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Booklist Woes – a Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place?

Who has time to read a bad book? If you are busy but want to know about hot titles, try an idea called a Book Browse. Here’s what happens: a group like a library or a book store gathers together a ton of new books, and people who buy a lot of young adult books all get together to read the books and talk about them. It’s a great way to decide what books to buy for yourself or titles to recommend to someone else.

The Ohio Writer’s Project Teacher Conference Book Browse is a collection of books published in the last two years for young adults. Each person who attends gets a list of all the books, by category, so they can go back to their school, library, or book store and buy the titles they liked the best. I helped compile the list and collect all the books for the Book Browse. The categories we included were:

  • Realistic
  • Comedy
  • Issues
  • Sports
  • Mystery
  • Historical
  • War
  • Science Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Non-traditional: Novels in Verse, Graphic Novels and Manga
  • Non-Fiction/Biographies
  • Classics Tie-Ins
  • Award Winners
Stickman Odyssey: an Epic Doodle by Christopher Ford.

Almost immediately I began to have trouble deciding which category was correct for each book; the young adult category as a larger heading is already so multifaceted that they seem to defy any organizational scheme. For example, Stickman Odyssey: an Epic Doodle, Book One (a current nominee for the Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers) by Christopher Ford is both a Classical Tie-In and a Graphic Novel. Miranda, age 12, read it and liked it so much she thought it merited a re-read because it was so funny. I never could decide which attribute was the strongest, so Stickman Odyssey is in with the Classical Tie-Ins.

This leads right into another issue I had: finding new titles for the Comedy category. I only came up with four titles, and one of those I had to pilfer from the kids’ section. I wanted to use Quest for the Spark, Book 1, written by Tom Sniegoski and illustrated by Jeff Smith (whose Bone series appears on YALSA’s Ultimate Teen Bookshelf), since it was hilarious just like the comics, but I was confused by how it was half a comic and half chapter book and how they live in a fantastical world with dragons and magic.

Here’s what I included in the Comedy category:

  • The Strange Case of Origami Yodaa by Tom Angleberger
  • Sidekicks by Jack D. Ferraiolo
  • My Big Mouth: 10 Songs I Wrote that Almost Got Me Killed by Peter Hannan
  • You Wish by Mandy Hubbard

I thought Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick (a 2007 Popular Paperback for Young Adults) was fall-over funny, but the last book in the series, After Ever After, was a much more serious, soul-searching story.

So many of the books I chose spanned two or more categories. I added in the breakdown of Sports as a separate category even though sports is probably part of Realistic. There seemed to be so many strong sport contenders that I didn’t want them muscling out what I think of as “true” Realistic fiction. It was right about this time that I realized a lot of my Realistic fiction books were really problem novels that should have been in with my Issues category. I began to get the feeling that defining young adult literature by category was about as tricky as defining young adults.

Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe

A perfect example is Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe, the author of Compromised (on the list of 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults). Jake’s OCD seems like magic that allows him to win at soccer, but Jake wonders what his life would be life without the numbers. Since the anxiety disorder was the dominate part of the plot, Compulsion was part of the Issues list, though it very easily could have been Sports or Realistic. In trying to keep Sports and Realistic as distinct categories that didn’t overlap too much with Issues, these are the lists I compiled.

Sports

  • Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
  • Breakaway by Andrea Montalbano
  • Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler
  • The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
  • Recruited by Suzanne Weyn
  • Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams

Realistic

  • The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill
  • Teenie by Christopher Grant
  • Trapped by Michael Northrop
  • Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford
  • Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers
  • What Momma Left Me by Renée Watson

I think I raised more questions than answers in trying to complete the category list for the Ohio Writer’s Project Teacher Conference Book Browse.  My advice for someone planning a similar event would be not to get too caught up in one type of book.

Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

Most times when I read something that’s out of my comfort zone (as Hub bloggers Sarah and Ted are encouraging each other to do), I discover an amazing story like Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen, which I wouldn’t give a second glance since it’s about football and gymnastics. Turns out once I got over my sports phobia, Leverage was also an amazing story about bullying and its consequences. Cohen wrote about teamwork and abuse in a way that would reach both athletes and couch potatoes like myself. Don’t fool yourself when choosing books: just because you only like vampire novels doesn’t mean you can only read supernatural romance. Why not diversify and see what’s really out there? You might discover an author like Rob Thurman, whose supernatural series features way more than just vampires and packs a crime-fighting punch along with its romance. I learned somewhere that to stay healthy, you should eat fruits and veggies that are all different colors; when you pick books I think you should use this same idea.

— Laura Perenic, currently reading Relic Hunter, Book 1: The Dark City by Catherine Fisher

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Laura Perenic