Brooke Young, 31, manages the teen section at Salt Lake City’s Main Library and reads many young adult novels, not just for her job—she volunteered three years in a row for the national Best Fiction for Young Adults committee, which rates young adult books.
She says young adult fiction at the library ranges from historical fiction to paranormal romance, making it one of the most diverse sections. “You can read a book like The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, which is about a group of white men in the 18th century who try to raise a black boy to prove whites are superior, or you can pick up a paranormal romance in the same section,” she says. But despite their differences, these coming-of-age stories have one thing in common: angst. Everyone knows it isn’t easy being a teen. “The emotions are right there on the page,” Young says. “And the quality of these books is better than most people think.”
It’s hard to judge which adults are checking out these angsty books for themselves or are just reading along with their kids, but Young estimates about 40 percent of readers are older than 25.
What is clear is that the books are hard to keep on the shelves. Young hasn’t seen the first The Hunger Games book in two years. Other books the library can’t keep in stock are Divergent by Veronica Roth, about a teenage girl in dystopian Chicago who doesn’t fit in with society, and the Matched trilogy by local author Ally Condie, a dystopian book about a girl in a society where officials tell her who to love.
Brooke Young, managing the Main Library's teen section
“Once people know there’s a movie coming out, a book gets checked out more,” she says. But aside from that, she’s found it’s pretty hard to predict. “I got Twilight as an advanced reader’s copy months before it came out. I read it and loved it, but I never thought it would be that popular.”
She says most adults call and put the books on hold instead of browsing the section, probably because they already know what they want, but in some cases, she thinks they might be trying to avoid looking creepy by browsing a section for children. If that’s the case, Young says they shouldn’t be embarrassed. “We have this 60-year-old homeless man who just likes to check out The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot,” she says. “If that’s what he likes, OK, I hope he enjoys them.”