Same Auld Lang Syne

As 2010 draws to close, I, like so many others, am taking stock of the year. The good, the bad, the ugly – it’s all there laid out in front of me like books on a shelf for me to view and ponder. Overall, this has been a pretty good year. I don’t know if it’s the best ever since I have more years in front of me. It certainly wasn’t the worst. There were moments of pure joy and moments of heartache. Moments of peace and moments of strife. To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything, which helps when I set ridiculously unrealistic goals or expect to be able to control everything including the uncontrollable. So as I sit next to a fire that is slowly dying reflecting on a year that is quickly dying, I can say it was a pretty good year.

It was a pretty good year for YA literature. 2010 brought readers the latest installment of the Gone series by Michael Grant, the latest installment of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flammel by Michael Scott, the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, the final book in the Kristina trilogy by Ellen Hopkins, a new series by Cassandra Clare, and whole lot of new books by favorite authors such as Nancy Werlin, Jennifer Donnelly, and Sarah Beth Durst.

It was a pretty good year for YA because I’ve never heard so many adults talking about YA. Everywhere I turned this past spring and fall I saw YA books in adults’ hands. It was a surreal thing for me. For years, I’ve been surreptitiously reading YA, recommending books to students, reading what they’ve recommended, and ordering YA lit for our department to put in our individual classroom libraries. All of a sudden YA exploded. I’m not sure if this is good or bad. With all of the press surrounding YA reads for adults, I worry that YA authors will pander to the adult audience and forget about their teen readers. Only time will tell on this one.

It was a pretty good year for YA because YA books are getting kids to read and are getting kids to talk to each other about what they’re reading. As adults we may roll our eyes at “another vampire book,” but just remember, teens are reading. I watch my students pass books around in homeroom and in the halls. This is not behavior I’ve seen in the past, and it is a positive sign, IMHO. The fact that teens are reading and talking about reading says an awful lot in the wired age we live in. Our teens are digital natives, feeling more at home on computers, ipods, smart phones, and video games than their teachers and parents ever did. If teens are willing to put down the laptop for a book or are willing to download the latest ebook to ipad, computer, ereader, or smart phone and read it, that’s an amazing thing. In the 18 years I’ve worked with young adolescents, the one factor I know to be true is that teens won’t do what teens don’t want to do. And as a side note here, the 96 students I have in my charge this year read 1,057 books total from Sepember 20, 2010 to December 7, 2010. And yes, we celebrated that accomplishment, and when we finished celebrating, I challenged them to read more the second trimester of the school year. On a personal note, I polished off 85 books this year. I have no idea how many of them were YA. I’ll have a better tally for 2011 as my reviews and currently reading titles are listed on separate pages of the blog.

It was a pretty good year for YA because it’s gotten me thinking about YA. I suppose I’ve always thought about YA. I started thinking about it 30 years ago when I was a ‘tween looking at the YA books with wonder and awe. It was an exciting time when I was actually old enough to check out books from the three shelves that housed the YA books in my public library. Oh, how YA has grown since then! I have pretty much never stopped reading YA. During college, I would revisit favorite authors during my semester breaks. It was a joy to get away from the canon that made up the curriculum for English Lit majors. Once I began teaching, I told myself that I was reading YA to recommend to my “kids.” If I enjoyed the book, that was an added bonus. The bulk of my thought about YA focused on whether the students would like the book or not. When I started blogging, I knew I didn’t want to be another reviewer of YA because I was starting to think of YA differently. And so my humble readers, I hope that in the few blog posts I’ve offered to you in 2010, you’ve been able to think of YA differently too. Sure, I have a page for reviews because we all need a place to go to find out what people have to say about books we are thinking about reading. Sure I’ve kept a list of what I’m currently reading. But I really want this blog to be a place to think more deeply about the overarching themes in YA, trends in YA, and what people are thinking and saying about YA.

My resolutions for 2011 – that’s pretty simple. My resolution is to keep thinking about YA and to put my voice – and yours – into the discussion about young adult literature.

I wish you peace and health in the new year. May 2011, at its very worst, be a pretty good year.

Until next time – see YA.

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