Young adult sections in bookstore -- a parallel universe of little-regarded awesomeness

My editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, rang me yesterday to talk about a weird little phenomenon: people who were going to stores looking for my newest, Little Brother, were walking away unfulfilled because they were looking in the science fiction section, not the young adult section. Many of us grew up in an era before the young adult section -- when the kids' section in the store was just picture books and some 400-volume sharecropped series like Sweet Valley High. No longer -- practically every bookstore now sports a large (and growing) YA section filled with some of the most amazing work being done in any literary genre today.

Indeed, a quick browse through Boing Boing's archives turned up this (incomplete) set of links to my YA section, the young adult books I've loved and blogged here -- most of them are not available on the science fiction shelves of your local store, only in the YA section:

Scott Westerfeld: Pretties/Uglies; Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm: Good As Lilly; Daniel Pinkwater, Scott Westerfeld, Peeps, Jonathan Strahan (ed), The Starry Rift; John Varley: Rolling Thunder, John Varley: Red Thunder; John Varley: Red Thunder; Scott Westerfeld: Uglies, Michael de Larrabeiti: The Borribles; Justine Larbalastier: Magic's Child; Justine Larbalastier: Magic or Madness; Ragnar: Got Your Nose!; Philip Pullman: Northern Lights trilogy; Scott Westerfeld: So Yesterday; Scott Westerfeld: Midnighters trilogy; Kathe Koja: Going Under; Ellen Klages: Portable Childhoods; Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Jane Yolen (eds): The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens; Changeling, a fairy tale of contemporary New York (Delia Sherman);
Living in a space that no one watches too closely is one of the secret ways that people get to do excellent stuff. Science fiction's status for decades as a pariah genre meant that writers could do things with literary style, theme, and political content that their mainstream counterparts could never get away with (games, comics, early hip-hop, mashups, and many of the other back laneways of popular culture have also enjoyed this status). These days, a lot of the coolest stuff in the universe is happening in the kids' section of your bookstore (and yes, I'm aware of the irony of calling attention to a field that has prospered because it wasn't receiving too much attention to blossom).

So while there's a personal motive to this post -- letting you know where to find Little Brother at your bookstore -- there's also a general tip for living the happy mutant life: check out the YA section at the bookstore and see what's been going on under your nose!

Here's a little more on the subject from Patrick:

We've all been neglecting to include a very important piece of information: *if you want to buy a printed copy, you're going to have to go into the YA section.*

Some copies may wind up shelved in regular SF or general-fiction sections, but most bookstores are pretty rigorous these days: if it's published as YA, it goes into the YA section. As you know, Bob, we made a deliberate decision to publish it into the YA channel, not least because it's the kind of book we know *we* would have loved when we were 15. But it suddenly occurs to me that there are probably a lot of people who now have it in their heads to keep an eye out for *Little Brother* the next time they go into a bookstore...but that doesn't mean they're going to actually go into the section with all the chapter books, Narnia displays, Percy Jackson endcaps, and so forth.

Of course, if they do actually venture over that threshold, they may well discover a whole bunch of outstanding SF and fantasy that's been published onto those shelves in the last decade or so. Powerful SF novels like *Uglies* and *Peeps* by Scott Westerfeld, who John Scalzi calls "the most important contemporary SF author that most of the SF field has never heard of." Fantasy like Garth Nix's brilliant Abhorsen trilogy, or sui-generis novels of science and human character like Ellen Klages' *The Green Glass Sea*. It's almost as if there's an entire alternate world of good reading over there.