31 Days of Teens’ Top Ten: Comparing the TTT with the BBYA!

Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in fifteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Support Teen Literature Day during National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year. Each day during the month of May, The Hub will feature a post about Teens’ Top Ten. Be sure to check in daily as we visit past winners and current nominees!

For my post on the Teens’ Top Ten, I thought I’d do a comparison with another list of great books for teens: YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list, formerly known as the Best Books for Young Adults. Unlike the TTT, which is chosen by teen readers, the BBYA/BFYA is chosen by a committee made up of YALSA members. I went through and checked to see what books, if any, the two lists have had in common over the years.

The answer: not as many as you’d think! The 2011 TTT haven’t been chosen yet, obviously—voting begins August 22nd!—but comparing the list of nominations with the BBYA list, they don’t have a single book in common. The BBYA and TTT also had no books in common in 2010. In 2009, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games was on both lists (and deservedly so), and in 2008 Jenny Downham’s Before I Die was honored by both. 2006 had three books in common: Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps, and Chris Woodring’s Poison. And in 2003, the first year of the TTT, both lists had E.R. Frank’s America.

If you include all the books that were nominated by the BBYA but not chosen for their top ten, the number of titles they share with the TTT increase. 2010 had six books in common, 2009 had four, 2008 had three, 2007 had two, 2006 had six, 2005 had only one, 2004 had five, and 2005 had four.

For some years, the same author would appear on both lists, but for different books. That’s also the case this year: Lauren Oliver has a book on the BBYA nominations list (Delirium) and on the list of TTT nominations (Before I Fall).

So what conclusions can we draw from this list (apart from “Ted’s an obsessive weirdo with too much time on his hands”)? Some might look at these numbers and think, “Librarians don’t pick the exact same books for teens as teens do for themselves? Wow, these librarians must be really out of touch!” But me, I take a more optimistic look at the numbers. Think about this: every year, several hundred books for teens are whittled down to only the ten best. The fact that two groups don’t pick the exact same books isn’t surprising to me; what’s surprising is that they have any books in common at all.

Look at these lists and think about the incredible diversity of plots, authors, characters, and ideas being presented every year to teen readers. Of course people are going to have different opinions about which are the best. Don’t think of these lists—either of them—as the Absolute Determiners of Quality For All Time, Forever. Think of them as suggestions, insights into what other people believe are good, quality reads worth your time.

And then, hopefully, go out and read some.

-Ted Anderson, currently reading Laurie Halse Anderson’s Catalyst

3 thoughts on “31 Days of Teens’ Top Ten: Comparing the TTT with the BBYA!”

  1. One thing that you didn’t mention that is important to keep in mind is that not all of the TTT titles are eligible for BFYA/BBYA the year they are a TTT book. For example, Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall was a BFYA nomination last year (and did make the list) but it is on this years TTT list. Had it not been on last year’s BFYA list, it would not be eligible for this years due to the publication date. Titles are only eligible for BFYA if they were published in the current year (2011) or from September – December of the previous year. Several of this year’s TTT titles were BFYA nominations last year: Mockingjay, Matched, I Am Number Four, The Sky is Everywhere, Sisters Red. There are a few TTT titles this year that have been nominated for BFYA- I am J and the False Princess so far, however I am sure that we will see others as the year goes on.

  2. The way the two lists are compiled is as different as the groups of people who determine them, as well as the reasoning behind their choices.

    Teens are reacting emotionally to their reading experiences where the librarians on the BBYA/BFYA committees have a specific set of criteria that they follow based on intellectual analysis of the work. It comes down to a difference between “Did this book entertain me?” and “Is this one of the most well-crafted books of the year?” Naturally, you’re going to get wildly divergent responses. It’s like asking a ten-year-old to name his favorite food and being surprised when he names pizza, meanwhile here’s a list of all this other good stuff for him to eat and it’s totally different than the stuff he’s eating.

    Also, the BBYA/BFYA lists are the result of a team effort involving lengthy discussion among a group of people with a state mission, where a consensus is formed for each book. Whereas with the Teen Top Ten, you are accepting the common denominators across an extremely broad group.

    I’m not running down the TTT. It’s important to recognize books that are popular with teens. I’m just saying it’s important to look at the wildly, wildly different ways they two lists are put together.

    1. I think what you’re saying actually is Ted’s point (correct me if I’m wrong Ted!). That of course the two lists are not exactly the same because they are created in different ways with different criteria. I think it’s kind of a good point for why YALSA even has so many different lists-different audiences, different criteria, you could never rely on only one.

Comments are closed.