I started reading young adult books about a dozen years ago. I had three nieces and needed Christmas presents. I had no clue what presents to get that their parents could or would not. My brilliant idea was to give what I knew: books. So I did a bit of research and picked a book for each. I was (in turn) very, sort of, and not at all successful. My worst pick was something girly for the youngest. I was mislead by appearances: she's short, slender, and angelically pretty. It turns out her favorite character on Star Trek was Data. I since realized she likes hard science fiction. I soon became a fan of YA. I also made some interesting discoveries. One is that some of the best writing around is being done in this field. That includes some works which stylistically and thematically stack up quite well against those we consider literary giants: Faulkner, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Conrad, and the like. The subjects YA books cover includes the stereotypical crushing on boys and acceptance by their age mates. But this is a minority of the stories, at least in later years. A frequent topic is loss of a parent or sibling, often by death, sometimes by divorce or abandonment. Another is estrangement from one's family. Abuse is another, sometimes sexual but more often emotional. Pregnancy and drugs are sometimes dealt with. Indeed, almost any topic an adult might encounter shows up in young adult books. One change in the field I've noticed is the increasing amounts of fantafiction. A few days ago I counted the number of YA books at my local large chain bookstore. Out of 102 books 81 were fantasy and 3 science fiction. Perhaps a fourth of those had horror elements. Three could be counted as mysteries. In all only 15 were of conventional modern day life. Why this surge in fantasy? I wonder. Sci fi YA is not as rare as those numbers above suggests. SF about young people usually gets put in SF shelves not in YA. I suspect this comes from the fact that YA is almost exclusively about young women. Only 3 of the 102 books had boys as their main characters. Another fact is that almost every book put in the YA section is written by women - or by authors with feminine names. Perhaps the situation is like that of romance. According to the RWA (Romance Writers of America) some 12 percent of romance writers are men, but almost always they use feminine names. Why is YA almost exclusively a female preserve? I wonder about that too. What is your experience? Does it match what I have noticed in my area?