SHOP NOTES | To YA Or Not To YA That Is The Question


Last weekend my husband and I took a quick getaway up the coast to Camden, Maine.  It’s an occupational hazard that I must stop into any bookstore that exists in any town we are visiting. On the one hand, I want to buy a book and show support for my fellow independent bookstores. On the other hand, I like to see how other stores arrange their inventory; I like to check out their stock and get reminded of deep backlist titles I’ve forgotten about but love.  In Camden, we stopped into the Owl & Turtle Bookshop Cafe, a charming bookstore with hardwood floors and inviting shelves showcasing a well-curated selection of titles.

As I walked the Young Adult section, I paused, noticing a number of titles on the shelf that we carry in our adult science fiction and fantasy section.  We spend a lot of time thinking about categories in the Shop.  Some books fit squarely in one category, whether it’s memoir or history or cooking.  But others could easily go in a few different categories.  Some domestic thrillers, for example, could sit comfortably in either general fiction or mystery.  Some biographies could also easily go in the history section.  In each of these instances, we try to best guess where a customer would expect to find it.

But the category of Young Adult, in general, poses a problem.  I know a lot of adults who read young adult.  I read young adult.  So should our young adult shelves be in the adult section, rather than in the kids’ room, so adults feel more comfortable browsing them?

My 12-year-old son has also started reading young adult books, which has made me more keenly aware than ever that the broad category contains a wide range of topics and sophistication of language and ideas. Can it still be young adult if people swear? On the spectrum of kissing to consummation, where do we leave young adult behind?

Another reason all of this has been on our minds is that we recently launched a summer young adult book club. At our first meeting on June 10, we discussed The Last Secret You’ll Ever Keep by Laurie Faria Stolarz, a veteran young adult author based in Marblehead, who kindly joined our virtual gathering and answered many, many questions for us.  The club is led by one of our booksellers, Nola Minogue, a recent Beverly High graduate.  It’s meant to be for young adults, about young adult books.  Next up we’ll be reading A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik, a terrifically fun fantasy novel that reads like a grittier Harry Potter.

“Wait a second,” my brother and co-owner, Sam, said as he was shelving books the other day. “Why is this in adult?”  And he pulled A Deadly Education off our science fiction and fantasy shelf. “I thought this was YA? It seemed pretty YA when I read it.”

“We have her last two books in adult.  I think the publisher categorized it as adult.  If that’s where the readers of her last books found her, they might not want to move her for this book.”

Who knew book categorization was so complicated?

Stop by to share your thoughts on our young adult section and encourage the young adults in your life to join our next book club meeting on July 8.  Or, hey, feel free to categorize yourself as young adult and join the discussion no matter how old you are.

young adult fiction, young adult literature, literary genres, turtle bookshop cafe, hannah harlow, camden, young adult author