter book came out while I was in college, and a few friends told me to read it, but I wasn’t interested. (Crazy, I know.) I didn’t read those until the first couple of movies came out and my husband and I decided to read them together. We’ve just started reading the first one to our kids. So Harry Potter didn’t turn me on to MG/YA, either.
It was a story idea. I had this dream one night for a story about a young boy, and it wouldn’t let go of me. I didn’t know anything about writing for kids, so I started researching. I attended a Writer’s Digest webinar with an agent who listed about a dozen MG/YA books she said aspiring writers should read. I went down the list in order. And as I started writing and researching other agents, I looked up what books they represented and read those. (That’s why I have such a handy list of MG/YA books agents represent.)
Over the past several years, I’ve gotten to the point where it’s rare for me to read an adult book. Usually it’s an author I’ve been reading for years or something an agent or author friend recommends where the premise stands out to me. Although there are exceptions in the adult market, often MG and YA books have more flexibility to move across genres. And I’ve gotten used to the faster pace of the stories. I find myself getting impatient with adult books, wanting them to move more quickly to the climax. Finding MG/YA books has changed my reading habits forever. And I love the conversations I already have with the kids I know about what books they should read :).
So that’s how I discovered the amazing world of MG/YA books. What about you? Was there a gateway book/series that led you to reading MG/YA? Or were you just smart and already knew how fabulous these books are?