Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What I'm Reading...

Carlie over at Librarilly Blonde had an interesting post/rant the other day about an article in the Washington Post that, perhaps unintentionally, derided young adult literature as something to be "graduated" from, so that readers can move on to "nonfiction with no holds barred and fiction that draws on the full resources of the language in portraying complex human relationships." Needless to say, she didn't take too kindly to these words, and neither do I - especially since he listed Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None," which I read in middle school as one of those books for him. If that made him feel adult, I wonder where a YA novel like John Green's Looking for Alaska would fit into this scheme.

As a librarian, I'm often asked what I'm reading by friends, family and library patrons. I'll give them the title, author and then a quick booktalk/plot summary, piquing their interest - until I conclude with "it's a YA novel" at which point their enthusiasm quickly wanes. I remind them that Harry Potter is a children's book and that Twilight was written for a teen audience (this last title used strategically and only when I think it will work in my favor, as for some, it it the death knell of any argument). I attempt to lure them in with lines like "You know, Markus Zusak's The Book Thief is actually really popular among adult bookclubs and is published in several markets as an adult, not a YA title," but to no avail.

People who have never read any YA really just don't seem to like it. I bet I could trick them into reading it, but it shouldn't have to be that way. All I'm saying is to give it a chance...

P.S. And if you're wondering what I'm reading now, it's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart, a favorite for the Michael L. Printz Award, highly recommended to me by those people who actually read YA lit.


  1. It's refreshing to see young professionals, such as yourself, who find the time to do these types of things. Bravo!

  2. I think when we librarians meet people who think YA literature is just kids stuff and not on par with adult literature we can point out that the National Book Foundation has given out National Book Awards for YA literature since 1996 and that some well-established adult book authors turn to writing YA books, such as Sherman Alexie and Francine Prose (who’s also VP of the Pen American Center.) I’d tell naysayers to read “The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing” and then ask them if all YA books are just stepping-stones on the way to adult book writing. There is some reason why writers like M.T. Anderson and John Greene are writing YA books instead of adult books – because it’s clear they are entirely capable of writing adult books. It probably has something to do with marketing or possibly they want teenage readers who they think may be more influenced or affected by their writing than adults (or any other myriad reasons.)

    That being said, YA lit may be a stepping-stone to some authors. Just like in romance literature, some romance writers use romantic lit as a stepping-stone to thriller-mystery writing. Or maybe it’s not so much a stepping-stone as a natural progression from – this is what I’ve done, now I’d like to do something different.

    PS – I swear I won’t make this level of commenting a habit Alicia. Clearly I need some homework – or a JOB - to keep me busy.