"Back in my day..."
Isn't that something my grandpa used to say? Yeesh. I swear, I'm not really that old! But to be honest, things have definitely changed since I was reading "Young Adult" books.
At work, we have this locker upstairs. It's full of the most random collection of books. I have no idea why it's there. I have no idea whose books they were. But every once in a while, when I forget my book at lunch, and there's nothing else to read in the kitchen, I'll grab one of them.
Lately, I've run into a lot of books by Caroline B. Cooney. I remember reading The Face on the Milk Carton when I was in junior high, and I got to thinking about the other books I read back then. I read some of the Sweet Valley High series, but I wasn't a big fan. However, I was a HUGE fan of Lurlene McDaniel - Six Months to Live, I Want to Live, Sixteen and Dying... I owned the entire Dawn Rochelle series, and most of the One Last Wish series, and I read them over and over and over again. And that just might have been the extent of my "Young Adult" reading. Honestly, back in the early 90's, there wasn't nearly as much to choose from. The YA section of my local library was made up of four shelves (not four shelving units, just four shelves) buried at the back of the regular fiction section. I read through that in one summer. It didn't take long for me to switch over to 'adult' books - I ended up a sci-fi/fantasy fan.
These days, though, there's sooooo much out there! And so much of it is aimed at girls! Now don't get me wrong, boys should have something to read, too, but I would have loved most of this stuff when I was the age of the target audience. Fourteen-year-old-me would have adored Twilight, even though I can't stand it now.
The content is much different, too. True, the whole paranormal thing has taken off like wildfire, but even with contemporary YA, things are different. The most obvious thing I can point out is sex. When I read Young Adult books, there was no mention of sex. At all. Kissing was a HUGE deal. Now, in books like Kody Keplinger's The Duff, it's not unusual for teenagers to have sex. In fact, it's accepted as normal. The Twilight series has sex. It's as if today's authors actually connect with their audience and don't try to paint them as their parents see them... which is not to say that's what authors did fifteen years ago. I just don't ever remember really relating to any of the characters in the books I read. Of course, that could be because I didn't have cancer and wasn't dying...
Fun fact: for years after reading Lurlene McDaniel's books, every time I had a bruise that I couldn't explain, I became absolutely convinced that I had leukemia and I would die a beautiful and tragic death. Now, however, I realize that I've become such a klutz that, unless bumping into something dramatically impedes my forward momentum, I don't even feel it. I just accept the bruises and wear long pants.