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Editorial May 2002
YA Readers 8 to 80
By Hilary Williamson

Who are those guys? Young adult readers, I mean, the ones that are supposed to enjoy YA books in bookstores and libraries. The age range seems to be flexible, somewhere in the teens and pre-teens, which leaves a lot of room for a variety in maturity levels and tastes. The books are a mix of ones written specifically for this age group, and those that have been re-packaged (different covers or abridged versions) for it. Books categorized Young Adult typically have young protagonists and are not too long, too violent, or too sexual.

I have a couple of young adults at home here. One of the joys of parenting for me has been to introduce my children to reading, and to share my favorites with them. But the books that adults think their kids should like are often not the ones the latter will pick up and enjoy, especially once they enter the contentious teen years. Walt Disney once said that 'There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates' loot on Treasure Island' and books that appeal most to this age range, like Disney's films, are those that entertain more than they edify.

Recently, I have been testing different YA books on my sons (11 and 13) and on their friends, both young men and women. Some are voracious readers who will try almost anything, but most need to be engaged by the book cover, the blurb or (especially) by a peer recommendation. Two recent series have appealed to all, and are even preferred to Potter by some ... Cirque Du Freak by Darren Shan and Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. And like Harry Potter, they appeal to multiple generations of readers, from eight to eighty.

Of course there has been a huge upsurge of interest in fantasy this year, with both Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone and The Fellowship of the Rings movie releases. Publishers are tailoring some of the greats for younger readers, such as Orson Scott Card's brilliant Ender series, and Robert Jordan's fantastic Wheel of Time. Robin McKinley's recent Spindle's End is a whimsical delight and Nancy Farmer's The Ear, the Eye and the Arm an unusual treat for young and old. Older series continue to enchant, for example Anne McCaffery's engaging Dragonriders of Pern. And newer ones keep on coming, like the superb Sevenwaters trilogy by Juliet Marillier.

It's not all fantasy. My kids, their friends and I, have also enjoyed John Marsden's thrilling Tomorrow series, which explores how Aussie teens cope after their country is invaded. Suzanne Fisher Staples' Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind, about a young nomadic camel herder in Pakistan, has been popular with both sexes, and Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegasar is a delightful read best appreciated by teen girls and their mothers.

So please don't miss all these (and many more) great reads just because they are in the Young Adult sections of bookstores and libraries. Celebrate Mother's Day by reading from a teens' collection, for Katherine Mansfield was quite right when she said that 'The pleasure of reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books.'
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