Last month we checked in with Cathy Lancaster in the Youth Department at Traverse Area District Library. This month, MyNorth’s Eliza Foster asked Linda Smith, Teen Services Coordinator at TADL about what’s new in the world of YA including her favorite authors, book suggestions and the latest Harper Lee news.
What are some new books you’re excited about in the YA world?
Writing for the teen genre has really taken off so there seems to always be something new and interesting being published specifically for the teen audience. There are a couple titles coming out in March that I’ve read the advance copies of and I can’t wait to share them with the teens at the library. Half Wild is the second book in the Half Bad trilogy by Sally Green. I got to the end and loudly told anyone within earshot, “Wait, what? what?…no! Why did I read it early? Now I have to wait longer for the next book!”
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma is also going to be a hot title. It has a very sweet twist at the end that I never saw coming. And then there is An Ember In the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, scheduled for an April release. An Ember in the Ashes is high fantasy and will be very popular with fans of Sarah Maas and Laini Taylor.
Another title I’m looking forward to that I haven’t read yet is The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith. Smith’s last book, Grasshopper Jungle, was just named a Printz Honor Book. I’m sure The Alex Crow will be just as cutting edge and unique. Smith excels in the unique.
In the graphic novel universe I am waiting with bated breath for volume 13 of Library Wars Love and War by Kiiro Yumi. I’m a very big fan of the manga style graphic novels and Library Wars is one of my favorites.
For teens that aren’t big readers, what books do you suggest?
It depends on the teen and why they aren’t big readers. At the library, we have books and materials available in every genre, at both high and lower reading levels, and something for just about every interest. Parents looking for something for their teen who expresses a dislike for reading should consider taking home a non-fiction book or two. A niche book on zombie survival, forensic science, beauty, war, or video games might be just the thing to get them hooked! Non-fiction is approachable because there is often no need to start at the beginning and read right through. Readers can jump around to the sections they are interested in and spend time looking at the photos and reading captions.
Are there any stand out authors (emerging or classic) that you can’t get enough of?
This is a tough question. There are so many great young adult authors that I can’t pick just one. As soon as I start listing my favorites in each genre, I start thinking about others that are just as good or better.
The book world recently received some big news that Harper Lee is going to release the sequel for To Kill a Mockingbird. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think it will impact teen readers?
I have mixed feelings about this. If the author really wanted this story published I assume she would have begun the process many years ago. If publishing this book is of her own will then I’m fine with it. Regardless and like any sequel or prequel it will be interesting to see what affect this new novel will have on the characters we’ve all grown accustomed to. I asked some of the teens themselves what they thought of it. They were unaware of the controversy. Most of them had enjoyed reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Of these only a couple planned on reading Go Set a Watchman. When I asked them if it will have any impact on them, there was a resounding “no.” After asking for clarification, they informed me that they are never assigned to read sequels at school.
Can you talk about the world of YA a bit? What are some changes you’ve seen over the last couple of years? Are the vampires, werewolves and other supernatural creatures taking a backseat to a different kind of book?
Almost four years ago when I started leading Teen Services it was all about the vampires and werewolves. Then there were the angel like characters and the fey and fairies. They are all supernatural. There are still quality supernatural books being published, just not as many. I don’t think supernatural is going away anytime soon. Dystopians were really big when the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins brought that genre the respect it deserved. Now I am seeing a lot of fairytale retellings, which are always fun. But the biggest increase has been in the realistic fiction area. The Fault in our Stars by John Green will have to take the blame or credit for that one. Really there is great YA literature being written in every genre from science fiction to romance. Teens seem to have a greater variety of tastes then the media gives them credit for.
Do you have a favorite series that teens and parents could enjoy together?
I would recommend books that encourage a lot of discussion such as The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson, or Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle. These books aren’t for everyone but those who enjoy them will find a lot to discuss.
When I asked some teens about this they all suggested Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling or Percy Jackson Rick Riordan; I have to agree that these series are great family reads. Regardless of what you read together, any shared reading will enhance your life. It’s also a fun idea to check out or download some of these titles via audiobook to listen together on a road trip or just relaxing at home.
What is the “reviews by teens” section on your site? How can teens submit a review?
The ‘review by teens’ section is just that, teens reviewing library materials. We recently launched it so there are only a few so far. The teens can review anything that the library owns, not just YA materials. Teens sign up to be a reviewer or an editor by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The reviews can be written or video format. The teens have creative license to do a formal traditional review or something more creative such as poetry. The point is to give the reader a sense of what the material is about, its strengths, and what is lacking. The library and our community benefits from receiving and offering by reviews for teens by teens. The teens who participate receive:
- Volunteer hours
- Practice analyzing and articulating their views
- A more professional online footprint for future employers to see
- An online destination for college recruiters where their intelligence, writing skills, editing ability, filming capabilities, and/or camera presence can be demonstrated
- Fun influencing what others read, watch, or listen to
We only have a couple of reviewers and editors currently so I am looking for other teens interested committing to a review a month or two edits a month.