One of the most frequent readers’ advisory questions I get is also one of the most complicated. Often, a reader asks for a “funny” book. But what does that mean?
Humor is subjective. Some readers might be looking for a book with slapstick-y humor, others might appreciate darker humor, like satire. Some readers don’t mind a book with bits of humor but more dramatic themes overall, others just want an easy, breezy comedy.
Bottom line: matching books with readers looking for a funny book can be tricky.
Since April is National Humor Month, it seemed like a good time to break down the subcategories of humor and offer suggestions for readers looking for funny books.
Satire is the use of humorous exaggeration to expose and criticize, particularly in the context of politics or culture.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (2012 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 Amelia Bloomer List, 2012 Rainbow List, 2014 Popular Paperbacks) is about a group of beauty pageant contestants who crash land on an island: hilarity ensues. But while a less adept writer might have just mocked the beauty-obsessed girls, but instead, she creates complicated characters who for various reasons—money, love, approval—have all bought into the rigid standards beauty pageant contestants are expected to embody, and in the process, critiques consumerism , reality TV, and of course, pageants.
The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults) is the story of Jennifer Strange, a wizard for hire who becomes the last dragonslayer. Like Bray, Fforde critiques the corporate world and consumer culture in this fantasy series sure to put a smirk on reader’s faces.
Teen readers who love satire should also check out the classics from authors like George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut.