Dystopian YA Display

This past Saturday I was working the reference desk at the SPL (Surrey Public Library) when a teen girl approached me asking for “books written at the end of the world”. She wasn’t familiar with the term ‘dystopian’ but her close friends had recently become obsessed with a book about a “hungry game”. She needed something immediately, as the book was for a school project, so waiting on the library request list for the Hunger Games was not an option.

Fortunately, my supervisor and recent SLAIS graduate overheard my reference interview with the teen girl and enthusiastically informed us that a dystopian book display had recently been set up in the YA department. The display included “Extras” (the sequel to “Uglies”), “The Maze Runner”, and several other contemporary dystopian fiction titles which I’m now interested in reading.

The teen girl, who had admitted to being a reluctant reader, happily left with four or five titles from the book display. It was obvious that her interest in dystopian fiction had been guided by her friends’ interests. Either way, it was very nice to see a successful book display in the SPL teen section.

Maria Tatar, in her op-ed with the NY Times, notes that “many authors of more recent books for children and teenagers have similarly crossed over to the dark side, and we applaud them for it.” On the other hand, some adults still believe that too much dystopian fiction can be harmful. These negative attitudes are often supported by prevailing assumptions about children growing into young adulthood. I’m specifically referring to the assumption that children are influenced by what they read and therefore should only be exposed to books with a positive message. As aspiring librarians, many of us support the belief that literature written on sensitive topics provides young adults (and children!) with an opportunity to cope with the issues before being exposed to them in real life. Well written dystopian fiction can be uplifting as it slowly brings the reader down into the trenches and pulls them up to a place higher than they were at the beginning of the story. In her article published in The Observer, Moria Young argues that dystopian fiction should always leaves the reader with hope.

An Awesome Online Teen Space and the Coolest Library Ever!

I just wanted to share this teen space that I blogged on for a project last semester. I totally fell in love with it because it was so far above the other teen blogs I had researched for that project. I love how it’s interactive and captures what it is to be a teen in a stylistic way:


Also I LOVE the look of this library. I know it’s not teen-specific, but we’re talking about library spaces now and even though this is more library architecture, I thought it was still related enough to share. I didn’t even know how to choose between all the pictures that I found so I’m just linking to the google image search:


Make Something: Creative Spaces for YA in Portland

Here’s an interesting little interview about using the library as kind of a MakerSpace/ArtSpace for teens in Portland (Maine).

I love that the things Justin Hoenke (the librarian) is doing are participatory creative type deals. Not just video game competitions, but video game writing workshops. It’s good stuff. Go read his blog if you aren’t already (and the Library as Incubator Project blog in general is a pretty good read, too).

YALSA Research Agenda

I mentioned in class that YALSA (a division of the American Library Association) had recently put out a significant research agenda document. I highly recommend this as a starting point for working on your topic briefing, if a topic still eludes you, and as a future reference for your work as an information professional. You can access the HTML version or a PDF of the whole document. And for those who just want the references, skip to the bibliography. I have a print copy in my office as well.

And the winners are…

The ALA Youth Media Awards were announced this morning at the Midwinter Conference in Dallas, TX. You can read the full press announcements here. Below are a few highlights related to YA media:

  • The Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults goes to Susan Cooper (Dark is Rising series) **yippee**
  • The Michael L. Prinz Award for YA literature goes to: “Where Things Come Back,” written by John Corey Whaley, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an
    imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. Honor Books include: “Why We Broke Up,” written by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group; “The Returning,” written by Christine Hinwood and published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group Young Readers Group USA; “Jasper Jones,” written by Craig Silvey and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.; and “The Scorpio Races,” written by Maggie Stiefvater and published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.
  • Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of
    the disability experience winner in the teen category (ages 14-18) is: “The Running Dream,” written by Wendelin Van Draanen and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

The Alex Awards, for the 10 YA novels most appealing to young people include:

  1. “Big Girl Small,” by Rachel DeWoskin, published by Farrar, Straus
    and Giroux
  2.  “In Zanesville,” by Jo Ann Beard, published by Little, Brown &
    Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
  3. “The Lover’s Dictionary,” by David Levithan, published by Farrar,
    Straus and Giroux
  4. “The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for
    Immigrant Teens,” by Brooke Hauser, published by Free Press, a division of
    Simon & Schuster, Inc.
  5. “The Night Circus,” by Erin Morgenstern, published by Doubleday, a
    division of Random House, Inc.
  6. “Ready Player One,” by Ernest Cline, published by Crown Publishers,
    an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
  7. “Robopocalypse: A Novel,” by Daniel H. Wilson, published by
    Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.
  8. “Salvage the Bones,” by Jesmyn Ward, published by Bloomsbury USA
  9. “The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures,” by Caroline
    Preston, published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  10. “The Talk-Funny Girl,” by Roland Merullo, published by Crown
    Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random
    House, Inc.

Happy Reading!

Library keeners at work/lurk

Last class we briefly spoke about teen advisory groups, their potential benefits, and their limitations as far as “preaching to the choir”. Youth services blogs are a great way for teens and YA librarians to collaborate and share ideas/events/whatever and, if actively integrated with social networks, allow for exposure to and participation by youth who are not necessarily in the library or are dealing with peer (or other) pressure that stigmatizes involvement. Push to Talk is my old library’s teen blog and I always thought it was a pretty good example of balanced contributions from staff and patrons. Scroll down to the “We love them!” section of the links for more Puget Sound library YA blogs.

Youth participation in a UNICEF study on education quality

While we are on the topic of youth engagement, I stumbled across this article, “Youth participation: success for research and for our future” summarizing the findings of a study conducted by UNICEF that collaborated with youth to find out the effects of deteriorating education quality in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. The article touches on a lot of what we discussed in class: empowering youth to have a voice in the issues that concern them, creating healthy alliances with adult mentors, and creating a safe environment for youth to discuss opinions openly.

The research study is called a Case Study on Youth Participatory Research on Education Quality in CEE/CIS Innovative Practices, Lessons Learned and Recommendations. The youth who participated  “identified the main issues to be explored, developed the questions, and tested and revised the research tools.” They also “developed advocacy statements and provided suggestions for how to address education challenges” (6). The study gave youth from marginalized communities a chance to “participate and express themselves for the first time” (21).

It may seem like common sense to involve youth in projects in which they are the primary stakeholders, but it hasn’t always been the case. It’s exciting that youth participation is becoming more legitimately realized among service providers and non-profits.

Boredom and YA

In the first week of this course we discussed a few myths surrounding young adults. The negative assumption that teens are seemingly bored, apathetic, and self-absorbed may alternatively be seen as the initial steps in a new stage of the developmental process. For instance, last semester a student in LIBR 521 recalled the bonding experience when reading children’s literature with her mother. Looking back, her reading experiences became increasingly intimate as she matured into her teen years. She believed that this transition was a valuable turning point in her reading development.

Harvard Psychologist Adam Phillips addresses issues of boredom in chapter 7 of his book On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored (1993). He believes that “the child’s boredom starts as a regular crisis in the child’s developing capacity to be along in the presence of the mother. In other words, the capacity to be bored can be a developmental achievement for the child” (69).
Framed in this way, we have a different way of understanding a teenager’s actions (or lack thereof).