10.20.2014

coming full circle: my sixth-grade obsession meets my teen book club

Continuing on the young-adult fiction theme, it's been about six months since I blathered about my absolute favourite part of my job: teen book club. Our monthly gathering is still going strong, a small but dedicated group of young readers who love books, and love to talk about books. My posters for TBC invite teens to "hang out, eat snacks, talk about books, talk about life," and that pretty much sums up what we do.

Every few months, the group votes on the next four titles, chosen from a selection that I gather, as well as their own suggestions. Most young readers gravitate towards either realistic fiction or fantasy fiction, so I try to balance the two. I also include one or two classics on each list of choices, and they are surprisingly popular: this month we are reading S. E. Hinton's The OutsidersFahrenheit 451 is on the list for early 2015, and the group is clamouring for Catcher in the Rye.

Along with those classics, the next titles are: Dooley Takes the Fall by Norah McClintock, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, Loki's Wolves by Kelley Armstrong, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

I'm especially happy to be doing The Outsiders, a book I was obsessed with in sixth grade (or "grade six," as we say here). S. E. Hinton's classic had a huge influence on my writing and thinking about young-adult fiction. When I learned that Hinton was a woman, and wrote the book when she herself was a teenager... my whole world changed. Apparently teens today find the book no less relevant. Although I don't expect any of my TBC members to become obsessed with The Outsiders, one young man did mention he's read it five times.

By happy coincidence, there's an interview with Hinton in the current New Yorker, asking her about - what else? - the so-called debate on youth fiction. When Hinton was a teen, there was no youth fiction: her books carved out a niche in the classroom, other writers followed in Hinton's footsteps, and YA was born.

7 comments:

Amy said...

OK, looks like I should read The Outsiders as my guide to YA fiction! I never read it as a teen. Since it was written in 1967 when I was a teen, I am not sure why. Maybe it wasn't as well known back then? I would have been in high school---maybe it was too young for me?

But now I will read it---unless you have a better suggestion.

laura k said...

I would definitely NOT recommend The Outsiders as a guide to YA fiction! It's a classic, but it's completely unlike what's being published now.

It was not marketed to teens at the time. I was in 6th grade and it was offered through the Scholastic book program for 5th and 6th graders.

Are you looking for a great teen read? You could click on my category "youth novels" for a few suggestions.

S N Smith said...

You have something against caps?

laura k said...

You have something against manners?

That's quite the introductory comment.

I do prefer lower case titles. But as you can see, I use upper case letters in the usual fashion for everything else.

Amy said...

OK, I will check out your earlier post. Thanks again. :)

laura k said...

Current YA faves of mine: Eleanor & Park (#1), The Book Thief, The Hunger Games, Looking for Alaska, The Fault in our Stars, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, How I Live Now.


Very popular YA books not for me: Divergent (all three in series), The Maze Runner, City of ___ (Bones, Ashes, etc.), many books about vampires!

Amy said...

See my comments on your earlier posts about two of those books. I guess I've already read several recent YA books. :)

I've always liked books, movies and TV shows about teenagers. I find them fascinating, even though I mostly hated being one myself.