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B4B13: Celebrates Darkness and Outsiders in YA Literature


Books for the Beast is a biennial YA Literature conference sponsored by the Enoch Pratt Free Library and hosted by the Roland Park Country School in Baltimore, Maryland.  Teens, teachers and librarians converged this past Saturday October 19th for the conference to talk about chosen reading lists in small discussion groups and to listen to featured authors speak from their perspective about trends in YA literature. For more information about the Books for the Beast conference and this year’s full reading list, please click here.

Robin Wasserman was the keynote speaker this year, and she discussed “Darkness in YA Literature.” It was an engaging presentation that included great insight, some humor and middle school pictures! There was also a hilarious aside about her feelings for the new movie Gravity. If you ever get the chance, you should ask her about it some time. She spoke about the need for acknowledgement that the world is full of terrible things and that through these dark stories in YA literature readers have a safe space to tackle the darkness and their fears. The book It by Stephen King was the dark novel during her YA years that helped her embrace the idea that anything could happen and you could get through it.

Sharon Flake and Raina Telgemeier had a panel discussion about “Teens on the Outside.” Flake spoke about trying to write characters that are outside the box our society puts them, and Telgemeier spoke about how the story of Smile started and the process of graphic novel creation. Both authors were insightful and friendly.

Below are the reading lists from the two theme-centered small group discussions. The themed discussions were a departure from previous years, when they had been grouped by genre.

Continental was the first theme carrying readers all across the globe with its various stories.

  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (Readers Choice Nominee): Fun, frothy romance set in Paris, France. If you are a fan of Sarah Dessen then you will want to read this one!
  • The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman: What one person in our group described as a cross between a Dan Brown book and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I would highly recommend the audiobook just to hear the various languages used in the book read to you. Awesome read!
  •   A Game for Swallows: To Die to Leave, To Return by Zeina Abirached:

  • My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher:

Bliss was a surprise theme for me. I choose this group, because I thought the books would be “happy” books. We came to the conclusion that these were books where characters were trying to find their bliss and not necessarily “happy” books.

  • Drama by Raina Telgemeier:

  • Winter Town by Stephen Emond: A tale of growing up and friendship told from both perspectives utilizing illustrations.
  • Disenchantments by Nina Lacour:

  • Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez: One of the teen favorites in my group. Highly recommend to anyone who plays or played an instrument in high school.
  • Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (2012 Printz Award Winner & 2012 Morris Winner) :

-Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading Allegiant by Veronica Roth

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Katie Shanahan Yu

Katie Shanahan Yu is a Media Specialist for a middle school in Rockville, MD. Find her on Twitter: @kakakates

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