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Focus on YA fiction


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#1 Gina

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 11:37 AM

We're doing a weeklong event at BreakPoint, all about good Young Adult fiction. The idea is that, instead of harping on "don't let them read this and don't let them read that," as so many Christian sites (ours included!) tend to do, we want to focus on the positive, and recommend good books for teens. I thought some of you might be interested in seeing what we're doing, and maybe passing the word along to parents, bloggers, and/or teachers that you know.

  • Chuck Colson's radio commentary on the event, "Books to Say Yes To," is here.
  • My blog post kicking off the event, and giving a schedule for the week, is here.
  • A feature article on good YA novels from 2010, by Christian book blogger Sherry Early, is here. (One of the novels she recommends is Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr, who I know has posted here occasionally.)
Tomorrow we'll be asking for reader recommendations, of books that our readers loved when you were a teen or that their own teenagers have loved. Would love it if you could stop by and give your recommendations! :)

#2 Tyler

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 12:00 PM

I'm in my twenties, but I still read a bit of YA fiction.

I liked Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork. It's about an autistic boy who has gone to an alternative school his whole life, but his father wants him to experience regular high school (the "real world") before he graduates. It's a good companion for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

My friend Erin, who's a youth librarian, told me Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi is good. I think Sara Zarr likes it, too.

Is it safe to assume you already know about The Hunger Games books?

#3 Gina

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 12:09 PM

Thanks, Tyler. Please don't forget to drop by and post these at the site tomorrow! (Hunger Games gets a recommendation in Sherry's article.)

#4 wmadjones

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 12:41 PM

You may need to review them to ensure they vibe with the Christian world-view you want, but I've always found some gems in the annual lists put out by the ALA Booklist: Best Young Adult Fiction 2011.

#5 Christian

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 12:55 PM

It was only after I saw I Am Number Four that I learned it's based on a YA novel (correct description?) written by James Frey. Don't know if that fits here, or helps in any way, but with the movie in the news right now, I thought I'd mention it.

#6 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 12:58 PM

We're doing a weeklong event at BreakPoint, all about good Young Adult fiction. The idea is that, instead of harping on "don't let them read this and don't let them read that," as so many Christian sites (ours included!) tend to do, we want to focus on the positive, and recommend good books for teens. I thought some of you might be interested in seeing what we're doing, and maybe passing the word along to parents, bloggers, and/or teachers that you know.

In my experience, there can be quite a big difference between focusing on how to recommend "good books for teens" and the "Young Adult fiction" shelves category in the library or bookstore. I'm afraid that I've always found the "Young Adult fiction" label pretty condescending, along the "you're still too young and dumb to read those, so here, read these shortened, dumbed down to the lowest-common-denominator in your 13-17 age group" lines. However, if we're talking about the best books to recommend to younger readers, that's something different. As an early teen, I personally read almost nothing more enjoyable than anything by John Buchan, and everything in The Complete Sherlock Holmes.

See other examples:
Louisa May Alcott
Lewis Carroll
Alexandre Dumas
Rudyard Kipling
Dashiell Hammett
Harper Lee
Madeleine L'Engle
Jack London
A.A. Milne
Howard Pyle
Dorothy Sayers
Sir Walter Scott
Robert Louis Stevenson
J.R.R. Tolkien
Mark Twain
Jules Verne
T.H. White
Johann David Wyss

There are so many great ones out there, both interesting and exciting to read, that your kids are never going to read all of them. So why you would tell them to spend any time perusing the YA fiction bookshelves is beyond me. I'm going to exaggerate (lie?) to my kids and tell them "See those 'Young Adult' shelves over there? Those bookshelves were labeled and put there by people who think you are too stupid right now to read Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, The Three Musketeers or Sherlock Holmes."

On a final note, I can't think of better time to fall in love with reading Shakespeare than when you are classified the "YA Fiction" age-group.

#7 David Smedberg

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 02:32 PM

I read Hunger Games and I am Number Four (both impulse buys on my eBook reader) and I can't really recommend either. In particular, I am Number Four really trashes meaningful romance (the whole idea behind the hero's romance with his female flame is that, unlike ordinary human romance, his love for her is forever. His species is monogamous by nature, the implication being that humans are not. Ick ick ick. Teenage puppy love I don't have a problem with, but please don't turn it into Aragorn and Arwen in reverse.)

I am right now reading, and really really enjoying, Lloyd Alexander's Time Cat. Alexander is one of the best YA authors I've read (a previous mention on A&F here). I gave my little sister Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series (The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, I Shall Wear Midnight) for XMas, those are also excellent.

Edited by David Smedberg, 21 February 2011 - 03:03 PM.


#8 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 02:50 PM

I've always found the "Young Adult fiction" label pretty condescending, along the "you're still too young and dumb to read those, so here, read these shortened, dumbed down to the lowest-common-denominator in your 13-17 age group" lines.

... thinking over this a couple hours later, I think I might have come across a little harsh. I didn't mean to. There are plenty of really good books out there, written for children & teenagers, that still wouldn't necessarily make it in the "great books" category. I guess while I'd encourage reading books like The Wheel on the School, Carry On Mr. Bowditch, The Phantom Tollbooth, or even the Encyclopedia Brown series, I'd just try and purchase copies of those books without "YA Fiction" printed on the front cover.

Edited by Persiflage, 30 August 2012 - 05:25 PM.


#9 Gina

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Posted 21 February 2011 - 02:58 PM

Understood.

In my ideal world, all teens would read classics all the time. However, as I've learned to my sorrow, we don't live in my ideal world. :) My feeling is that, as the YA designation is pretty much ubiquitous, we might as well try sorting out the gems from the muck. And there are some gems when you start looking for them.

#10 Gina

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 08:50 AM

BreakPoint staff picks are up today, and we're soliciting reader recommendations as well. If you have any recommendations to put in the comment section over there, we'd love to have them. :)

#11 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 05:46 PM

NPR had a poll for the top 100 "YA Fiction" books. The fact that Harry Potter would make #1 and Hunger Games would make #2 was, I suppose, inevitable, given that the selection process was democratic. Here are the results. It doesn't seem like much of a consolation, but at least they got in the following:

3 - To Kill A Mockingbird - by Harper Lee
5 - The Hobbit - by J.R.R. Tolkien
6 - The Catcher in the Rye - by J.D. Salinger
7 - The Lord of the Rings - by J.R.R. Tokien
8 - Farenheit 451 - by Ray Bradbury
12 - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - by Douglas Adams
18 - Lord of the Flies - by William Golding
33 - The Call of the Wild - by Jack London
51 - Treasure Island - by Robert Louis Stevenson
60 - Something Wicked This Way Comes - by Ray Bradbury
63 - A Ring of Endless Light - by Madeleine L'Engle

I should stop being surprised by the quality of these sorts of lists. But I can't help but be particularly surprised that the C.S. Lewis Narnia series didn't even make the top 100, and neither did Brian Jacques' Redwall series. Sounds like the voting was done from a collection of 235 finalists - among which Lewis and Jacques were also not included.

I suppose these lists are at least useful as cultural and educational measuring sticks.

#12 Jason Panella

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 06:46 PM

I should stop being surprised by the quality of these sorts of lists. But I can't help but be particularly surprised that the C.S. Lewis Narnia series didn't even make the top 100, and neither did Brian Jacques' Redwall series. Sounds like the voting was done from a collection of 235 finalists - among which Lewis and Jacques were also not included.


Seeing some of your comments from a year and a half ago, I was surprised at how many books on the NPR list are actually adults books that could be considered good for teens.

#13 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 24 August 2013 - 06:50 PM

Well ... this certainly puts my past comments on recommended reading for teenagers or "young adults" to shame.

 

E.D. Hirsch, Jr., The Knowledge Deficit, 2006, pg. 9:

In a 1785 letter to his nephew, Peter Carr, aged fifteen, Jefferson recommended that he read books (in the original languages and in this order) by the following authors: Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Anabasis, Arian, Quintus Curtius, Diodorus Siculus, and Justin.  On morality, Jefferson recommended books by Epictetus, Plato, Cicero, Antoninus, Seneca, and Xenophon’s Memorabilia, and in poetry Virgil, Terence, Horace, Anacreon, Theocritus, Homer, Euripides, Sophocles, Milton, Shakespeare, Ossian, Pope, and Swift.  Jefferson’s plan of book learning was modest compared to the proper Puritan education of the seventeenth century as adovcated by John Milton.

 

I, for one, am now over the age of 15 and still have not read most of Jefferson's YA reading list in their English translations, much less in the original Greek and Latin.



#14 NBooth

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Posted 24 August 2013 - 07:06 PM

Milton, Shakespeare, Ossian, Pope, and Swift. 

 

 

 

Hey, look! He even included fan-fiction.