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Author: Maria Kramer

A Defense of “Weak” YA Fiction

“Tackling rich literature is the best way to prepare students for careers and college, said [Sandra] Stotsky, who blames mediocre national reading scores on weak young adult literature popular since the 1960s.” (From The Independent)

Are you spluttering in outraged confusion yet? This quote appeared in several recent articles about the Common Core State Standards in English and promptly caused a library listserv flamewar. Sadly, I couldn’t find out much more about the context for Stotsky’s quote and why she thinks of YA literature as “weak” when it truly has never been more creative or thought-provoking. Unable to comprehend the sheer magnitude of out-of-touch-ness displayed by this quote, I turned to the Pueblo City-County Library’s Teen Advisory Board (thanks Anthony and Cory!) to tell me what real young adults thought about it.

Has “weak” YA literature made students mediocre readers?


Twilight’s Legacy

Sniff…the memories!

Today is a bittersweet one for many people — with yesterday’s release of Breaking Dawn, Part 2, night has officially fallen on the Twilight Saga. Love Twilight or hate it, we can’t deny the influence it had on the world of YA fiction. From paving the way for more teen/adult crossover blockbusters to propelling the paranormal romance genre to unheard of levels of popularity, Twilight left a huge mark on YA culture. Let’s explore some of Twilight‘s lasting legacy in YA literature, shall we?

Love Triangles

I’m sure that pre-Twilight books included love triangles, but Twilight elevated love triangles to a team sport, one that every teen book wanted to play. Without Team Edward vs. Team Jacob, would we have Team Gale vs. Team Peeta? Team Will vs. Team Jem? Team Damon vs. Team Stefan? Team Cam vs. Team Daniel? Maybe not. Of course, that might not be a bad thing…

Old Series, New Readers

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The Next Big Thing for Guys

YALSA’s upcoming YA Literature Symposium will explore the future of young adult literature. The symposium begins on November 2nd, but we wanted to get a head start here at The Hub, so we’re devoting October to 31 Days of the Next Big Thing. Each day of the month, we’ll bring you forecasts about where YA literature is headed and thoughts on how you can spot trends and predict the future yourself.

The Next Big Thing for guys is — windbreakers. You heard it here first, folks!

Everyone’s been talking about the YA Literature Renaissance — young adult books are becoming film blockbusters and spawning massive teen and adult fandoms — but there’s one group that might have been left behind: boys.

Last fall, a New York Times article claimed that the largest markets in young adult literature are female-oriented. Girls and women tend to read more than boys and men and consume more books, and understandably publishers want to capture this large market. Perhaps as a result, many of the big blockbuster series have a lot of girl appeal: love triangles, female protagonists, and a focus on relationships.

In the future, when we all hope the YA Renaissance will bloom and come into its own, a big question is: what books will be there to capture the interest of young men? Recent developments might point to an answer: thrillers.


Why “YA”? An Exploration of “Young Adult”

The term “young adult” came onto the library and publishing scene in the late 1960s. It makes sense that as teen culture emerged as a force to be reckoned with, publishers realized that teens needed books that specifically addressed their interests and experiences. Since then, the YA book market has grown exponentially in both size and diversity.

But is the term “young adult” pigeonholing the teen reading experience, telling teenss, “Here, these books are appropriate for you, but these other books are not”? Recently authors John Boyne, Jane Higgins, and Helen Lowe, in a discussion about young adult fiction, raised some interesting points:

  • “Young adult” is a term used mostly by publishers and booksellers.
  • Many writers don’t write specifically for a teen audience; they just write what interests them.
  • Books are designated as “young adult” after they are written, as a marketing decision.
Catch her! She’s reading out of her age category!

The authors’ main issue was that the young adult category might “build a wall” between the teen and adult collections of a library or bookstore — a wall that is largely artificial. The artificiality of the distinction between young adult and adult books may be responsible for a new literary phenomenon: over half of the consumers of books classified for ages 12 to 17 are, in fact, 18 or over. (There’s also a very popular blog devoted to adult readers of young adult books, which everyone should really take a look at.)


Teddy Roosevelt, Alien Exterminator, or The Joy of Mashups

by flickr user elmira college
On June 19, the world as we know it changed forever. On that day we all woke up in a world where the film Ambraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter is a thing that exists. What bizarre alchemy created the world of mashups, a world in which we can watch Honest Abe decapitate a vampire in digital 3D? Perhaps mashup literature is the natural evolution of maker culture, with its DIY spirit and zest for hacking, jailbreaking, and repurposing technological accessories. Why shouldn’t this impulse extend into the world of literature? I bless whatever combination of circumstances made mashup literature possible, and in honor of its spirit and zany glee, I propose:

A List of Actual Mashups for Your Enjoyment

Plus Three Mashups the World Must See

  1. T. S. Eliot and Time Travellers
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The Avengers Reading List

Yes, yes, they're saving the planet ... but what do they read?
Comic book fans have something to be excited about this month: Marvel’s Avengers movie has finally come out, after teasers that began way back in Iron Man. (Yes, I stayed in the theater and watched the endclip, why do you ask?) Sure, the Avengers have been taking names and smashing box office records, but here’s the big question: what would members of this superteam read in their free time? Wonder no more!

The Hero: Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff)

The only female member of the movie’s Avengers, Black Widow is an exceptional spy and  infiltrator, skilled in disguise, intrigue, assassination and  hand-to-hand combat. In the comics, she began her career as a Soviet spy but became a valued member of S.H.I.E.L.D. Although she has pursued romantic relationships with many of her superhero colleagues during her comic-book history, including Iron Man and Daredevil, Black Widow remains staunchly independent–this lady is more than capable of taking care of herself.

The Book: Graceling by Kristin Cashore (2009 Best Books for Young Adults, 2009 Teens Top Ten, 2012 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Like Black Widow, Katsa is a skilled fighter, who, at first, is used by an unscrupulous ruler for his own purposes. Over the course of the novel, Katsa discovers a great deal about herself, including the true nature of her abilities and the strength to stand up to those in power. At the end of the book, when Katsa has the emotional maturity to enter a romantic relationship without losing herself, I’m sure Natasha would cheer her on.


Book Spine Poetry Challenge

Everybody’s favorite excuse to speak in rhyming couplets is upon us! That’s right; it’s National Poetry Month. In honor of National Poetry Month this year, my fellow Hub blogger Suzanne Neumann and I have made some exquisite book spine poems for you. For those of you who don’t know, book spine poems are made by stacking books on top of each other and forming a witty, free-verse poem from their titles. Check out this gallery of book-spine poems for examples. Our book spine poems, of course, come with a twist. Suzanne and I both composed three poems based on books. Can you identify which books they are?


Book 1