About Me

My name is Genevieve Woods and in addition to being the mother of an adorable preschooler named Oscar and his adorable toddler brother Henry, I am the Children's Buyer at Spellbinder Books, a small independent bookstore in Bishop, California. I am often asked by customers for recommendations...and thus the idea for this blog was sparked.

Many sites recommending books for kids are created by librarians and non-profits. While these are great sites, they often recommend out-of-print books. This site is all about the great books that are available now! While I am not being paid for these recommendations, I would appreciate it if readers would purchase the books I recommend from local independent bookstores, or even B&N. Basically don't buy from the evil empire (A_A_O_), because if you do much of our literary knowledge will be lost.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

YA / Adult Crossovers

There is a great essay, by Margo Rabb, published in the New York Times, about the stigma against Young Adult book authors and kinds of books that are now published in that genre. To read the article, click here. To find out more about Margo Rabb click here. Ms. Rabb wrote a book she thought was for adults, but the publishers chose to publish it as a Y.A. (young adult) novel. While Ms. Rabb brings up many good and interesting points about Y.A. novels, I have to disagree with her on one thing. She believes that while teenagers will read adult books, adults do not read books for teens. As a direct seller of books, I have to say this is completely FALSE.

For example there is The Book Thief!
Gail, one of the bookstore's owners, recommended this book to me when I first started working with Spellbinder's in 2006. I shelled out the bucks for the hardcover, and FELL IN LOVE. I wrote a staff pick for the book, Gail wrote a staff pick, and the book has been on the Indie bestseller list almost continually since it was published, in hardcover and now in paperback. Here's the thing, I HAVE NEVER SOLD A COPY TO A CHILD OR TEENAGER! I'm not saying it hasn't happened in our store, but I haven't been at the cash register when it did. I have sold numerous copies to adults, I've hand sold it. Now, book clubs are reading it. While there are teenage book clubs in some cities and towns, there aren't in Bishop. Here, this book if for the adults. Adults buy it, even though it is shelved in Y.A., and it is on the children's bestseller table.
I don't believe The Book Thief was originally written for children. It is very complex, and the narration style (death narrates) is not only dark, but confusing at first. But the main character is a little girl, so it was published for children. I wonder if one of my favorite books, Lullabies for Little Criminals, would have done better if it was categorized as Y.A. instead of Adult Fiction. Like The Book Thief the main character is a little girl, and like The Book Thief it is not a happy book. But its writing style is actually less complex, though its emotions are completely raw. It has very adult themes of drugs and sex, but these themes are all over the Y.A. world! If you want a good wholesome book for your child, don't go into the Y.A. section! Ellen Hopkin's Crank & Burned have been some of our local Y.A. bestsellers. Lullabies for Little Criminals would fit right in! The thing is, although it is on our adult staff pick wall, with a tag in front of it discussing what a great book it is, we have only sold about five copies of Lullabies for Little Criminals in the last year and half. Most staff picks sell at least 10 copies a year. I think Lullabies for Little Criminals would have done better if it had been marketed to the teens.
In her essay Ms. Rabb has some great quotes by Sherman Alexie, author of a number of popular adult books, and the hugely popular The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Mr. Alexie says "I thought I’d been condescended to as an Indian — that was nothing compared to the condescension for writing Y.A." But he also admits “This book sold like crazy in a way my books never have before, and I’ve had a great career.” It is true, though his books are popular at Spellbinders, we don't usually sell more than three copies of any one of his adult titles in a year, but we have sold over 50 copies of his Y.A. novel - I've sold it to adults and kids.


  1. I totally agree with you. I read & love YA fiction, and I'm 42!

    Beth Fehlbaum, author
    Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
    Chapter 1 is online!

  2. You are so right! (1) There are so many inappropriate things in young adult lit these days! I am a middle school librarian and it amazes me. I was talking to someone about that just the other day. I think it's because the authors are adults who have had experiences, and perhaps they just don't don't realize that kids aren't as old as we perceive them to be, or maybe they don't realize how influential books can be, etc. But it's also the world right now too. Look at TV! (2) It is amazing how YA reading has flourished in the past decade. Someone commented to me that they believe Harry Potter started it all.

  3. I'm not sure I agree that adult themes are inappropriate for children. While sex and drugs don't seem like wholesome things for kids to read about, they are part of their reality. Last year there were at least two pregnancies in our small middle school, and there is a definate problem with meth use in the high school.

    I think a lot of the teenagers like reading about other teens battling their drug addictions because it gives them hope for their friends or family members who are facing similiar problems. Of course drug use and reading are not completely incompatable, so these same teens who buy the books might be trying to work through problems of their own.

    I'm not sure who first said, "We read to know we are not alone.", but it is certainly true.

    I'll ask some of our regular teen customers why they like the books they like, and I'll let you know what they say.

    Please excuse my misspellings, I can no longer survive without spellcheck.