On Saturday, January 21st, in the room as far as you can possibly get from the exhibit hall, a crowd of teen librarians anxiously awaited for the BFYA Teen Feedback Session to begin. Unfortunately, we were missing a key component–the teens! But they finally made their way down the long hall, loaded with bags of books and swag.
The titles under consideration filled 10 full pages. So the moderator went page by page, inviting teens to step up to the mic and express their feelings about any of the books that were on the page. The teens responses were eloquent and insightful. And they did not hold back at all, for better (or worse). Leave it to teens to be completely and unabashedly honest.
The overall theme of the day: The books that came out this year caused them to have a lot of “compassion fatigue” — too many characters died this year! Also, teens are seeking out diverse stories–they recognize the importance and want to see themselves or others they know represented in the books they read.
Kids of Appetite by David Arnold
“Great characters that are fully developed. That matters.”
Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
“The best Cassandra Clare novel yet!”
Most popular sentiment about this book: “Loved it!”
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
“YES! It is a sweet story. I really loved the great family relationships portrayed.”
The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
“This story felt very realistic with the way it approached this period of history.”
Even though this story took place during World War II, Hanneke felt “real and relatable” to teen readers.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
This was an agreed upon favorite with many of the teens present.
The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
“[Nicola Yoon] is ON POINT!”
One girl talked about how the romances that Ms. Yoon writes are so fantastic and realistic.
One teen approached to express her love for this book: “1. The main girl is black. 2. The guy is Korean, and that’s my ideal kind of guy!”
She later came back up to the mic to make sure we knew this: “The fact that the main character is black is so awesome and means a lot to me.”
Other Positive Feedback
Where You’ll Find Me by Natasha Friend
“The characters in this story were redeemable. I really liked that.”
Unbecoming by Jenny Downham
“This was a breath of fresh air. This story was only kind of a dramatic teen tragedy. Also, the characters all speak in described accents–I could hear them in my head while I was reading. It made it more fun!”
Another teen said: “It taught me that the most stony people are made out of flesh.”
Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King
“The surrealism of this story makes it relatable. Because life as a teen is complex.”
This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
“One of the best books I have ever read!” She really liked how it showed different sides of what goes on at school.
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
“So authentic! In fact, I wanted her to be at lunch with us so I could tell her how AWESOME she is!”
Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick
One teen admitted she “threw it at someone’s head so she would read it!” It was THAT good.
As I Descended by Robin Talley
“I can never read it again because IT WAS JUST THAT AMAZING!”
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
“This had the best-handled death I have ever read.”
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
“Good power of suspense, but sometimes it was really frustrating.”
“It needed to get to the action sooner, but it was still good.”
“This book felt more like a prologue than a first book.”
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown
“I really liked it! But it may have had a little too much religion for me.”
The Reader by Traci Chee
“It took a while for me to get into it. But once I got into it I was glad I read it!”
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
One teen expressed excitement: “Me and Jane–we are LITERALLY THE SAME PERSON!”
Another teen expressed her dislike for inaccuracy: “If you have taken AP Euro[pean history] you probably aren’t going to like My Lady Jane. The fantastical elements (like the animorphs) really mess with the history.”
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
“I felt that this book was too long. Some parts just dragged on. I still liked it, but it just went on too long.”
“I appreciate the subject matter addressed in this story. It is really important.”
The Monster in the Road is Me by J.P. Romney
“I shouldn’t have to use Google Translate THAT much to understand what is going on.”
“I watch Japanese TV shows so I got it.”
The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork
One teen mentioned how it felt a little slow because it focused so much on mental health, but mentioned that it would probably be really helpful for teens who struggled with their mental health.
Another teen reflected on how “the connections between the characters were important.”
Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace
Teen was “a little confused” by how the story was developing, but by the end she would read the sequel.
Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach
“Getting the perspective of Ivy League schools was really cool to read about.”
Hard Passes and Critical Analyses
The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
Up to This Point by Jennifer Longo
A couple of teens described it at a “niche” read. For those that read it, it was a little too specific in audience, which made it a little harder to get through.
Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
“I didn’t like how [Grace] dragged [Henry] through the mud.”
The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín
One teen boy asked his fellow teens: “Was I the only one who felt like I was reading the script to a Predator movie?”
Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer
“These authors are coming up with more and more creative ways to die! Spontaneous combustion! I laughed a lot while reading this!”
This is a guest post from Jennifer Powell, who is the School Library Media Specialist at Tarrant High School in Birmingham, AL. She is passionate about transforming the library into a place her 7th-12th grade students can find themselves in. She loves all things YA, anything with elephants on it, and Harry Potter Pops. You can find her blogging at www.alibrarianslibrary.com and tweeting @Powells_Library.