Photo by Harriet Russell, property of NPR

About a week ago, NPR published their list of the top 100 Young Adult (YA) books. When they did, my twitter feed exploded with tweets from various authors and literary publishers over some questions that arose from this year’s list.

For those who aren’t familiar with the list, here’s a little how it works.  This year there were 235 books in the running.  100 were chosen by public voters, not a committee.  Since the list is made up of books and not authors, an author can get more than one book in the top 100.  Also, the list is not comprised of books from 2011-2012 only.  Rather, it consists of the top 100 YA books in time.  Any book that is suited for YA audiences can make it, regardless of publishing date and genre.  For further clarification, don’t limit YA strictly to teen audiences, but rather for the 13-23 ish age range.  The Harry Potter series took the number 1 slot followed by The Hunger Games.  To Kill a Mockingbird was third.  Popular authors represented are Robin McKinley, Sarah Dessen, J. R.R. Tolkien, Tamora Pierce, John Knowles, and Stephanie Meyers, to name a few.

Now, based on the list and the discussions/debates surrounding the list, I’ve developed a few questions for you, the readers.  Please, leave at least 1 comment answering at least 1 question, leaving a thought, or writing a question of your own.  Next week, I’ll write a follow up blog discussing the answers as well as some of my own thoughts.

1. What is the place and role of MODERN YA books?  Note: the word modern as used here means books written within the past 15 years or so.  This does not include books like To Kill a Mockingbird, A Separate Peace, LOTR, etc.  It does include books like Harry Potter, Twilight, 13 Reasons Why, etc…

2. There has been some discussion on the fact that many of the top 100 books have a female author.  Does this make a difference?  Is there a reason behind it?  Should/how can this change?

3.  What are some pros and cons for YA books, especially modern YA books, in and out of the classroom?  (Ex. PRO: Encourages reading.  CON: Simplistic in style.)

Remember, comment and include at least 1 answer, thought, or question.

3 thoughts on “What About YA?

  1. YA fiction has many and varied purposes and roles in society. The ‘coming of age’ story provides alternatives to our one and only experience and may point out other options. This includes the stimulation of creative thinking, considerations of right and wrong, of how one can or should live one’s life, of learning about varied political ideas, e.g. a very real introduction to practical philosophy. Simple to complex, not everyone has the same level of understanding or reading ability. Movies have a role – the release of “Starship Troopers” re-introduced the conserative Campbellian political philosophy that I read as a young adult. I also absorbed both utopian and anti-utopian fiction at the same time. Somehow I doubt either “A Brave New World” or “WE” are being considered for movies!

  2. Actually, there is a movie of ‘A Brave New World’, or it might be a mini-series. I remember watching it shortly after reading the book sometime in the mid 90s. I believe ‘We’ was adapted to film in the 70s, but if I remember the reviews correctly (haven’t seen it) it diverged pretty far from the book. I’ll argue up, down, and sideways that the movie ‘Starship Troopers’ has nothing to do with the book, and the director has even come out publicly and stated that he hates the novel, even though he never finished it.

    Honestly, I don’t think that YA fiction should exist as a genre. The only thing unique about the genre is that it tends (this is a vast generalization) to be written at a dumbed down level ‘appropriate’ for younger audiences. I believe that good youth fiction, and good children’s fiction, are good fiction. These don’t need to be separate genres (with the exception of early reading books like ‘Winnie the Pooh’ or Dr. Seuss). Instead they should be able to hold an adult audience just as ‘Harry Potter’, ‘A Bridge to Teribithia’, or ‘Dr. Seuss’ do on a regular basis. ‘How to Kill a Mockingbird’ might be appropriate for teens, but it is in no way a trite or cliched story. Nor are ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’ or ‘Robinson Crusoe’, both of which would fit well in a young adults reading list. Be separating out ‘genres’ for children and teens we essentially set a lower standard of writing, story telling, and theme introduction that both feeds into and supports our societies notion that children are incapable. I don’t honestly see any point in this.

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