One of my favorite things about being a teen librarian is keeping an eye on what is new and coolâ€”especially in the world of books. I love nothing more than reading reviews, hearing opinions from teens, and getting excited when the next book in a series is released. Yet in spite of this, I am sometimes woefully late in the actual reading department. I often have a To-Be-Read pile in my mind that, if it existed in real life, would be as tall as the Empire State Building. A lot of times I’ll also find that in recommending a new book to teens, especially one gaining popularity and momentum, I will doom myself to never getting my hands on it as it circulates endlessly and not make it back onto a shelf where I will see it and remember â€œOh yeah, 3 months ago I couldn’t wait to read this!â€
This phenomenon has happened to me enough times that I am starting to pretend it’s intentional. There are some perks to being late to a party: one of them is that the party usually has gotten bigger by the time I arrive. Such was the case with the Hunger Games, which I had been meaning to read, had heard was great, had even recommended to other readers as emphatically as if I had read it myselfâ€¦but maybe because of all this, it just kept getting bumped down my list. Eventually I’d been putting it off for so long that I started to feel like I probably would never read it, and instead just keep my eye out for the Next Big Thing. Until I admitted to a fellow librarian that I hadn’t read it yet, and she looked as me incredulously, as if to say â€œUm, have you recently gotten back from a desert island or something?â€ That brief moment of unintentional shaming was enough to make me request it and read it, immediately. And like every other fan of the series, by the time I was finished I was dying to read the next oneâ€¦fortunately for me, Catching Fire had already been published, so instead of waiting a year, I only had to wait as long as it took to request it at my library. Then I was in the same camp as everyone who eagerly anticipated Mockingjay for the next year, perhaps even hungrier for it after having devoured the first 2 books back to back.
The world of YA literature is full of trends and hypeâ€”such is the way of most things in teen life. Part of the fun of trends and hype is the experience of collective excitement, as anyone who has waited in line at midnight for a Harry Potter book to be released can attest. But there is also the potential to be swayed by everyone else’s opinion. As hard as it was for me to admit that I hadn’t read The Hunger Games to my librarian friend, I think it would have been even harder to admit that I hadn’t liked it– if that had been the case.
It follows that another perk to being late to a party is deciding if the party is still worth being atâ€”if all the chips and dip have been eaten and you can’t find your friends because of the line waiting to use the bathroom, you may decide it’s not worth staying. This is why I think that there is some value to finding a book at the end of its trend, or even years after that ship has sailed. Without the pressure of all your friends talking about how much they loved (or loathed) Twilight, you can read it and decide for yourself if vampires are your new obsession, or just a passing fad you can do without.
A great way to find these books of yore is to mine the YALSA lists from 5 or ten years ago. I particularly like the Teens Top Ten lists, and the Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, as these represent what was not just deemed literarily excellent, but also popular. Reading against the hype can not only help you determine your own taste, by separating your opinions from the masses, but can also help you determine why things become popular to begin with. By picking up on the themes, characteristics, or common elements of books that were once all anyone was talking about, you can learn a lot about how to pick out the next cool trend to come along. Or, for any aspiring authors out there, how to write your own next most-talked-about bestseller!
One thing I’ve learned from my habit of getting on certain book bandwagons a little (or a lot!) late is that books that were once popular are usually the juiciest page-turners you could ask forâ€”even if their pages have been turned by many others before youâ€”and a perfect source for summer vacation reading. So go ahead, read that book that may seem like it is SO yesterday. And then pitch it to a whole new audience tomorrow.
–Mia Cabana, currently reading Wither by Lauren DeStefano, listening to The Curse of The Wendigo by Rick Yancey…see what I mean about being a few months behind?
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