Welcome back, YA Fans!
This week’s “What’s Up in YA?” is sponsored by The Gilded Cage, Book One in the Dark Gifts series.
But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.
Our heroes are a brother and sister who are brought to serve Britain’s most powerful family. It’s upstairs-downstairs drama; beautiful and wicked aristocrats romancing rebellious commoners; and an epic of politics, passion, and revolution.
Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.
Let’s try something a little different with this week’s newsletter. Rather than a round-up of links to YA news — there hasn’t been much since last week — and rather than a book list or discussion, I thought it might be interesting to take a dive into YA/Book Riot history. Since Book Riot has been going for over five years, we’ve amassed a lot of writing, and it’s fascinating to peek back each year and see not only what we were talking about here, but what the bigger, broader YA world was talking about or interested in at the time.
It’s interesting to see when YA coverage on Book Riot became a big part of what we do. In the early years, it was here and there. But as the YA world itself grew, so did our coverage and interest in books for young adults. I’ve gone through our archives and pulled out a collection of interesting, provocative, and otherwise amusing pieces that highlight YA lit…and some kid lit more broadly. For each year, I’ve pulled 3-5 posts that were among the most popular that month; this means in some cases, those posts might not have been published that particular month, but they had some good interest that month (I believe that was only the case a couple of times — most of the high interest centered around posts written February of that particular year).
You may think I am joking, but Dahl has plenty of useful lessons for kids. For instance, he taught me early on that families are unhinged carnivals that dance alongside our lives – places where magical and terrible things can happen within the same heartbeat. There is more where that came from.
I am not sure how deeply engrained Dahl’s books are in the average childhood beyond the UK – the paltry showing in the US-based Parent & Child poll suggests they are not – so for your delectation, here are a few life lessons gleaned from Dahl’s books.
Those Degrassi Talks books were pretty amazing things. They were partnered with a television series with the same title (which I think I only ever saw in health classes) where the cast of Degrassi would talk about serious issues involving teenagers. They were important books not just because they could stand in for difficult conversations parents didn’t want to have with their kids, but more importantly they predicted the questions before I even knew what my questions were. I remember so clearly the copy of Degrassi Talks: Sex because it was comically, hilariously dog-eared and spine-cracked, but according to the card in the pocket it had never been checked out once. These books existed in the library to be surreptitiously consulted (and occasionally giggled over) as needed.
Sometimes, when faced with difficult real life situations, I find myself wondering how my favourite young adult heroines would feel and act in a similar context. I mean, the fact is that lots of them don’t really have to deal with these sorts of problems very often, which got my brain a-clickin’. How would our heroines deal with banal, everyday things like an annoying coworker or a website that won’t align properly or a car alarm going off? Or, in the flowcharts that follow, how would they cope with having to pay the rent?
In the latest round of Riot Recommendation, we asked you to shout out the YA series (or series you read as a young adult) that had real staying power, the ones you still think about and re-read today. There were a TON of responses from all over the genre board. Here’s a collection of all your recommendations from Facebook, Twitter, and the comments.
I understand that Stephen Chbosky (author of the novel, writer/director of the film) needed to reinvent Charlie as a more active character in adapting the story for film, because we can’t have ninety minutes of straight voiceover where we’re trapped behind Charlie’s eyeballs. We need to see a character in film making bold choices for himself, otherwise we are on the floor of the movie theater sleeping on top of spilled soda and popcorn. Still, I wanted a slower build and more of an arc from wallflower to almost-normal kid rocking the dance floor. Whatever, I’ll go re-read the book. This will be my answer every time I have a problem with this film.
The uncomfortable truth is this: At Bella’s age, I was a lot like her. A whole lot. The things about her that weren’t like me, I realize now, I envied when I read the series. That lightens my load a little bit, but putting it out there after the things I’ve said about Bella feels raw: Now the folks who have heard me say those things will know that, mostly, I was berating the traits I found annoying in myself at fifteen, sixteen, even twenty. Even thirty, sometimes.
It’s amazing how much capacity we have for change when we face the truth, though, and that can hurt when the truth about you is that you would have envied Bella Swan.
I was working in a fairly well-known children’s bookstore in New York last summer, one that is especially known for its employee recommendations and vast knowledge of books. One afternoon, a well-heeled Upper West Side mom asked me for book suggestions for her 10-year old daughter. I immediately thought of Judy Blume, and at my suggestion of one of her titles, the mother looked at me with disdain, saying, “Don’t you think that’s a bit…dated?” I almost fainted on the spot. Blasphemy! Here are some classic children’s/YA books that will never carry that dreaded description.
It’s black history month, and rather than offer up a straightforward book list of young adult titles that highlight aspects of black history in the United States, I wanted to do something different — and something that would be much more visually arresting.
I pooled together as many YA books that were historical fiction (meaning no magical/fantastical elements) and featured black main characters or stories. The pickings were so meager, I also looked at middle grade novels which could appeal to young adult readers. But even with those titles included, I hope that this time line is not only illuminating in terms of what is out there, but I hope it’s even more illuminated about what books are not out there.
- You make eye contact with a handsome stranger on the train. If he gets off at your stop, he is totes your future boyfriend. Duh.
- A story about four female best friends growing up in the early 1970s, a la Now & Then
Now & Then is maybe my favorite movie. I watched it all the time growing up, and it’s still one I love to pop in. The opportunities to explore some of the themes and the time period it’s set in feel endless.
This is the story of four women who are reflecting back on the summer of 1970, when they were young teens in a small Indiana town. The girls go through many huge things in one summer, which makes it ripe for a YA novel since those life-changing summers are part and parcel of the teen experience. More, this time period of change in social culture feels like it has so much opportunity to dive in.
Kody Keplinger wrote The DUFF (recently made into a movie starring Mae Whitman and Robbie Amell – it’s amazing and you should see it!) and her other YA books with a musical muse. She rearranges the songs to fit a specific emotion or scene in her books, and her playlists are posted on her website here.
Theory: there is something about YA and the letter K. Call it koincidence or konspiracy (I know, I know. I’ll show myself out), but even beyond the obvious example of Katniss Everdeen, some of the coolest, most interesting heroines in YA sci-fi/fantasy seem to have K names. In case you don’t already know them, allow me to introduce Kami, Karou, and Katsa: each awesome, each with her own YA universe.
It’s hard to put a number down for what average sales for a book are, since a lot of factors come into play: whether the book is by a new author, one who is seasoned, whether it’s of current interest, where it’s placed in the bookstores, and so forth. I’ve read average sales ranging from 500 copies to 10,000.
So what do best selling books look like? Imagine a book selling tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of copies.
Thanks to the magic of Wikipedia, there’s a nice breakdown of books throughout time and their recorded/reported sales numbers. This accounts for books across all countries, ages, and genres. Being my interest is in young adult novels, I thought it’d be interesting to break out the numbers for those books.
So what makes a book a good crossover? For me, it’s having a certain voice, a focus on a young main character, or themes and plot elements that are relatable across a broad spectrum of readers. For an adult book to have YA crossover, that can mean the stories are focused on teenagers or feature teenagers at the core and the writing is mature, thoughtful, and characters aren’t focused on achieving certain adult markers (marriage, children, and so forth). That doesn’t mean they aren’t doing adult things like leaving home or going to college or becoming involved in a serious relationship; it just means the way those things are included in the story feels like something YA readers would relate to or “get” in some capacity.
That MORE includes the Amelia Bloomer List, which is an annual list that honors “youth books with strong feminist themes” for ages birth to eighteen. The Amelia Bloomer Project started in 2002, and is—as you have probably already guessed—named for women’s rights advocate Amelia Bloomer.
This year’s list includes lots of books that I’ve already read and loved—volumes 1 and 2 of Lumberjanes (Friendship to the MAX!), Interstellar Cinderella (space mechanic!), Infandous (fairy tales and mythology and art and sex and mother-daughter relationships!), Kissing in America (love letter to female friendship in road trip form!), All the Rage (this decade’s Speak!), We Should All Be Feminists (so tiny! so necessary!), Audacity (fictional biography of social justice pioneer! in verse form!)—but as with any booklist, the titles that interest me even more are the ones I haven’t read yet.
Here at Book Riot we’ve had a lot of questions come in about this very topic, especially among kids ages twelve to thirteen. Here is a list of recommended books with high interest plots (special thanks to Ms. Pryor and Ms. Millman, librarians extraordinaire, for their help in compiling this list!), plus some more tips for keeping your reluctant readers turning those pages throughout the summer.
And may you be so inspired to pick up and read or revisit a book published from years gone by in the next week or two!
We’ll see you next Monday with a really fun, inspiring interview to kick off Women’s History Month.