Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Session 1: Thrilling Teens and Engaging Reluctant Readers

The panel for this particular YALSA session had Margaret Peterson Haddix, Patrick Jones, and a teen librarian.

The following books were recommended by the panel:
Vampire Kiss
Double Identity
The Hunger Games
Dairy Queen
Comeback Season
Anything by R.L. Stine and Neil Gaiman

Margaret noted that there are two ends of the spectrum of books that seem to grab readers. They are either extremely dangerous (for example, The Hunger Games) or they consist of stories about the "Absolutely Fabulous" (no pun on Patsy or Eddy intended) with characters wrapped in the life of the rich and famous.

Patrick went on to say that there are three keys to good books for reluctant readers:

  1. The book is a really good mirror and allows the teen to see him/herself in it.

  2. Relevance-Does it seem applicable to current teen realities?

  3. Does it have a good beginning?

He said that the first line of a book is the most important that the "first line is like a first kiss."

How true is this, though? How many kids do we know pick up a book, look at the cover, and then read the first line or sentence, and then immediately decide whether or not we are going to read it. Heck, we even do that as adults for the most part!

He went on to say that the narrative voice in each book is of tantamount importance; the reader has to be able to identify with the characters immediately, and that it doesn't have to be a novel told by first person, just that it adds a sense of immediacy to it.

To this, Margaret added that many times kids turn to books to fulfill emotional needs. When she said this, I immediately thought of all the kids who read A Child Called It. They read it for reassurance - to know that they are not the only ones out there, but that also their lives aren't quite as bad. I also think of Twilight, because most every teen girl wants a thrilling taboo romance at least once in her life!

Another point that I think is worth mentioning is that they indentified several types of teen books that seem to be gaining momentum. They listed them as:

  • Designer Chick Lit. (Perhaps The Luxe would fall into this category)

  • Cozy Mysteries (Death by Bikini)

  • Cross-genre books

  • Supernatural/Fantasy-Vampires seem to be going by the wayside, but werewolves are picking up steam.

One of the last points they made is that Award stickers seem to turn teens off of reading books. What do you think? I have had that problem in my teen section because teens see those books as "School Reads." What are your experiences? How do you handle this?

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