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Libraries in Teen Books

It’s Library Card Sign-Up Month. With the focus this month on trying to get new library customers and issuing as many new cards as possible, I thought I’d try to come up with some YA books that have libraries as a part of the plot. Surprisingly, for a place where so many of us spend so much time, and that many authors say they go to for inspiration and research, the library itself is not featured a lot in YA books – unlike books for younger readers (i.e. Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians and other books in the series, and many other books) or adults – just think of all of those murders in libraries in the Agatha Christie and other mystery books. Or, if it is, it’s not portrayed as the place teens want to spend any time in unless they have to.

The YA series that immediately came to mind was Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Josh Whedon’s TV series, the paperbacks written by various authors, and the Buffy graphic novels. I still miss the TV show. Giles was a great librarian!

Here are some other YA books where libraries – public and school – do play a prominent role or contain a memorable scene(s).

A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone is about teen girls who write comments in library copy of Judy Blume’s Forever and pass it around about a “bad” boy as a warning for other girls.


Bumped by Megan McCafferty (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee) takes place in 2036 where the children’s room in the local public library is an historical artifact, rarely used, but it’s open, and the two main characters Melody and Zen go there frequently to hang out alone in the children’s playhouse.

In the graphic novel Americus by MK Reed, artwork by Jonathan Hill (2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens nominee), high school freshman Neal Barton just wants to read in peace. Unluckily for him, some local Christian activists are trying to get his favorite fantasy series banned from the Americus public library on grounds of immoral content and heresy. Something has to be done, and it looks like quiet, shy Neal is going to have to do it. With youth services librarian Charlotte Murphy at his back, Neal finds himself leading the charge to defend the mega-bestselling fantasy series that makes his life worth living.

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee) features Janie who lives on a mini-farm where she talks to the goats (when no one else is around) and is considered weird by her high school freshman classmates. Since her best friend doesn’t share her lunch period, for the first two months of school she’s been spending her lunch period alone in the library. Things begin to look up after she befriends a new girl who also hangs out there who helps her to see that normal’s really boring. Janie also discovers that the school librarian has a more live and let live attitude than she initially thought.

Book of Lilah (2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens nominee) is a really fun graphic novel set in the ultimate library written by Jack Monaco, artwork by Javi Fernandez. For thousands of years a secret association known as the Keepers has quietly protected the world’s knowledge. This group skillfully tracks and cultivates world progress, and at times destroys knowledge that they believe could harm mankind. Someone is after the Keepers, and it’s up to one unsuspecting 20-year-old girl named Lilah to save the day.

Delia Sherman’s short story CATNYP, from the The Faery Reel:Tales from the Twilight Realm, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, is about a feisty changling girl who helps a changling boy return to the “real” New York City from the parallel fairy world where they were both raised. In the story, the New York Public Library’s automated catalog called CATNYP is a real lion and a library page is literally an animated piece of paper that retrieves books.

In Kody Keplinger’s Shut Out, Lissa and the other girlfriends of the football players go on a hookup strike to try to get their guys to stop making their rivalry with the soccer players more important to the guys than they are. Lissa and the other girls plan their strike, and regularly meet to report on how it’s going in their high school library. Lissa also works part-time in the local public library with the guy she’s falling for: Cash, the star of the school’s soccer team and her boyfriend’s hated rival. See Faythe Arredondo’s blog entry from September 16th for YouTube video of book trailer.

There are many other books I could have mentioned where the main character is a librarian or a caretaker of books and knowledge and scenes are set in a library, like Lirael by Gareth Nix, and Pearl North’s Libyrinth but here I wanted to focus strictly on library as a plot setting, not the character as a librarian.

— Sharon Rawlins, currently reading a galley of Mal Peet’s Life: An Exploded Diagram


  1. Cory Cory

    In one of the Sarah Dessen books (Truth About Forever, maybe?) the main character works in a library, although no actual librarians — or adults– seem to work there. There’s a great library/librarian in the Pendragon books, which sort of straddle the MG/YA line. In Behemoth, Deryn goes to the library in an awesome scene.

  2. Dessen’s newest, What Happened to Goodbye, has a librarian named Lauren! The main character goes to the library for information on the town.

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