I was hanging out at the library yesterday, yakking to our children's librarian about getting new shelves for the YA section, so as to have room for the influx of YA books that is coming (I'm handing over the bulk of the review copies I've gotten as a result of being on the YA Cybils nominating committee).
And then a strange thing happened. A grown woman entered the YA section, and found two books to read for herself (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 and 3), and chatted to our librarian briefly about what other books she might enjoy. Apparently the mothers of toddlers that come to the library for story time are discovering the wonders of YA, sharing with each other books they have enjoyed.
When you think about it, mothers of very young children are a prefect audience for a large part of the YA genre- the stories of girls entering a new and stressful period of their lives, not being able to spend time with old friends, or having less in common with them, and having to shoulder new responsibilities and forge new relationships. And there are many YA books of this ilk that focus on, or at least include, very positive female to female relationships-- the sort that new, perhaps lonely, mothers might find comforting. And finally, there's also the fact that a YA book is generally shorter than an A book.
But mothers reading YA books must be very careful, because of the Dark Side of the genre (which goodness knows is out in force with this year's crop of books)--plenty of horrible things happen to kids that are very upsetting to mothers, who (if they are like me) are prone to imagining the same thing happening to their own precious babies...like one book I just read that opens with a poor kid getting kicked in the balls by other boy scouts (This is What I did)*, and this is mild. Sigh.
*I'm not going to be reviewing This is What I Did, because I find it too worrying, and am not sure I can be objective, but here's a review over at Becky's Book Reviews, for those who are curious.