by Vromans Upstairs on July 13, 2015

Vroman’s is lucky. Lucky to have a big space, a loyal customer base, and the cash flow to take a few risks. Of course, it’s not so much luck as good business sense and a reputation cultivated over 120 years, plus a demonstrated interest in giving back locally and being what any good indie bookstore is and should be—the heart of a community.

Luckily for me, I get to feel lucky here, too. As the manager of the Children’s Department, I get to hang out with kids daily. I know what they’re reading, and I get to see them grow up as they stop by week after week to talk books. They stand with a parent waiting patiently (most of the time) at the desk and shoot these hopeful glances as they ask for the next recommendation. Trying to stay a step ahead of them and always have that next perfect book for exactly that kid is overwhelming at times (I only manage to read maybe two adult books a year now, because dang, these kids read FAST). But the feeling you have when they loved a book you introduced them to really can’t be overstated.

Over the past few months, though, we’ve been branching out a bit. We want to reach teens where they live, and that is, at least some (maybe most) of the time, online. So we started a separate Twitter account (@vromansupstairs) and while maybe some teens have met up with us there, the majority of our interactions are with authors. Which is really awesome… but not exactly the direct interaction with teens we had in mind. We also have a YA Facebook page, but anyone who knows the YA crowd knows that Facebook isn’t really their thing. We’re excited to be adding to the Vroman’s blog, but I have a feeling there are mostly adult readers here, and I’m sure those of you who have or know teens understand this struggle all too well. I know, I know, we probably need to do Instagram or Tumblr or Snapchat or or or…

Maybe we will. In the meantime, though, I just received a tangible reminder that we are connecting, that we are doing something right. And it isn’t online.

Four months ago, we started a YA book club. The group voted to call ourselves Mischief Managers (after a Harry Potter t-shirt I was wearing that day), and we meet once a month on a Sunday afternoon sitting on the floor in the YA section. It’s a small group, probably 12 teens who rotate in and out with busy schedules (anywhere from 3-6 at a given meeting so far). We may not have the most academic or even in-depth book discussions, but we have a lot of laughs and can get pretty passionate about our book feelings (all the feels!). It’s very casual. We spend about the first 30-45 minutes talking about what everyone is reading, followed by maybe 20 minutes of actually discussing the book, and ending with an indeterminate amount of time spent on important topics: fanfiction, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, whether or not books should have steamy romances, what was Stephanie Meyer thinking, and can a movie ever live up to its book.

This week, though, I received a really happy surprise. One of the girls from the book club is traveling this summer, and she sent me a postcard from Australia. In it, she says she’s been checking out all the bookstores there but thinks ours is better. She misses our great discussions and digging through the ARC drawers (she’s also one of our teen reviewers). She’s happy that she’ll see us again soon.

That’s it. Such a simple thing. But knowing that a teenager took the time to send a postcard, that she’s exploring the bigger world but missing hanging out at our store and talking about books… that’s something.

It’s lucky.

-Danielle, Vroman’s Upstairs

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