Pub Rants

Teens Speak

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STATUS: Tired but happy from the long working weekend.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IN YOUR EYES by Peter Gabriel

ALA wraps up today—for me anyway. I actually think Librarians are meeting for another day or two to finish up discussions.

Hands down the best session I attended was on Sunday afternoon when the Best Books for Young Adults met with area teens to discuss the titles that have been nominated.

The session was packed as editors, agents, librarians all sat in to hear about which books caught the teens’ attention on the nomination list. Unfortunately, the nomination list was 9 pages long and the teens only got a chance to air their views on the first four pages. I, for one, would like to vote on making the session significantly longer so we could hear what the teens had to say on all the possible titles but that wasn’t an option yesterday. The last five pages of nominated titles were done in 25 minutes and teens were only allowed to speak once about a title they liked from those 5 pages. I was pretty thrilled to hear two teens pick Brooke Taylor’s UNDONE as their choice from those undiscussed pages.

As for the teen commentary, it was pretty revealing.

Yes there were some teens who were so excited about a book, it was hard for them to articulate anything beyond “I really, really loved this” but there were many teens who were sharp, analytical, articulate in their views about why they did or didn’t like something.

Heck, I wanted to hire some of them to be my teen review committee!

Of course there were the usual gushes for Stephenie Meyer, Melissa Marr, and Suzanne Collins’s THE HUNGER GAMES and Cory Doctorow’s LITTLE BROTHER but there were also some surprises.

Like the teen boy who prefaced his comment that he wasn’t one for poetry but did enjoy THE APPRENTICE’S MASTERPICE: A STORY OF MEDIEVAL SPAIN. Told in verse no less! I think some of us swooned and wondered where this kid was when we were in high school!

Boys liked Eoin Colfer’s AIRMAN and James Kennedy’s THE ORDER OF ODD-FISH.

Girls loved AUDREY, WAIT!

Other favorites were GRACELING and NATION. Also, THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR DOGS had very passionate responses and made me want to read the book.

There were mixed teen reviews on LUXE and lots of teens were drawn to a novel called GONE (as in the title grabbed their interest and they picked it up) but ultimately none of them gave the title a favorable review.

Also interesting was the fact that the books that the teens loved didn’t always line up with the titles the committee members from Best Books For Young Adults were voting for to make the final list.

And I’m sure you’ve heard this already but the Printz Award for best YA for 2008 went to JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta.

A title I’d never heard of I have to admit.

Newbery Medal went to Neil Gaiman’s THE GRAVEYARD BOOK.


16 Responses

  1. Chris Bates said:


    Melina Marchetta is an Aussie author whose bestseller (here in Oz) ‘Looking For Alibrandi’ has the distinction of being the most stolen book from school libraries!

    She also wrote the screenplay for the film version – a great movie, by the way.

  2. Natalie Hatch said:

    Chris I know our school library is always replacing their copy. Must be an aussie thing. I have to grab a copy of Jellicoe Road and Graceling, so many people are talking about these two books.

  3. HWP said:

    I just finished reading Wicked Lovely, and I can say I totally understand all the gushing over Melissa Marr. That was a really fantastic book.

  4. Mandy said:

    How do you get to be a teen reviewer? I have a fifteen year old who loves to read and is always looking out for new books

  5. Windy Two Rivers said:

    It is funny that you should mention the teens choices didn’t necessarily match up with the committees. I belong to Authonomy (HC online slush pile) and I find that quite often the “Children’s” or even “YA” mss that get the most votes are actually what I call children’s stories for adults. The people voting are usually unfamiliar with the genres and many do not have their own children. The authors of such works are taling about childhood/ teen years or to children/teens, but not with them. I let my teen niece into my account once in awhile and see what she ferrets out of the YA categories. Then I back the book, or not accordingly.

    I thought I was a teen just the other day, but taking a hip hop class with teen girls reminds me it was much longer than that. I’m nor sure what planet they even come from. Water breaks are consumed by a frenzy of text messaging. I can’t presume to know what teens like these days, and my literary tastes as a teen were quite adult.

    My hat off to adults that can speak with teens or acurately decide what teens will enjoy.

  6. Anonymous said:

    Quote: “… Also interesting was the fact that the books that the teens loved didn’t always line up with the titles the committee members from Best Books For Young Adults were voting for to make the final list…”

    This doesn’t surprise me at all. In fact, beloved teen books almost never win the awards or make the lists. What kids find interesting and what adults note as “worthy” are often at odds. What to do about this as a writer, I have no idea.

    To tell you the truth I’m somewhat stunned you haven’t heard of Jellicoe Road. For god’s sake, girl, get out of your office once in a while! Bookstores have this title stocked en mass, face out, for the world to see. (This was before the selection) The writer is quite a big deal, actually.

  7. ryan field said:

    Another great post. There’s so much bad advice going around on the Internet, I wish every writer would read this blog at least once a week.

  8. DebraLSchubert said:

    OMG, Kristin – I had to add another comment. I just saw you were listening to “Blue” by The Jayhawks. That is one of my favorite songs of all time!!!! (Sorry for the exclamation points, I know that’s incredibly “bad form.” Please forgive me – the musician in me couldn’t help myself.)

  9. Bonnie said:

    Late to the party, but if you’re still looking at this thread: were there titles or kinds of books that were popular with both boys and girls, or is the market still gender-segmented?

  10. Daqu said:

    Pssh. Those kids don’t know what they’re talking about. The Gone series is one of the best YA books I’ve ever read! (And trust me, I read a lot!)