According to this blog the New York Times will soon start splitting it’s Children’s and Young Adult titles, among other changes. It’s an interesting move from both perspectives. The original ‘rant’ argued that children’s books should not be considered ‘young adult’ just because adults read them as children; in other words, “Nostalgia is what is going on here and it isn’t fair. That is, it is all well and good that those adults who enjoy reading young adult books today like to reminisce about their favorite teen reads. But when they include children’s books among them and call them YA, they are marginalizing the true readership of these books” (Monica Edinger). On the flip side, it’s also interesting that ‘young adult’ books are finally being recognized as a distinct and identifiable category. Now I don’t think there will be much agreement on what exactly ‘young adult’ means. Personally, I hope the disagreement remains because undefinable things are generally more interesting to talk about. A few years ago I hosted a panel at an academic conference entitled “Exploring Young Adult Literature”. In the question portion, I asked the panelists to explain how they had defined ‘YA’ for their respective papers. The range of answers were interesting and included readership, psychological and developmental stages, and publishing designations. This range of definitions lead to a great discussion that continued over lunch. The day would have been a lot less fun if there had been one definitive answer.

In this blog, I unofficially use publisher’s marketing strategies as a guideline, simply because many of my teen suggestions come from the YA section of our store. Books that are placed in this section are usually culled from teen lists and teen imprints. It’s quite clear if a book is designated as YA through cover illustration, jacket description, accompanying promotional materials, not to mention the book’s price point. All of this, of course, begs the question of how a manuscript becomes designated as ‘YA’ by the publisher and acquires all of these peritextual components. Authorial intention? Previous publications? Content? A particular genre happens to be popular in other current YA fiction? Age of protagonists? Sexuality? All of these are a small list of possible contributing factors. Some contributing factors are easily understood; some seem completely mysterious. You can see why this is a really interesting topic!

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As for today’s recommendation, I’m going back to our picks and one of my favorite books from this year: Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys (Scholastic, $18.99). Like much of YA lit there is a tremendous amount of ambiguity in this novel. I feel like every time I try to describe it, I can’t quite find the words I need. This book eludes concrete definitions, which perhaps is precisely why it is YA lit.

Blue lives in a house full of psychics. She doesn’t have the gift herself, but she possesses the ability to augment others’ gifts. Therefore on St. Mark’s Eve, when she sees the spirit of a boy who has not yet died, there can be only two possible explanations: either he’s her true love or she’s the one who kills him.

Gansey is on a quest. A junior at the all-boys Aglionby prep school, he surrounds himself with the friends and resources he needs to uncover an ancient legend. He’s wealthy and charismatic: a little too pompous for Blue, but she is slowly pulled into Gansey’s obsession. She has no interest in falling in love, certainly not with a Raven Boy from Aglionby Prep, but then why did Blue see Gansey walking the copse road, and what exactly connects her spirit to his? The first in a quartet, The Raven Boys blurs the lines between mysticism and realism. It’s an auspicious start to what is sure to be an excellent YA series.

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