Master Mondays, Week Nine: The YA Class Recap
We had a panel of librarians share with us, then did two manuscript reviews; Kathy brought snacks and several students brought beer and wine. Loft students know how to have a good time, yall.
Being that YA is unique in that as a genre it comes with built-in advocates and gatekeepers, we were joined by three librarians to get their input on a whole host of topics. Jennifer Connolly and Colette Johnson, of the St. Paul Public Library, and Rachel Panitzke, of Johnson Senior High School were our guests. It was wonderful to hear their input and I wished we’d scheduled more than an hour of their time.
Colette polled the kids of her Teens Know Best reader/review group and Rachel did a video interview of her students, asking for examples of what they want as readers:
– relateable, realistic characters
– less unnecessary plot twists
– less love and death
– more anime
– more humor and good plot twists
– tired of ‘competition’ books like Hunger Games, The Maze Runner
– ‘less happy endings’
– tired of fantasy
– ‘books that make readers ask questions’
– more original stories and plots
– ‘no cliches, vampires, werewolves’
– don’t write ‘just to fill space’
– stories about real events
– more representation of culture
– diversity within diversity: “not every black kid has a drug-addicted mom or an absentee dad”
– book that make me think: ‘have more than one idea’
– ‘don’t write like teens are stupid’
– more diversity: race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
– good pacing
– more mystery and suspense
When asked where they find out about good books themselves, they said they mainly learn about good titles from word of mouth among colleagues, as well as social media (Twitter, blogs). When asked about differences between books boys like and books girls like, they indicated that gender mattered very little: “If it’s a good book, teens will read it.”
“But these books have to be compelling from the beginning,” Jennifer said, indicating that this is a feature about YA that she’s come to prefer in her own reading.
When asked about challenges to books in their collections, Rachel said it had never happened to her so far. Jennifer said it had only happened once – for Arabian Nights – and Colette mentioned that when she does reader advisory, it’s usually for parents and she also uses the word “suggestions” instead of “recommendations” because it’s less loaded.
“And we always tell the parent to read it first if they’re not sure about whether it will be a good fit,” Colette added.
Rachel stressed that for school libraries, author visits make a huge difference for readers. “Even if an author just visits one class, that changes how kids interact with books in general.”
Then we did manuscript review. It was scintillating. Trust me!