As we gear up for ALA Midwinter and the 2021 Youth Media Awards (YMA), we thought it could be fun to highlight a few YMA-related stories. In the coming weeks, we’ll focus on those titles from the past and present award cycles that might inspire you and your readers!
But first, a reminder: you can follow along with the Youth Media Awards announcements starting at 8 am CT on Monday, January 25. You can watch with ALA’s streaming platform or through the various social media platforms using the hashtag #alayma.
To begin our dive into these special awards, let’s look at the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Established in 2000, this award is granted each year to the “best book written for teens, based entirely on literary merit.” Mike Printz was a high school librarian for years, and he believed wholeheartedly in finding the right book for the right reader at the right time. In honor of 20 years of service to young adult readers, here are a few then and now connections:
If you’re searching for romantic novels in the young adult genre, you will only have to look for approximately ten seconds before being buried beneath an annal of books. Just recently, Hub bloggers have compiled a great list of interracial romances and a list of their favorite recent releases in YA contemporary romances.
This makes sense, as romance tends to be an important part of people’s lives and everyone remembers the relationships they either had or wanted to have in high school. Older adults read these books to reminisce about their own experiences. Young adults may read these books because they are interested in stories that align with their experiences or what they wish their experiences had been.
One of the complaints I’ve heard (and made) about a lot of young adult romance novels is that they’re not always very realistic and are oftentimes cliche-ridden and predictable. The awkward and/or quirky girl or boy meets up with the girl or boy who is popular but really has these hidden depths that only the quirky unpopular person can truly understand. These may be fun, escapist, well-written, and engrossing stories. They just maybe don’t reflect the reality of most teen relationships.
Many readers like a little romance now and again, but still want some romance that didn’t follow tropes or ended with the ambiguity that often occurs in real life.
These are books that do a good job of tackling romance in more realistic ways.
The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman
This is a book about a boy named Wes and a girl named June who meet and do not immediately fall in love with each other. They also don’t hate each other and then come together a lá Pride and Prejudice. They meet each other and exist. Eventually June starts pity-dating one of Wes’ friends but even then, he isn’t overwhelmed with a jealous desire for her. Eventually they just start spending time together and before you know it, they’ve got some hard decisions to make about the future.
Eleanor and Park meet and bond over her needing somewhere to sit on the bus. Park reads comic books every day and she secretly reads along with him. They start to hang out with each other even though they don’t have a lot of opportunity and they seem to be total opposites. That mantra might sound familiar but this is “opposites attract” without the requisite clichés.
The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
Ezra has to reinvent himself when an injury during a car crash robs him of his identity as a tennis star. He tries new things, reconnects with old friends along the way, and meets a girl who seems like the perfect manic-pixie dream girl. But is she the reason he’s changing? Is she perfect for him? Does she have to be?Continue reading Booklist: Realistic Romance
Harry Potter Series (Best Books For Young Adults: 1999,2000, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, Teens Top Ten: 2004, 2006, & 2008) by J.K. Rowling: Ron is the quintessential goofball best friend; he is this literary trope. Ron is the comic relief from Harry’s angst. Understandable angst, I mean we all know Harry has had it rough. But Ron also plays the role of explaining magical culture to Harry (and us readers.) Hermione does this as well but as a “muggle” she tends to know more textbook-based facts. Ron is a great best friend to have, and an absolute goofball.
YALSA’s 2015 Young Adult Services Symposium included a pre-conference session on using graphic novels to inspire programming, recommended titles, a discussion with comics creators Terry Blas, Faith Erin Hicks, Mariko Tamaki, Gene Luen Yang, Leila del Duca, Joe Keatinge, and a discussion with teachers who use graphic novels in classroom instruction.
Today let us delve into one of the most pervasive tropes of our time, one that appears in literature, films, television, and maybe even our fantasies: the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (and Boy) (MPDG/B). Just in case your are not familiar with this moniker, it was identified by Nathan Rabin in 2005 when describing Kirsten Dunsts’ character in his movie review of “Elizabethtown”:
“The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”
How many times have you walked by your library’s bank of computers and seen teens laughing hysterically at Youtube clips? Have you ever passed a group of teens huddling over a phone watching someone commentating a video game? Do you hear the words Nerdfighters or Brofist but you don’t know what that means? Wonder no more; it’s just Youtube celebrities.
Youtube is free and easily accessible with a mobile device so many teens watch Youtube more than TV. Because of this, popular Youtubers have become mainstream and have even attained celebrity status. You’ll find Youtube celebrities in commercials and movies and you’ll also find them at library/book conventions. You might even see their face or slogans on t-shirts and other merchandise. Who are these Youtube celebrities and why are they so popular?
Pewdiepie-Swedish Youtube with over 39 million followers.
Pewdiepie to date has the most Youtube subscribers. (A subscriber is someone who follows a particular channel and receives email updates of that channel’s new videos.) Pewdiepie’s channel originally featured the Youtuber making comments as he played horror-based video games. His channel now features a daily vlog and animated videos. Pewdiepie ends many of his videos with a brofist which is simply a fist bump. Pewdiepie has a new book and has been a guest on Late Night with Stephen Colbert. Continue reading Fandom 101: Youtube Celebrities
“Trope” is defined as “a common or overused theme or device.” (Merriam-Webster). There are definitely over-used themes in the YA world; I know many of you have had enough love triangles and dystopian worlds. On the flip side, tropes have always been used in literature, and they play an important part in driving a story. Shakespeare himself successfully used literary tropes (mistaken identity anyone?) I have found many times over that if a book has the goods, it doesn’t really matter how many common themes the author utilizes.
That said, I would like to invite you to join me each Wednesday for a hump day roundup of books that follow a familiar literary trope I have noticed and fully embrace. Full credit and many thanks to my fellow Hub bloggers: Hannah Gomez, Jancee Wright, Carly Pansulla, Robin Brenner, Anna Tschetter, Sharon Rawlins, Molly Wetta, and Kimberli Buckley for their awesome suggestions and input.
Literary Trope for Week 1: The Old Clunker I Drive
To say that cars are important to teens is putting it lightly. A license to drive plus a set of keys equal freedom in a most tangible way. Of course, most teens in life and literature have financial limitations and many drive rusty, second-hand, and always breaking-down cars. But, those unexpected stops are usually what makes the journey so fantastic. So, thank you clunker car literary trope, we love you. Continue reading YA Literary Tropes: The Old Clunker I Drive
Perhaps the ever-fabulous John Green said it best in a vlogbrothers video from 2009 when he summed up a nerd as someone who is “unironically enthusiastic about stuff.” For bigger-picture context, John had just seen the latest Harry Potter movie and was thrilled not only by the movie itself, but also by the sense of community and camaraderie he experienced in the theater while waiting for the movie to begin. And while this post isn’t about Harry Potter, the quote (and video) did make me think about exactly what it is to be a nerd.
For me, being a nerd is something I am immensely proud of. It’s come to be a defining factor in my life, something I embrace openly and enthusiastically. Tuesday nights find me at my local tabletop game store playing Carcassonne or Dominion with friends. Weekends are for sci-fi movies and 8-hour video game marathons. I own a Batman backpack, TARDIS lamp, and Master Sword/Shield of Hyrule/Ocarina combo. I pride myself on loving my fandoms passionately, even obsessively.
But what I’ve learned is that just because I read a lot of Batman comics, that doesn’t necessarily make me an expert on the universe. What I love about nerd culture and fandoms is that there is always something new to learn, to obtain, to work toward. But even for someone who already has a base-level knowledge, it can be daunting to jump into a fandom without some guidance. It’s dangerous to go alone, dear readers, take these resources to guide you on your journey! Continue reading How to Nerd: Nonfiction Titles for This Quest We Call Life
I read Stephen King’s Under the Dome several years ago, so I was understandably excited when I found out it was going to be made into a television show. This show is in its third summer season, and I’ve wondered about the teen characters. If they actually had access to books, what would they want to read? Norrie, in particular, strikes me as a tough customer. She and her moms were on their way to a camp for rebellious teens when they became trapped under the dome. Norrie’s moms see her as rebellious, and her caustic attitude does little to win her any admirers in town, at least among the adult population. If Norrie were to walk in today, what would I recommend that she read?
In Backlash, Lara’s family and friends soon realize the impact of small things that became bigger, more complicated problems. This book would be a good one to give Norrie to help her understand why her moms were so bothered by her sexting and why they wanted to send her to a camp for troubled teens. Norrie would probably also be drawn to the drama in this story and the way few of the characters are sympathetic.
More and more books about LGBTQ+ teens are being published every day, but there are still frighteningly few books about teens with LGBTQ+ parents. Norrie would enjoy Lola’s story for the simple fact that Lola has two dads and has to deal with the consequences of this the same way that Norrie deals with having two moms.
Yaqui decides that the new girl, Piddy, is too smart for her own good and isn’t Latina enough. Thus follows a year of Yaqui torturing Piddy, to the point where Piddy is assaulted outside her home and the assault is recorded and posted online. This book might help Norrie to tone down her caustic attitude a bit and to be able to see things from the other person’s point of view, as this story follows Piddy and how she deals with the torture she’s being put through.
Ben’s father is tired of putting up with Ben’s rebellion, so he and his new boyfriend take Ben and move to the middle of Montana. Ben doesn’t feel like he fits in in this new small town, and he is still very angry at his father. Norrie would relate to Ben’s anger at his father as well as the small-town setting of this book, which is very similar to Chester’s Mill. Continue reading What Would They Read?: Norrie from Under the Dome
Our family vacation this year was a road trip from our home in Maryland to Chicago, so I thought it would be fun to find books with a connection to this famous metropolis.
Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko (Best Book for Young Adults 2005, 2005 Audiobook for Young Adults). Although NOT set in Chicago, but rather on Alcatraz Island, near San Francisco, the title character was of course famous for his illegal rule of the Windy City. Since we had the fun of eating deep-dish pizza at The Exchequer, known for being one of Capone’s haunts, I couldn’t resist including this title. The story actually focuses on Moose, a twelve-year-old who’s forcibly moved to Alcatraz when his father takes on a guard job there, but the historical details provide some interesting insights on the era when Capone was active.
An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green (2007 Printz Honor Book). Ok, main character Colin Singleton starts this story by needing to get out of Chicago, after he’s dumped by his 19th girlfriend named Katherine. Still, between the road trip and the pictures of his early life around the University of Chicago, the book came to mind when I visited the city myself.
Divergent, by Veronica Roth (2012 Teens’ Top Ten, 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults). I admit it, I haven’t read this series yet. But now that I know it takes place not just in some abstract future, but in Chicago of the future, I will have to get started. If you are one of the few who, like me, haven’t read it yet, Divergent and its sequels follow the story of Tris, a girl who, on her sixteenth birthday decides to change her “faction” from Abnegation to Dauntless. Hunger Games-like tests follow, along with chilling revelations about her society. Continue reading Chicago: Read Through the Windy City