To aid my search for good, authentic, successful YA SF, several people pointed me to Scott Westerfeld. So I checked two of his books out of the library and read them.
Peeps, I'm sorry to say, didn't impress me. Vampirism-caused-by-a-disease, with the vampires being hunted down in New York -- Richard Matheson was doing this in 1954 in I Am Legend. Nice writing, but I didn't finish the book.
Then I read Westerfeld's So Yesterday.
This is a terrific book. Genuinely original -- it's about what's cool in advertising, brought down to an action-filled teen adventure! It's sharp, funny, and absorbing. The kids seem completely real and multi-layered (like most YA, adults are in the deep background). The ironic tone is exactly what teens try for themselves, and Westerfeld seems to really know their world. The music, the clothes, the fashions are here, specific enough to be recognizable but not named by brand and so not likely to be dated in a year (or a week). I loved it.
It also made me nervous. The book is about what's cool and what's not, and Westerfeld seems to know. But I have never, not once at any time in my entire life, managed to be cool. I missed every trend of my generation. If cool is part of writing successful YA, then I am indeed sunk. Not having understood fourteen-year-olds when I was fourteen, there is absolutely no hope of it now.
This requires thought. I will need to substitute something else for cool. I just don't yet know what.