Monday, August 13, 2012

Notes on young adult literature

Towards a definition of young adult literature

  • How adolescence has changed
  • Term first appeared in 1905
  • Puberty is an universal experience
    o But adolescence is not
  • More complex a society becomes
    o More training is required to participate fully
  • Also: emotional, intellectual and physical changes
    o Very interesting time of life
  • Young adult readers have unique needs
Developmental tasks/goals
  • Achieving an identity
  • Acquiring more mature social skills
  • Accepting changes in one’s body
  • Achieving emotional independence from parents and other adults
  • Developing personal values
  • Becoming accepted as an independent person by peers and adults
A bit of history
  • Early novels
    o The Pilgrim’s progress (1678)
    o Robinson Crusoe (1719)
  • Domestic novels
    o Women wrate
  • Dime novels
    o Cost 10 cents
    o About 100 pages
    o Small format – 7” x 5”
    o Originally aimed at adults
    * Remarketed at boys
    o Price cut to a nickel
    o 16 or 32 pages long
  • Series featuring heroes
    o e.g. Diamond Dick, Buffalo Bill
  • Many genres
  • By 1860’s – linked to crime
  • Lead to creation of paperback books
  • Cheaper to reprint hardcover books
  • Rise of literacy
  • Beginnings of public libraries
The competition
  • Pulp magazines Argosy -  1891
  • Magazines Detective story, Western story
  • Characters
    o Hopalong Cassidy, The Shadow, Doc Savage
  • First comic appeared in 1892
  • Series fiction
  • Movies – used tie-ins
    o E.g. Ben Hur, Show boat
  • 1930’s ...
  • First course on adolescent literature
  • Term “junior” or “juvenile” first used
  • Some American publishing houses established juvenile divisions
Paperbacks: an American phenomena
  • First mass paperback: 1938
  • The Good earth by Pearl Buck
  • By 1951 – 230 million paperbacks
    o Sold in U.S.
  • Slow acceptance in school libraries
    o Difficult to catalogue
    o Short life easy to steal
    o “lurid” covers
    o Concern over content
The Clean decades
  • Post World War II
    o Career books
    o Focus on “wonderful” high school years
  • Taboos strictly enforced
    o “sugar puff” stories
  • One exception: James Bond novels
    o Considered racy
Young adult novels come of age
United States: 1967
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
Canada: 1978
Hold fast by Kevin Major
Characteristics of early young adult literature
  • Characters
    o Lower classes
  • Settings
    o Harsh and difficult
  • Language
    o Colloquial
    o Slang
  • Subject matter
    o Irony, even tragedy
Young adult novels: their appeal
  • Characters and plot
    o Readers see characters like themselves facing issues like they do
    o Personal problems and moral dilemmas
  • Use first person narration
Myths about young adult literature
  • Young adult literature is simplified to accommodate low reading skills
  • Young adult books are all the same
  • Young adult readers choose books with the same gender protagonist
  • Young adult literature is less enduring
    o There are no classics
Advantages of young adult novels
  • Length not intimidating
  • Bridge to adult literature
  • ‘Working model’ of how literature works
  • Provide alternative viewpoints provide some answers
  • Bibliography
    o Term first appeared in 1929
    o Wide range of activities
    o Personal insights a reader gains from a book
    o Books used in a therapist-client relationship
  • Readers’ advisory
Themes in young adult novels
  • Importance of heroes
    o Change with every generation
  • Alienation
  • Friendship (no sex)
  • Families of all kinds
  • Death
  • Suicide
  • Mental illness:
    o Teens themselves
    o Other people in their lives
    * E.g. peers, siblings, adults
  • Sex and sexuality
    o All types of relationships
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Universal theme:
    o Study of the human condition
  • Watch literary quality
  • Tells a good story
  • Includes memorable characters
  • Has well described settings
Understanding the appeal of young adult fiction
  • Show young adults who are independent (or becoming) from adults
  • Reassure young adults that they are “normal”
  • Depict role models
  • Display relationships of all sorts
  • Capture intensity and uncertainty of their lives
  • Explore lives of other young adults
  • Help young adults develop socially acceptable behaviour
Understanding the appeal of young adult non fiction
  • Like “real life” stories
  • Read because young adults are curious
  • Develop special interests
    o Into trivia
Understanding the appeal of magazines
  • Require short attention span
  • Not intellectually challenging
    o Easy going
  • Are socially acceptable
  • Provide information about “important stuff”
    o E.g., celebrities, sex, love, etc.
Young adult programming in the library
  • Develop a “cool” website
    o Provide links to other pages
  • Recognize the competition
    o Can you provide any of those activities?
  • Provide high quality customer service
  • Understand why young adults read
  • Fun and pleasure
    o female
  • Facts and information
    o male
  • Research and knowledge
  • Personal growth
  • Ask questions about what they like
    o Listen!!!
  • Learn what are current/past favourites
  • Buy multiple copies of favourites in paperback
  • Give them their own space
    o Ensure that library is open convenient hours
  • Teach research skills, how to evaluate information, critical thinking
    o E.g. evaluating information found on the Internet
  • Advisory board
    o Plan programming
    o Work as volunteers
    * Write reviews
    * Assist with reading programs/clubs
  • Younger children
    * Lead/assist with book discussion groups
    * Tutoring, homework assistance
  • Have a clear selection policy
    o Not all resources may be aimed at young adult readers
    o But contents will be interesting and useful
    • Goal: develop life long users/readers
Displays, bulletin boards and booklists
  • Collect book reviews from teens
  • Gather materials about authors
  • Provide genre based reading lists
    o Display on a reading board
    o Print in newsletter
    o Include in website
Where to shelve the books?
  • Children’s services?
    o “I’m not a child!”
    o Teens intimidate younger children
  • Adult services?
    o What is age appropriate?
    o Identify with spine labels
  • Separate section?
    o But make it appealing
  • Provide booklists of appropriate adult authors
  • Genre fiction?
    o Science fiction
    o Fantasy
    o Horror
    o Read adult authors
  • Others: identify with spine labels
  • Paperbacks are cool
    o Display with covers out
    o Cover art is NB
    o Catalogue them!
Conclusion: some general truths about libraries and their patrons
  • Both school and public libraries can provide a safe environment for young adults to explore and learn
  • Access to both school and public libraries positively affects reading ability
  • The strongest influence on what young adults read is their peers
  • Young adults prefer paperbacks to hardcovers
  • Library use increase when graphic novels and comics are made available
  • The more you read ... the better you read

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