With summer in full swing, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been attending my fair share of family barbecues, kids’ birthday parties, and other get-togethers. Aside from the usual commiserations over sunburns, bug bites, and other summertime hazards, the discussions usually turn to work.
While my close friends and family all know exactly what my job entails from listening to me enthuse endlessly over books and programs, I’m always amused at the reactions I get from those who are just learning that I’m a youth services librarian … and that I specialize in teen services. Aside from the general puzzled looks, I sometimes get the follow up question, “Does that mean you read kids’ books all day?”
Though most who ask this question seem excited and sometimes even a little envious until I confess that, no, that’s not part of my official job (sadly), there are a few who seem to view the idea with disdain. These are the adults to whom I then proceed to describe my job in enthusiastic detail, just before launching into a full-scale personalized book recommendation that I’m sure they were not at all prepared to accept. (Some days I truly love what I do!) I fully believe that no matter how skeptical someone may be about “kids’ books” that I can find a young adult book that will appeal to any adult reader. Sometimes, you just have to be a little sneaky about how you present the book to them!
Here are some example scenarios:
Skeptic #1: Cranky uncle who believes that all kids’ books are light and full of sparkly fairies, whereas he is totally hooked on television dramas like Criminal Minds, Dexter, or Hannibal and can’t seem to get enough of serial killers
Recommendation #1: This would be the person to whom I would happily recommend Monika Feth’s The Strawberry Picker. This cinematic thriller is told in alternating chapters, revealing all facets of the serial murders and the investigation, including all the connections between the young main characters, the killer, and the police. Well-written and suspenseful, this book will draw in readers who love seeing a serial murder case through to the end … especially if they like a peek into the killer’s mind.
Recommendation #2: This is the person that I would be pushing Lisa and Laura Roecker’s This is W.A.R. upon immediately! Written like an arc of a good television soap, the Roeckers reveal delicious secrets in every chapter. This page turner chronicles a revenge scheme that is full of red herrings, flawed characters, and juicy gossip. This book is the perfect summer pick-me-up for the drama hound in your life.
Skeptic #3: The brother-in-law who is hooked on The Walking Dead and thinks that no kids’ book can ever match the level of emotional grittiness among the undead.
Recommendation #3: Aside from pointing out the excellent graphic novel series that the television show is based on, I would them immediately point him to Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin. The Benny Imura series features a western vibe in which the main characters must all face down moral dilemmas in their quest for survival. Humanity is tested again and again, leaving Benny unsure where to turn to find a “safe haven.”
Skeptic #4: The co-worker who doesn’t read very often, but had to rip through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when it hit the bestsellers list.
Recommendation #4 – For a similar tech-based thriller, I would recommend Michelle Gagnon’s Don’t Turn Around. Teen hacker Noa wakes one day unable to discover how she arrived hooked up to an IV in a shady warehouse. When she teams up with another teen who has been threatened by a large corporation, Noa finds herself on the run from shadowy figures that want to silence her, even though she can’t remember what pivotal information she may have known.
Skeptic #5: The twenty-something cousin who thinks she’s outgrown kids’ books, but is still hooked on Nicholas Sparks movies and the Lifetime channel.
Recommendation #5: This beach reader would most likely love any Jennifer Echols book. However, I would recommend starting her off with Love Story. This story about two college students who work through their conflicted feelings for each other publicly in their creative writing class is an emotional rollercoaster. Full of steamy passion — without any gratuitousness — this makes for a great beach read … as long as you have some tissues near by, just in case!
Skeptic #6: The boss who has discovered Margaret Atwood’s dystopian MaddAddam trilogy and expounds upon the depth found in Oryx and Crake that can NOT be found in a kids’ book.
Recommendation #6: For this discerning reader, I would recommend one of YA’s darker post-apocalyptic novels — either Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker or Chris Howard’s Rootless. Both novels feature a future North America where warring bands of uncouth rebels struggle for power. Each book features a young man struggling to survive on his own until he comes across someone who just might be worth giving his own life to save. These are gritty stories that pose moral questions and leave readers creating their own definitions about what makes us human.
So what do you think of my potential recommendations? One or two may be based in real-life, though I’d never reveal it here (*wink wink*). Has anyone else run into any of these scenarios? Any other (or potentially better) recommendations to share?
— Jessica Miller, currently reading Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
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