Hunting for YA in Paris

Ah, I’m on vacation as you read this, in the City of Lights. It’s probably my favorite city in the whole world. I love the way it smells here, I love the food, the history of fashion and art. The language (which I speak, hooray!). And, the bookstores! Wow. You wouldn’t exactly know the digital age had hit, judging only by the number of bookstores. They’re everywhere, and it’s not uncommon to have more than one on any one street. Bookstores specialize here, too, so if you want a cookbook, you go to a cookbook bookstore. You want a graphic novel, you go to one of the city’s many, many graphic novel bookstores. A Russian novel? Check out the local Russian bookstore.(On the Metro, it’s another story. Everyone’s plugged into their headsets and smart phones.) When I travel to Paris, I generally have a list of French-language books I want to buy. It’s not necessarily less expensive to purchase them in Paris, but I love the experience. This trip, I’m on the hunt for chapter books and YA titles, and to be honest, my list is super short because YA doesn’t seem to be an established genre in France. In fact, I only have one title on the list: Les Malheurs de Sophie (Sophie’s Misfortunes)by the Comtesse de Segur and originally published in the 1850s by Hachette. I’m not finding an English-language version of the novel as I do my google search, other than a Simon and Schuster edition for the Australian market. Go figure. On the French side of things, there are a million editions of Sophie, including a Casterman graphic edition from the 1970s, movie versions, a theatrical piece, illustrated picture book versions, a Kindle edition, you name it. A classic, albeit an old-fashioned one. At Eyrolles, the big bookstore in my neighborhood by the Sorbonne, they’re ordering a copy of the collected works of Mme Segur for me. It includes Sophie and other short stories. I can pick it up tomorrow. Then just today, I noticed a giant Marc Levy poster on the side of a city bus. Aha! Our chauffeur the other day had recommended Levy as an author his teenage daughter loves, so I ducked into another bookstore (Librairie Gallimard on the Boulevard Raspail) and found a copy of Levy’s first novel, If Only It Were True (Et si c’etait vrai…) from 1999 and his newest, Un sentiment plus fort que la peur (A feeling greater than fear), which just came out. The clerk confirms that most YA in France comes in translated versions of American YA best-sellers. And after reading the first thirty pages or so of the Levy novel(that’s me with Levy in hand in the photo above), it’s clear that it’s not really YA. It’s definitely accessible, and I think the story is going to turn into a sort of fantasy, other world romance, but the main characters are definitely adults, not teens. If you’ve seen the American movie adaptation (Just Like Heaven) of the first novel–starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo–I don’t want to know the ending! And don’t forget to check in again in two weeks for more from TFCB. In the meantime, as they say in France, “Bonne lecture!”