Asking you to make choices about reading in a field that many of you are unfamiliar with can be challenging, so I’ve collected some ideas here about how you might go about choosing books for your elective reading. Let me qualify all of this with the recommendation that you read as widely as you can in this class; you may come across a genre or an author that you really like and may be tempted to stick with that in your choices, but one of the goals of the course is to have you be exposed to a variety of genres and authors within the realm of young adult fiction. I won’t be marking you down if you focus on one genre or a small set of authors, but I think you’ll lose out on some good experiences with a variety of books.
Walk the Aisles
Honestly, some of the better books I find come from simply walking the aisles of Barnes & Noble or the BYU Bookstore; used book stores would offer good selections as cheaper prices. Usually I find one or two titles that I look for at the library rather than laying out the money for them. The fourth floor of the HBLL also has an extensive collection of young adult literature (and a growing collection of graphic novels as well).
Browse Trade Publications and Websites
There are a number of regular periodicals that review young adult titles and various web sites that do the same thing. I have copies of VOYA and Horn Book in my office that you’re welcome to peruse. You can look at the web sites here for some reviews as well:
- TeenReads Reviews: This popular site reviews recent publications; the reviews here would cover all genres, and use the “by genre” tab under the Reviews tab to help you sort them.
- VOYA.org: The online version of a print periodical, this site features booklists that will highlight the better titles in a certain genre.
- Clip and File reviews from ALAN: The archives of the journal of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE features regular reviews of recent publications. Look for the Clip and File section in each issue’s table of contents.
- ALAN Review Columns: ALAN also features a couple of columns of regular reviews that should showcase some titles you’d be interested in. Under the Radar features books from smaller presses and ALAN Picks is a regular column reviewing recently published titles.
Use Social Media
Checking out reviews on sites like Goodreads or even asking around Facebook or other networks for some suggestions from friends or the general public can yield some good results. Goodreads, in particular, features lots of lists of books (by popularity, quality, genre, etc.) that can be helpful. If there’s a book you enjoyed, looking it up on Amazon and seeing what other people bought related to that book might also yield some good possibilities.
Check out Lists (Bestseller/Best Of/Teen Choice)
While bestseller lists are of dubious validity to many, they do highlight books that are popular. The New York Times (in the books section) recently started listing bestsellers for young adults and series books. USA Today also lists bestselling books, although they lump all categories into one list. There are lots of “best of” lists that could also yield some possibilities (just Google “best teen books of 2014” and you’re guaranteed to have more titles than you’ll know what to do with); I also think it’s important to consider the titles on various teen choice lists, so you’re familiar with what teens actually choose on their own (rather than the books written for teens that adults think are good). Here are some lists to explore:
- YALSA’s 2013 Quick Picks: These books are esecially good for reluctant readers, so they’re likely to feature fast-paced plot lines with engaging content.
- ALA’s Notable Books for Children: Includes titles for younger readers, but the lists for middle and older readers would be suitable for this course.
- NPR’s Best Books of 2013 and 2014: Use the Young Adult tag to see some good titles recommended by readers at NPR.
- YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels of 2014: Annotated list of some of the 2014’s best graphic novels, including some that are non-fiction.
- Best Books for YAs from YALSA: These lists feature great books from the past couple of decades. More recent lists are available, but require the creation of an account.
- TIME Magazine’s Best YA Books of 2014: There are lists from other years, too, if you look for them.
- YALSA’s Alex Award Lists: For books that have definite crossover appeal (adult titles), take a look at the Alex Award lists from YALSA. Don’t forget the nominee lists, too, as those feature titles with proven appeal to teens.
Check out My Collection
The shelves in our classroom (and in my office) contain books that I’ve read and found to be good (your tastes may, of course, vary from mine). I’ll also talk up books on a regular basis in class to help you get a better idea of some good possibilities. If you’re struggling, especially to fill one of the genre requirements from the syllabus, don’t hesitate to ask.