Yesterday I found myself in a place with a lot of old magazines. Having nothing else to read, I picked up the September 2007 Entertainment Weekly. There I was reading along, surprised and pleased to see a review of Jenny Downham's Before I Die (which I read and liked - so did the reviewer apparently).
I was happy to see the full-page, positive spin on the book until I got to this sentence: "Unfortunately, Downham's publisher has handicapped Before I Die by labeling it a young-adult novel, thus ghettoizing this gem to the back of most bookstores." Um, excuse me Mr. Geier? Ghettoizing? Harumph.,There's a little-bitty series by Stephanie Meyers that is sold as YA and that doesn't seem to be doing it any harm. Oh, and another little ditty by a lady in England that involved wizards and boarding schools. But don't read it because it's really for kids.
This article so annoyed me that it got me to thinking (which is apparently the best way to get me thinking). Not only can a good book transcend labels, but the advent of internet bookselling has helped to blur the distinctions between genres. Let me get this straight - I am all for bookstores, particularly indie bookstores. Nothing is better than the smell of fresh paper and coffee and a big comfy chair to absorb both for hours. But when you have an actual store and an actual book, you have to decide where to put it. Does it have a young main character? Put it in the young adult section. Is someone dead in the first chapter.? Mystery is where it goes. If the main theme is a love story, put it in romance where nobody with XY chromosomes would ever pick it up.
If you're online and are looking for a book, you might be able to stumble upon something new, something in a genre that you would never enter the aisle for in an actual bookstore. When you hear about a good book and type in the name at an online bookstore, it doesn't pop up with a warning: Danger. This is a Young Adult book. Get out of the ghetto while you still can. Online book-buying isn't limited by genre or placement in a bookstore, so books may find their happy way outside of their target audience. Not that you have to buy all of your books online. Once you have read a YA or a mid-grade book and liked it, you may just find your way to the dusty back shelves in your local bookstore. But watch out. We're havin' fun here in the ghetto.
On this date: In 1961, Barak Obama was born.