Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


How we see ourselves....

How we see ourselves and how others see us: these can be two very different things.

It's something that happens frequently with the world of childrens and young adult literature: on one side of the fence, those who value "kid lit" and YA Lit. On the other side, those who think that books written for those under the age of 18 are somehow less, so the books are easy to write (see almost every celebrity author) or the books themselves are not as good as adult books.

And then there are those who like to pass judgment books without ever reading it, or reading anything in the genre. It's OK to say you don't read fantasy or you don't like fantasy; but someone with that position should not then write an essay about how fantasy is silly wish fulfillment.

That's equally true of YA literature.

My point? Summer is here: its sunny, humid...and the slamming of YA lit has begun. Last year, it was Welcome to the Lizard Motel: Children, Stories, and the Mystery of Making Things Up, A Memoir
by Barbara Feinberg, which was interesting as a memoir but not very informed when it came to YA literature. This year, it's Battle of the Books: The problem with "problem" young-adult fiction
by Ann Hulbert, an article in the online magazine, Slate.

The problem with both book and article: neither are well-informed on YA literature. Feinberg's examination of YA lit centered on "grit lit", and in some cases titles that are so out of date that many libraries weeded them long ago. In Hulbert's case, she only mentions 3 YA books, and she gets the title of one wrong. (On a side note, I guess that those who complain about the lack of editing in blogs should extend their complaint to just a lack of editing, period.)

Both focus on YA as it relates to children: Feinberg talks about the YA reading & listening of her 12 year old son and 7 year old daughter. Hulbert, after discussing a YA book that is being read in an 11th grade classroom, states "that the readers who choose these thin books with catchy covers are generally between 11 and 14 (not exactly "young adults")", offering no support for her allegation that YA books are not being read by a YA audience. (Not to mention the assertion that YA books are thin.)

So there are problems... but its also a problem if you think a certain way and only talk to those who think that way because you only hear what you want to hear. So while I disagree with much in both Lizard Motel and Battle of the Books, and wish that books with strong advertising campaigns and articles in Slate about YA books would be written by people who read and respect YA books -- as a YA librarian and champion, it is very, very valuable for me to read the perspective of the person on the other side.

It's valuable because there may be truth in what is being said. Feinberg had valid points about the types of books that are required reading. Personally, I hate required reading lists because I prefer to match a reader with a book they will like rather than a book they "have" to read. Hulbert has good things to say about how book discussions, done the right way, can get parents and kids excited about reading. Hulbert mentions a recent book Deconstructing Penguins : Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading
by Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone that I'll be adding to the summer reading pile.

It is also valuable because the only way to discuss something with someone who has a different POV than yours is to listen to what they are saying, not what you think they are saying. Feinberg and Hulbert tap into a common belief: YA literature is not as good as adult literature. Instead of ranting against them and that belief, what can we do to change that common belief?

Some ideas for your library: publicize to everyone the great books that are in YA, including the diversity of YA. Display YA books outside the YA area; suggest YA titles to your adult book discussion groups; include YA titles in adult reader's advisory; recommend books to friends and neighbors.

Recent YA books that I've been recommending to those over 18 include:

The Fire Eaters by David Almond;

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta;

Dust by Arthur Slade;

Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country
by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede;

No Shame, No Fear by Ann Turnbull;

Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz;

The Haunting Of Alaizabel Cray
by Chris Wooding;

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen.

What would you add to this list?


  • At 11:51 AM, Blogger Sophie Brookover said…

    His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman

    The Giver, by Lois Lowry

    Holes, by Louis Sachar

    The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky, both by Terry Pratchett

    My Heartbeat, by Garret Freymann-Weyr

    Rats Saw God, by Rob Thomas

    The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place, by E.L. Konigsberg (for those who do want to introduce their kids to Bartleby the Scrivener)

  • At 9:43 AM, Blogger Liz B said…

    I have to add another title to my list: A Room on Lorelie Street by Mary E. Pearson, which I just finished reading last night.

  • At 2:49 PM, Blogger Sophie Brookover said…

    I just added it to a selection list, after hearing some great feedback about it from you & other YALSA-BKers!

  • At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    DANGEROUS ANGELS by Francesca Lia Block (was even released in an "adult" edition)

    WHITECHURCH by Chris Lynch

    THE NEW RULES OF HIGH SCHOOL, ROCK STAR, SUPERSTAR, and GIRL by Blake Nelson (the latter is technically an adult title but is so YA)

    BOY MEETS BOY by David Levithan


    DOING IT by Melvin Burgess (I'm not a fan but my college students LOVED this book

    RUSH HOUR, Vols. I-III, ed. Michael Cart

    I could go on and on and on...

  • At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    For 18 and over?

    Definitely Sonya Hartnett's new book SURRENDER.

    Also I AM THE MESSENGER by Markus Zusak.

  • At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Realm of Possibility, by David Levithan

    How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff

  • At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

  • At 10:37 AM, Blogger Stacy Dillon said…

    How about Godless, by Hautman?

  • At 10:50 AM, Blogger Sythia said…

    i really liked Luna by Julie Ann Peters and The truth about forever by Sarah Dessen


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