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!
A couple of weeks ago I was having a conversation with Linda Braun about adult choices for teens, which led to wondering how many adult titles were chosen by teens for Teens’ Top Ten. I started browsing the lists and noticed My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult on the 2005 list. It was the rest of the list that really caught my attention, though. The top ten titles chosen by teens that year included books featuring suicide, sex, ethics, underage drinking, gang fights, rape, grief, and more sex–how racy!
That these topics are in YA books is not a surprise to me, nor is the fact that they are popular. I was surprised, though, to see that overall it was a pretty risquÃ© list that year. Most of the titles are ones I would recommend to older teens, and two of them were published as adult books (My Sister’s Keeper and How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater by Marc Acito.)
What I also find interesting is that these risquÃ© titles are not just fluffy romps filled with gratuitous sex scenes. In Looking for Alaska Miles falls for sexy Alaska, with heart warming and heartbreaking results. Consider also the deep meaningful relationship Macy develops in The Truth About Forever, as well as how she comes to terms with her father’s death. Grief is very present in My Sister’s Keeper as well. Sisters Anna and Kate literally live for each other-Anna was conceived because she could be a bone marrow match for her ill sister. Since then the threat of Kate’s death and Anna’s ability to help keep her alive has bound them together in a heart-rending way. And talk about a warped relationship-how about Adam and Eve? Elsie Adinoff’s version of the story of Adam and Eve in The Garden is a dark sensual story, which ultimately ends in rape. Not only does this book have sex and violence in it, but for the religious reader it can also be very challenging. Adinoff features God as a character and it is He who forces Adam upon Eve.
I think sometimes adults worry a lot about what young readers can and cannot handle. The titles chosen in 2005 include funny and serious titles, scenes of an explicit nature, rough language, and difficult topics. And yet, teens that year told us that not only could they handle them, but that those were the best stories of the year. If you missed these titles when they came out, why not give them a try now and see what you think. Were these edgy choices? Or just par for the course?
–Sarah Debraski, currently reading The Wilder Years: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure
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