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ALA 2013: Ten Years of YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten

2013-07-03 20.11.39I just got back from the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago where I had a great time at the Ten Years of YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten (TTT) preconference program. This jam-packed half-day program included everything from a short explanation about the program to tips by former and present TTT teen book club advisors on how to run a program.

The 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 sixteen school and public libraries around the country. Nominations are posted on Celebrate Teen Literature Day, the Thursday of National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year. Readers ages 12-18 vote online between August 15 and September 15; the winners are announced during Teen Read Week.

Another portion of the program also included tips on how to use technology to make keeping track of the many books the teens receive and review easier. As attendees, we also got to participate in a brainstorming session to offer suggestions on how to improve marketing and promotion of the TTT. We also received a bound copy of all the TTT titles that included not only the selected top ten titles from 2003-2012, but also useful fun facts and read-alikes for many of the titles.

It was a real treat to get to hear from a panel of fabulous authors, many who have appeared on the TTT lists, including Cory Doctorow (Little Brother and Pirate Cinema, TTT nominees), Susan Beth Pfeffer (Life As We Knew It, TTT 2007), Marie Lu (Legend, TTT 2012), Laurie Halse Anderson (Twisted, TTT 2008; Wintergirls, TTT 2010), and Sarah Dessen (The Truth About Forever, TTT 2005; Just Listen, TTT 2007; Along For the Ride, TTT 2010; What Happened to Goodbye, TTT 2012). Even more invaluable to me as a librarian was the opportunity to hear from a panel of extremely thoughtful and insightful teens currently serving on a TTT group called Teens Know Best from Metropolitan State University Library and St. Paul Public Library. There was so much information presented that I can’t cover it all here but here are a few of my highlights:

Jake Kendall, 12, and his sister, Hannah, 14, are both members of the TTT PPL Teen Book Club from Prescott (AZ) Public Library, lead by advisor Jennifer Kendall (also their mom). They all spoke about using technology with teen book groups.

Jake’s Top Ten List of Why He Likes TTT

  1. Read brand new books
  2. Meet new friends
  3. I happened to read Game before everyone. Awesomest book ever, Barry Lyga!2013-07-03 21.03.22
  4. I get to say my opinions on the books I read
  5. I like being able to critique the books
  6. I get to go on fun trips like this to Chicago
  7. I can tell my friends about new books
  8. I’m learning more [about] how books are published
  9. I like that publishers want to know what I think
  10. I like to know and learn about new authors

Ten Interesting Things I (Sharon) Learned From Attending This Program

  1. TTT used to be called YA Galley. It’s no longer the case that the teens just consider books in galley form.
  2. There were 828 separate nominations in 2012. Each TTT teen book group doesn’t know what other groups have nominated. The number is narrowed down to 70 and any titles that receive 4 or more nods are the ones that are voted on by the teens between August and September.
  3. A TTT teen book group typically receives over 350 titles. Over 40 publishers are involved in providing galleys to TTT teen book groups, and publishers expect the teens to submit reviews.
  4. Sarah Dessen recently learned how to make balloon animals and says she spends too much time on Twitter.
  5. Some of Laurie Halse Anderson’s more memorable emails from teen guys about Twisted come addressed to “Dude.”
  6. Sarah Dessen has no tattoos herself, but she’s been told that teens are getting tattoos of quotes from her books.
  7. TTT teen book groups use Google Drive to write their reviews because it’s very easy to use.
  8. The teens from Teens Know Best TTT from Metropolitan State University Library and St. Paul Public Library said some of the book trends from last year they noticed were cancer and mermaids. Now they see a trend towards survivalist books, crazy parents, trying to live in the woods, abusive parents, and quirky romances.
  9. These teens would like to see books that cover different religions and more SF books with someone of color as well as books that show an openness towards gay characters where it’s not a big deal or the focus of the book.
  10. YALSA now has a Tumblr page for TTT.

Books the Panel of Authors Would Nominate for TTT

  • 2013-07-04 02.54.07Laurie Halse Anderson chose I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg because, she said, “My life sucked but it didn’t suck this much.”
  • Sarah Dessen’s pick is A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry. She said she can “still remember scenes from this book like I read it yesterday.”
  • Cory Doctorow selected Alan Mendelsohn: The Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater. Cory said, “Pinkwater’s still writing and getting better and better.”
  • Susan Beth Pfeffer said she read a lot as a child and 99.7% of it was junk, but one author she aspired to be like was Mary Stolz. She still remembers great chunks of Stolz’s book Because of Madeline. Susan admired Stolz so much that years later she contacted Stolz and asked her if she could dedicate a book to her.
  • Marie Lu said, “I remember the day I picked this up [Brian Jacques’s Redwall series], and from that day on I read science fiction and fantasy.

Books the TTT Teens Mentioned That They Liked

  • Fat Angie by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo
  • Game by Barry Lyga
  • 2013-07-03 21.23.59If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch (“character didn’t wallow in self-pity,” “this book made me want to be nice to my brother,” “main character raw, like a real person”)
  • Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston (“finished it in an hour,” “hope there’s a sequel”)
  • Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman (“explores his life and growth through unbiased lens”)
  • Tragedy Papers by Elizabeth Laban (“I connected to the setting and how real it is,” “cool way of putting two stories together”)

Books That the TTT Teens Had Mixed Reactions to

  • 2013-07-03 21.30.36CODA by Emma Trevayne
  • Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick
  • Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett
  • When We Wake by Karen Healey
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Since I haven’t read any of these yet, I’m very interested in reading all of them. I left this preconference program very energized both by the teens, the authors, and by the enthusiasm of all the attendees. Everyone had good suggestions for how to market and promote the TTT. I certainly hope more librarians consider getting their teens involved in TTT. It’s a wonderful way for the teens to get to read the new YA books before anyone else and have the opportunity to discuss them while learning how to be succinct when talking about them. They also learn how to do a book talk well.

All the Teens’ Top Ten (TTT) books, plus titles from YALSA’s other awards and booklists are available on the Teen Book Finder App or YALSA’s website. The list of all the current TTT teen book groups participating in the program can also be found on YALSA’s website

— Sharon Rawlins, currently reading the galley of Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein and listening to Once by Morris Gleitzman