Looking for a good book about secret passages, vampire love or the cool habits of nerds? How about a kid brother with bone cancer or the realities of life and death up close and personal? Pop poetry, Russian history, smart investment strategies? If this wide range of topics should bring to mind many different locations in many local libraries, book stores, or on the Internet, guess again. It’s all available in Young Adult, aka YA, books where the topics suggested above are just the tip of the iceberg – or better put, just a shelf reach away.

Aimed at an audience from about 12 to 17 or 18 years old, YA has something for everyone. There’s books for middle-grade readers, teens and young adults; there’s fiction, poetry, fantasy, sci-fi and more. Name it, it’s there. In a May 2013 Los Angeles Times article, Carolyn Kellogg writes, “new young adult imprints have been launched or announced by more than a dozen publishers, operating across all adult genres. Except erotica (so far).”

At Powell’s Books in Portland, there are seven bays and two freestanding kiosks chock-full of YA books. “It’s been this big for two or three years, and we’re expanding it,” said Glorid Moe, who’s been at Powell’s for 28 years. “It depends on the person, but often little kids start reading books written specifically for their age group and around 10 or 12 years old start jumping into YA books. Then, at 15, they continue to read YA but also transition into adult literature.” Moe says there are some great YA writers out there. “Sometimes they are better than authors writing adult literature. And many established adult authors, like Joyce Carol Oates and Steven King, are crossover writers,” she said. “I read a lot, and I like YA books.”

Moe is far from alone. More than half of consumers of YA books aren’t all that young – at least according to a 2012 study by Bowker Market Research, an international company that explores the changing nature of publishing for kids. “Fully 55 percent of buyers of works that are designated YA books are 18 or older, with the largest segment aged 30 to 44, a group that alone accounted for 28 percent of YA sales,” the study said. “And adults aren’t just purchasing for others – when asked about the intended recipient, they report that 78 percent of the time they are purchasing books for their own reading.”

At Seaside’s Public Library, YA librarian Julie Handyside says that long before her arrival a YA room was on the want list for the new library. The wish is now a reality. There is a Young Reader’s Room stocked with computer terminals, new books and selected YA series, including Manga, a popular Japanese-style illustrated comic book style that’s read from the back to front. YA magazines have a rack with age-specific titles, including J14 Teen Celebrity, Sports Illustrated Kids and Teen Vogue with its advice on hot fashion. Handyside holds a weekly Tuesday teen event, and there is a summer reading program specificly for young adults.

“There’s no lack of crossover of adult topics into YA,” said Kay Aya, the YA book expert at Cannon Beach Books. “Scott Westerfeld’s ‘Pretties’ and ‘Uglies’ takes on plastic surgery. Madeleine L’Engle, author of ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ wrote dozens of books covering all kinds of real life topics including religion, faith and modern science.” YA books often run in a series – a way for authors to delve deep into character development and full-fleshed imaginary worlds. “We’ll find (kids) standing on the porch at 10 a.m. waiting for the store to open to get the next in a series.”

The phenomenal success of series like Harry Potter, “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games,” each selling multi-millions of copies in a multitude of countries, leaves no doubt that the YA market is ready to read and wanting more – meaning imagination is alive and well for every age of YA readers. Now go grab a book and find out what or who lurks, loves, bites or begs but most of all surprises. And don’t forget to pass it on.

   

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