Month: January 2013

31 Jan 2013


One more piece of advice for those of you looking to Read More Books, or otherwise fulfill librarian/avid reader/nerd girl stereotypes:


Procure a cuddly cat creature.

You will find yourself frequently trapped, pinned down, unable to get up and move around your home as you please, and that one chapter you wanted to read will turn into twelve.

Bonus: you will have an adorable view.

30 Jan 2013

how to read more

Hey guys: it’s almost February. How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? I am making my bed every day and working on my secret resolutions and have read 12 books toward my perennial goal of reading 100 books in 2013. I try to read 100 books every year. It’s a nice round number, high enough that I push myself to read more but not too high that I go crazy trying to finish. Some years I easily read 130 – others, I squeak in #100 on December 31st.

Are you trying to read more this year? Are you already feeling anxious about your goal? If so, let me share some Reading Pro-Tips with you! There are a bazillion ways to squeeze more reading into your days and nights; here are a few I employ on a regular basis.


Set up “reading triggers”

Wanting to read more is kind of like wanting to exercise more or drink more water or any other number of a do-goody kind of ways to change your life. And what’s the best way to make these changes? Build habits. A good way to build a reading habit is to set up “triggers” – habits you already have or everyday activities that you can just… uh… add a book to.

Read a little when you first get up in the morning, or read a little right before bed. Read when you get out of the shower but haven’t committed to putting on clothing yet. When I was in college, I missed reading books for fun, so I decided that when I was a few minutes early to class, instead of trying to cram in last minute studying (like that works anyway…) I would read a book. A few pages here and there eventually adds up to a book, and then there’s the chance that when you start, you’ll be sucked in and want to read more. Hopefully not *while* class is in session… but I wouldn’t judge you.


Read for a few minutes before you are allowed to watch TV/get on the computer

This is like a trigger but in reverse – any time you have the urge to surf the Internet or turn on some mindless TV reruns, remind yourself that Books > Better than all that crap. Not that you need to quit all that stuff, you’re just delaying for a few minutes – read a chapter before partaking in electronic media.

Sometimes I do this and end up sitting with my laptop open in lap, my book open and covering the screen. This is weird and burns out my battery. But it gets the job done.


Carry a book with you

Dumbest advice ever… but you should do it. Every time I go to the DMV or get stuck on a train or on a long bus ride or a delayed flight, I just feel so sad for everyone who is just abjectly miserable because nobody likes waiting. I am also just confused as to why these people didn’t bring a book. Just bring a book! Put it in your purse! If you’re a dude, stick a paperback in your back pocket and make all the nerdy girls on the train stare at you lasciviously. It’s easy, and the next time you get trapped in a really long Starbucks line you’ll be the only person without the urge to stab people.

(You may also need to pretend you don’t own a smartphone with games and Instagram for this tactic to work. Good luck!)

(Also, you have to be the kind of person who likes to carry a lot of crap around with you at all times. A beast of burden, if you will.)


Read different books at different times

This is Advanced Level Reading, and might not work for everyone. However, it’s a habit that works very well for me, so if you are a person who gets bored halfway through a book, you might give it a try.

Before grad school, when I was living in my parents’ large home, I would keep different books in different parts of the house – a book in the family room for reading during breakfast, a book in my bedroom to read before bed, a book by the computer to read while waiting for The Sims 2 to load. Then there was an audio book in the car, a book in my purse to read at lunch at work, a book that was bendable enough to shove in the magazine holder on the elliptical machine in my gym bag. Okay, this is ridiculous, but also, practical. You will always have the book you need in the format you need where you need it.

Now, I prefer to keep 2-3 books in a rotation, usually two new ones I can alternate depending on my mood, and a re-read I’ll dip into for a few days and then forget about for a week or two. An audiobook for going to sleep and doing chores. Again, this might be the most repellant idea you’ve ever heard, but I like the feeling that if I want to read, I can read anything – not just get stuck reading something that I’m not enjoying. It keeps reading fresh.


Read while walking

I probably shouldn’t recommend this because it is dangerous, but I have definitely done it and have not died yet. It’s not as hard as you think – your eyes adjust. At one point, I could read books while running on the treadmill.

What I don’t recommend is reading while walking while wearing sunglasses without your contacts when your path includes many driveways and cross streets.

But, do what you got to do. Read at your own risk, yo.


Try an audiobook

There are so many things you can do while listening to an audiobook. So. Many. Here are twelve to get you started:

1) Drive

2) Exercise

3) The dishes

4) Fold your laundry

5) Play with Legos

6) Walk to class or work

7) Fall asleep

8 ) Knit

9) Quilt

10) Do a jigsaw puzzle

11) Take a bath (I wouldn’t do it, but I live with someone who does)

12) Clean out your email inbox

Audiobooks are the multitasker’s delight. If you haven’t tried one yet, I would recommend the following tactic: check out 3 or 4 from the library at once because you will probably hate at least two of the narrators.


Read something you… ah… want to read

Look, guys. If you are going to read in 2013, read something you actually want to read! Nothing breaks my heart more than when people want to get back into reading and think a good place to start is with those classics that you kinda read in high school. Don’t do it. Start somewhere else! Re-read a favorite from the last time you read books (even if it was when you were nine). Read something brand new. Read a cult classic. Ask a librarian for a recommendation. Read a crappy romance, some fluffy chick-lit, read Twilight, it doesn’t matter. Just don’t start the year off forcing yourself through something you aren’t enjoying – get the wheels rolling first, save Gatsby for the second half of the year.

If you can pull this one off – find a book that doesn’t feel like work, that pulls you along, that calls to you from your purse or your bedside table – then the rest of these suggestions will fall into place, or you won’t need them anymore because you’ll just be reading.

28 Jan 2013

so you ran out of This American Life, vol. 3

You remember my blue notebook, right? Well, I have three weeks worth of data now, and the numbers are in: I manage to listen to 12 to 20 podcasts a week, even without podcasting during my commute. Yow-za.

Anyway, recently I felt the urge to replenish my supply with some new podcasts. I’d recently caught up with a few podcasts I’d started listening to from the beginning (!!) and was feeling like some others I’d listened to a lot were ready to be semi-retired – I’ll listen if I’m in the mood, or if a good guest appears. This happens with blogs I read too: every so often, I want to clean house and add some new blood.

That was a weird mixed metaphor.

This is a long weird way of saying: here are some new podcasts I’ve been digging:

I have not mentioned this before, but I am a big fan of podcasts about Love and Sex and Relationships. You guys are all completely shocked, I can tell. Anyway… This Feels Terrible is a podcast about Love and Sex and Relationships, with an emphasis on how awful they are. Despite my love of the contemporary young adult romance and a tendency to wax mush-tastic about my own current romance, I am actually fairly obsessed with how awful love can be. Host Erin McGathy – otherwise known as Dan Harmon’s girlfriend – interviews comedians and actors about their own romantic histories and their present dating habits, airing all their dirty laundry and dysfunctions. Oh, and it’s funny, too. Also, Erin McGathy talks a lot about her overwhelmingly awkward childhood, which is pretty much my own awkward childhood if I’d had 100x the chutzpah.

I have read blogs that led me to books. I have read books that led me to blogs. I have read blogs that led me to podcasts. I have never listened to a podcast that led me to a blog, but for the past few weeks I have been wondering why the HECK I haven’t been reading Joy the Baker! Joy’s podcast is completely winning – Joy and Tracy (who has her own super-popular blog) are just shooting the shit. There is no other way to explain what this podcast is about. Yes, they talk about blogging, about fashion (sort of), and yes, about food and drinks, but yeah – these two ladies are just friends having a good time. This podcast reminds me of conversations I have with my friends after a few drinks, or any conversation with my sisters. I love it – I’m starting from the beginning, and reading Joy’s super-popular blog.

Some other podcast related updates

Two of my favorite podcasters – Nikki and Sara of You Had to Be There – have landed a LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW ON MTV. It premiers tomorrow night and I am way, way, way excited.

My podcasting friends are still podcasting at JD’s Cocktail Lounge, and are really hitting their stride. Also worth noting: somehow, this podcast has become, in part, a love letter to the bizarre little city where I resided from the ages of 13 to 23. If you ever wanted to know more about Jackson, Michigan and how completely RIDICULOUS it is, or if you are a Jackson resident yourself, then this podcast is probably for you.

WTF is still WTF, but I have to say, these past few weeks? Knocking it out of the park. Favorites of late include Elizabeth Banks, Seth Green, Adam Schlesinger (of Fountains of Wayne)… and I haven’t listened to the Tim Ferriss episode yet, but Tim Ferriss, guys. He is a crazy person, so how can that not be good?

Also, I am going to a live WTF in February!



I should really remind myself of this more often. Grumpy? Cold? Tired? Well, you are going to a live WTF! Woohoo!!

Previous podcast posts:

So You Ran Out of This American Life, vol 1

So You Ran Out of This American Life, vol 2

26 Jan 2013

William C. Morris Award, 2013

Did you know that this weekend is the ALA Midwinter Conference? And that on the last morning of the conference, at the crack of dawn, all of the ALA Youth Media Awards are announced?

Are you suitably excited?

I had the privilege of attending ALA Midwinter a few years ago. Those awards were announced so early, I tell you, that the conference shuttle buses weren’t running yet and I had to beg and plead my dear boy/chauffeur to drive us all the way to the Waterfront, which is an annoying trip straight through downtown Boston. Before we bought a GPS. Also, there was some sort of nasty January Nor’easter going on – I saw a girl almost get swept off her feet from the wind and the rain, I swear it up and down.

Anyway, this is how much we all love the ALA Youth Media Awards. Our moment of cultural influence, of glam, a lot of EXCEEDINGLY hard-working committee members put in the work and we will risk our lives to show up at 4:30 a.m. to hear the announcements.

I can’t wait until next week to start talking about ’em, so here is the William C. Morris shortlist for you – the top five YA books written by debut authors in 2012. In a few days, one will be the winner! I have read zero, so I have no opinion. I should really consider actually reading award nominees – I just referred to last year’s Morris Award and since that announcement, I’ve read one! One!! For shame. Anyway, more of these posts to come, because even if I never read any award books, I still love ’em.

Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby

A period piece about runaway teenagers and traveling circus freak shows. I was not at all inclined to read this book, but after reading a few summaries enough to write that pitiful last sentence, I am kind of intrigued. Also, a 20-something  guy who had no business being in a children’s bookstore bought this book when I was working, once, claiming he had no idea what YA was and didn’t usually buy books like this, and although it was a bit ridiculous, it was cute. I hope he reads lots of YA now. Probably not, but maybe this book changed his entire life and I should read it and see!


Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

This is one of my five romances, but it is still “on order,” meaning I may have months ahead of me. This is an Australian import, I believe, about an independent 15-year-old young lady and her maybe-not-so-impossible crush on her older male coworker. Can we please give a cheer for contemporary humor/romance appear on awards lists? Yay! Rah!


Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Dragons. Princes and Princesses. Characters named Glisselda, places named Goredd. Not my cup of tea. However, I have been playing a lot of Skyrim; perhaps enough that dragons seem cool. Perhaps. Oh, and everyone I know who read it has loved it. So maybe I should stop being such a fantasy stick in the mud.


After the Snow by S.D. Crockett

I am still feeling ambivalent toward dystopias and haven’t read any new ones since Divergent a year ago. However, The Boy is currently re-reading Life As We Knew it and telling me about his reading every few days, reminding me of how freaky it would be to have no sun or no power, how we need to store more food, how we should get a place with a wood stove, etc. Anyway, After the Snow sounds like a dystopia with more of a survivalist bent, like Life As We Knew It, which I appreciate.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Put this one in the category of “Books I keep checking out/renewing but never actually reading because other books get in the way.” Yeah, I know. Sad story. Protagonist Cameron Post loses her parents and discovers her sexuality almost at the same time, and her life changes dramatically while also going through related emotional traumas. Well, I guess I’ll put it on hold AGAIN… try harder this time around!


If I had to make a prediction of which book will win, without having read any of the five, my instinct says…. Wonder Show. I don’t know why, that’s just my gut. And the guy I sold it to in June of 2012. That’s all I’m going on. We will find out in just a few short days!! Happy Awards Season!!


24 Jan 2013

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

If you are a human, you should probably read this book.

Once upon a time, some writer-types started a website called The Rumpus. Steve Almond wrote the advice column, Dear Sugar, but handed over the duties to some new blood. That new blood was Cheryl Strayed – you might remember the name, maybe Oprah introduced you last year – and she wrote an advice column like none you’ve ever read before. She wrote the advice column that all other advice columns wish they were, and in turn, her readers came to Sugar with the kinds of problems that are so tricky, so painful, so innately human. How to move on from the death of a loved one, how to decide to stay with your spouse, whether or not to cut of a destructive parent or sibling, how to survive this human condition. Problems we all have but assume there are no answers for, especially answers to be found in an online advice column.

But there are answers to these questions, as most of you probably know, found in music, film, poetry, religion, literature. Strayed’s Sugar takes the last option, weaving advice throughout personal stories with carefully chosen words, either tender or firm, but always artful, never patronizing, and the result is something truly special. It’s a manual on how to survive this human existence, one poor soul’s troubles at at time.

I want to buy a copy for everyone I love who has ever suffered, and bookmark special chapters for them. Everyone. Man, woman, parent, sibling, friend, acquaintance, coworker… Heck, I would like to buy myself a copy and bookmark special chapters for Future Jessica, in case she needs them.

I hope you don’t read this as an oversell – this is not a flashy book, a stay-up-all-night, change your life kind of book. If you are a person who finds life mostly enjoyable, you might not care for it. For the rest of us: required reading for treating the human condition.

23 Jan 2013

paper journal

This year I am challenging myself to keep a paper diary that is not just a collection of frustrations, complaints, and private anxiety.

As a person who usually only writes in a journal in times of great frustration, complaint, and private anxiety, this is quite a challenge. Especially because I am not necessarily in the interest of denying my own fears and anxieties and troubles – I just think that sometimes, journalling about these topics is just another way to get myself worked up, to ramp up my negative emotions.

Also, if my ancestors find these journals, they would read like the rantings of a mad woman, and although I am full of fear and anxiety and troubles, I am not mad.

I am trying to learn a new way, mostly by showing up and writing a few things every day. I don’t feel a need to give a chunk of my day to “the morning page” right now, so a sentence, a paragraph, a few lines – it’s all good. Basically, I would like this paper journal to be a place where I can stay in touch with my inner voice, but the compassionate, reasonable part of my inner voice. Surely that side of me has something to say, too.

I try not to think about writing neatly. My fears and anxieties definitely speak in tiny, uniform letters written in just-the-right-pen.

So far, I end up writing about my day’s comings and goings, my thoughts about the future, books I am reading, resolutions I’d like to make, inspiring bits of text that I’ve collected, thoughts about stories, and yes, one time an argument that I had with that same dear boy I was going on about yesterday.

It’s been an interesting exercise, to do something that you’ve done your whole life but now do it differently.

Also to note, I probably wouldn’t be doing this if I hadn’t found the perfect notebook: a 8×12 cloth-bound Clairefontaine – casual enough for comfort but sturdy enough to differentiate it from your many other notebooks, lovely large pages that are thick and buttery-smooth, and cheaper than a Moleskine. I got mine at Trident.


22 Jan 2013

Love Letter 2013


Nine years ago, you were eighteen-years-old and I was eighteen-years-old and we were two eighteen-year-olds doing what eighteen-year-olds do: getting into trouble, trying to pass our classes, and staying up until ungodly hours of the morning on AOL instant messenger.

When we met, I was having a wild ride of a first semester. The summer before school was a bit cruel to me, especially the part where my boyfriend of two years and I broke up. I was a bit wounded and a bit cautious, but also single for the first time in two years. And they were an important two years, sixteen to eighteen, years when I finally shed some of that young teen awkwardness, learned how to manage my hair, and some of the boys finally hit six feet. The world looked different on the other side of that relationship, and between August and December, I kissed more boys than I’d ever kissed in my life.

But I didn’t pick anyone. I dated a handful of boys who wanted very badly to be picked, and although I gave them some time and attention, I wouldn’t pick them. I tried not to string anyone along, but some of these boys got upset; I was so generally awesome (ha) and down for kissing, so why wouldn’t I just be their girlfriend already?

Most guys assumed I was still damaged from my big break-up, or just not interested in settling down. One, in particular, didn’t want to take no for an answer. He was upset, felt strung along, despite everything I’d tried to do to keep it casual. You want a boyfriend? he asked, and I said I did. Then why not me? he asked, and I didn’t have an answer. He made me cry over it, but apologized a few days later. I figured it out he said, and I asked him to enlighten me. You don’t want *a* boyfriend, you want THE Boyfriend.
This was an epiphany to him, a simple truth to me. At the time I couldn’t pinpoint the particular qualities I was looking for in a mate, but I knew it when I felt it: I could tell the difference between *a* boyfriend and THE boyfriend. And unlike many of my closest friends, I had startlingly little tolerance for maintaining relationships with people who I didn’t admire, or where the power felt off-balance. It was right or it was wrong. If you weren’t THE boyfriend, then you would know it.
Three weeks later I met you. The Boyfriend. And nine years later, we are in premarital counseling.
Getting married is a strange prospect for two people who have been so close for so long, as you well know. I tried to explain this to you last night over dinner, but I feel like the good food and great wine was probably clouding my ideas, but when you’ve been dating for as long as we have, marriage feels like the least important thing. Your friends and family have been encouraging you to tie the knot for years. You’ve already survived college, a long distance relationship, a cross-country move, and three years of cohabitation and seem to still like each other. One of the first times I spoke to a grad school friend of mine she asked how long we’d been dating, and when I told her almost six years, her jaw dropped a little and she said, “That’s a *marriage*!”

Four years ago, one of your family members said to me “I’m just going to call you his fiancee, okay? We’re de facto married. Getting actual-married? Not a big deal.

But then we sit in premarital counseling together, talking to a Pastor we don’t know particularly well about why we want to get married in a church, how we split up duties, what we do when we argue, and it suddenly seems important. Mind-blowingly, life-changingly important. The person you tether yourself to for life. I’ve been a reluctant wedding planner because I’ve been under a lot of stress in the past year, but also because every small decision gives me heart palpitations. This is the ACTUAL dress I will ACTUALLY wear at my ACTUAL wedding. The ACTUAL invitations I will send to ACTUAL people who will come to my ACTUAL wedding. It is sudden, and intense, and real.

I’ve been thinking about marrying you for nine years, but now that I am marrying you, it seems like the biggest decision I have ever made.

Luckily, it was also the easiest. Nine years ago I met you. I kissed you. I invited you into my life in a way that I didn’t for those other boys because you weren’t *a* boyfriend, you were THE Boyfriend. The decision made itself, and maybe I’ve been lucky in this way, but I’ve never regretted it for a second. You have grown and changed in nine years, but you have always been the person I fell in love with, the person worth blowing my mind, changing my life over.

Three weeks after we met, I wrote this about you:

“Right now, I’ve found an interest. I don’t know what we have, but that’s what I like about it.”

Nine years later, I know what we have – something big and life-changing and the most important and the least important thing. A de facto marriage, an actual marriage. I still like it. I still like you. Thanks for enjoying this wild ride of a year, of a life, by my side.

Happy nine years.



21 Jan 2013


After John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars swept through the the winter Best of 2012 Lists, I planned a little post to think about how this particular YA book caught the world’s attention. As a YA “insider,” a fan of John Green since the beginning, a person who watched John and Hank’s videos back when they were Brotherhood 20.0, it’s been a strange book-story to watch.

Of course Green’s latest book is getting heaps of praise and attention! His books are reliably thoughtful, well-crafted, and fun to read, and to top it of, TFiOS will make you cry like a small child. Green, as a speaker, a writer, a human, is uniquely earnest, charming. A perfect spokesperson for YA. I wrote a paper about the power of Green’s author “celebrity” for a class, three years before his fourth novel would be named the book of the year by Time Magazine, before he would sell out Carnegie Hall with his brother and a slew of celebrity guests, before the New York Times would run his feature, telling the story that the rest of us insiders have heard a million times.

But you could also say that The Fault in Our Stars is just a YA book – good, solid, maybe great, but nothing we haven’t seen before, from other novels, from Green himself. Nothing revolutionary. Some of my librarian/children’s lit friends found it to be “emotionally manipulative.” Personally, I still like Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines better.

Then, last week, I accidentally got sucked into watching the livestream of An Evening of Awesome. It was one part John and Hank Video Standards, two parts Two Genuine, Excited Brothers standing in front of their fans for doing the things they love to do, and one part random nerd-celebrity cameos. I was about to turn it off, and then Neil Gaiman walked on the stage… about to turn it off then Kimya Dawson appeared.

I am not sure how to qualify what John and Hank have done with their lives’ work and their online behaviors, but it is hard not to get behind people – young and old alike – coming together and celebrating  books, celebrating music, celebrating science, celebrating a life where you think about things. Somewhere along the way, their little online zeitgeist and John’s books, in particular, have caught the attention of some key pop culture fans and critics, thus propelling the popularity of both forward,  and  culminating in TFiOS.

It’s just another John Green book – smart, funny, clever, not perfect – but this one got adults reading YA. Reading YA that wasn’t Twilight, that can stand up against other Best Books of the Year that are written for adults. I don’t know if the YA-o-sphere at large appreciates this as much as they should – I know that while I was surrounded by other YA-o-philes online and in grad school, I would roll my eyes at this. But it is pretty true the world at large thinks that YA is rubbish. They are wrong obviously, but sometimes it takes a cultural phenomenon of a book to open the eyes of the masses.

To John: write on. To the rest of you: welcome to the fold – I hope you like what you find.

19 Jan 2013

questions we are not asking about new adult

If you are a person in the YA lit/librarian-o-sphere, you will likely be familiar with the term New Adult. You might not be able to define this because everyone and their idiot second cousin who writes for the New York Times has a different idea. If you want a more thorough understanding of the conversation, I would certainly check out Liz’s collection of definitions at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy – it’s comprehensive and even-handed, and I’ve read through her links and annotations more than once.

The rough story, however, is this – publishers, authors, and other interested parties have begun publishing, writing, and promoting a new genre of books – The New Adult Novel. These books are written for and about those slightly older than high school. Eighteen at least, probably not older than 40, but could be anywhere in that range. The subject matter may focus on “coming of age” type plot lines – the Quarterlife Crisis and all that – but maybe not. Publishing/popularity has ramped up a bit in the past year or so – a few prominent media sources have latched onto the story in the past few months and made sure the general reading public knows that s-e-x is involved.

So. New Adult. You might like or you might loathe this label. Personally, I am fairly indifferent. As a reader, I have always enjoyed YA and adult books with younger protagonists. As a librarian, I am interested in whether the books will continue to be popular over time, if they will warrant more money spent to support patron interest. As a general advocate for books and reading, I hope that New Adult books – like any books, really – will help create and maintain lifelong readers.

However, as an academic and curious-minded individual, I love talking about genre (And I am using “genre” in a very loose way here, a term that doesn’t mean anything beyond “collection of specific books and stories that we are going to give a certain label). What is most interesting to me is how everyone is talking about New Adult – book bloggers have different interests than  book-bloggers-who-are-librarians, authors who write YA vs. authors who write New Adult, with the media-at-large serving as some kind of catalyst for everyone’s interests.

And what is even more interesting to me? What we aren’t talking about when we talk about New Adult. Some articles have touched on these topics, but move along quickly to other conclusions. I would love to read some more thorough explorations of these topics, both as an exploration of this new genre (or non-genre), or just as a continuation of the discussion of how we talk about young adult lit in general.


There are differences between New Adult and Young Adult… but what are the similarities?

Most would agree that The New York Times’s assessment that New Adult is just “Harry Potter meets 50 Shades of Gray” is ridiculous/obviously sensational. These books that are being called New Adult are not just unexpurgated YA novels, and there are plenty of YA novels published in the YA market that are far more explicit than some of the New Adult books I’ve perused.

But what are the similarities? There are some, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about this issue at all. Coming of age narratives. Tight, intimate first-person narration. Slice-of-life type subject matter. I suspect that New Adult is gaining traction because those who read YA books as teens or in college and loved them love them for a reason, for the particular reading experience they get from these books; these readers want to read more books like YA books, and New Adult books feel like YA books. This similar feel I think is more structural/thematic rather than content-based.


Is New Adult an extension of YA? Or narrowing of Adult?

Some folks see New Adult as firmly YA-based or firmly Adult-based. What does either option mean?

If we talk about New Adult as if it is Young Adult + Plus, then what is that “plus?” Sex? Character maturity? A setting that likely doesn’t include parents? This could be true but, again, there are many YA books that have these things already.

If we talk about Adult, then what qualifications make an Adult book a New Adult book? Based on the books that are being published right now as New Adult, it seems that New Adult is not just a narrowing of Adult, but a narrowing of Adult Contemporary Romance (see: Diana Peterfreund’s article). I am not a scholar of Romance Novels (do these people exist?) but I do know that romance is a genre that has many tropes, narrative patterns, and structural traditions, as does YA, which is interesting.


Does genre-fying a certain type of story help it flourish? Or encourage more of the same?

Labeling a genre is a problematic endeavor, but can help writers find publishers, readers find books, etc. If someone didn’t dream up the term Young Adult (sometime in the 60’s or 70’s, I’d imagine), then would we have the rich YA market we have now? Probably not, because nobody would know where to look for them.

Authors who aspire to publish their own works of New Adult Fiction might support this genre-fication for that reason – the more recognition, the more room for different authors to enter the field. The more books in the field, the better the books will become (capitalism, anyone?)

But on the other side of the coin is this fear that if the genre definitions are too narrow, then the books that don’t fit neatly into that Contemporary Romance slot will be pushed out. More writers will step in to write more Contemporary Romances, the genre will fill up with repeated story-lines, familiar characters, nothing interesting.

Which side of the fence are you on?


Is there something wrong with trying to make New Adult “a thing?”

Underneath a lot of the articles I’ve read about New Adult is a bit of defensiveness. Ostensibly, we, the champions of YA, are faced with popular news media yet again making grand, sensational statements regarding YA that just aren’t accurate. We do have something to defend.

But beyond that, I am wondering what is the cause of this fear of New Adult. If it’s really just and adult genre, then why give it any more concern than you would adult mysteries or science fiction? If you are a librarian and your teens want to read New Adult, then buy some books for your collection, or send them over to the other side of the library just like you would if they were looking for a copy of 1984?

One hypothesis I have has to do with the sex and the youth librarian’s ongoing relationship with young adult literature. The media is telling the world that New Adult =  Young Adult + Sex. This statement doesn’t necessarily conflate YA with Sex, but to the world at large? Maybe the separation isn’t so clear. Maybe New Adult books are for teenagers who want to read about sex. To your average youth librarian, this is a not a benign association – this is opening the door for more backlash, more challenges, more misunderstanding. Making the line clear between YA and New Adult is in the interest of the librarian, even if their teenage patrons are reading 50 Shades of Gray (and they are, by the way).

But it could also be that those who love YA aren’t that different from those that love good films, classic novels, or jazz music – we want to share our love of YA, but we also want to be cliquey about it. Loving YA is a bit of a private party – we want YA to mean what it means to us, and if “outsiders” have other opinions? Well, they don’t belong in the club anyway.


Are we uncomfortable with forced genres?

Maybe we just don’t like it when those outsiders try to pigeonhole books, writing, and readers (especially since those outsiders don’t write or read of what they speak). There is also the inherent conflict between writer’s interests (to make art), librarian’s interests (to provide books/information without bias), and publisher’s interests in making $$$. If publishers are helping push New Adult in a certain direction, it probably isn’t just because of their knowledge, interest, or appreciation for new and exciting fiction categories… it’s for the money.

I think I like Andrew Karre’s quote here, from an interview with author Mitali Perkins:

“I think there easily could be a bonfire to be built around the shifting definition of adulthood. I think that’s a real cultural phenomenon, but it needs to come from the writers not the marketers.”

And also not sensational articles from the mass media.

What does this all have to do with self publishing?

The books that have triggered this New Adult kerfuffle are a specific bunch… and they were all self-published.

Now THAT is interesting. Is New Adult the first of many “niche” genres that might arise in this way? What does this mean for readership of these books? Current data says that teenagers haven’t adopted eReading in significant numbers, so are these self-pub trends mostly adult-driven?  In the future, if teenagers do become eReaders will this picture change?

And also, do we all have an unspoken bias against these books called New Adult because, like many self-published books…. uh, they kinda suck? I’ve tried to read a few. They read like 50 Shades of Grey – weak characterization, poor writing, predictable plotlines. And what’s worse is that the premises seem fun, the covers inviting, but then you start reading and realize that you are still reading a self-published book. After tossing away Beautiful Disaster after a hundred pages, I felt a little uneasy towards reading anymore New Adult; I read April’s rather… uh… spirited review of another New Adult title that caught my eye – Molly McAdams’s Taking Chances – and I thought to myself, “Yeah, I would probably think the same thing if I read it. Pass.”

And yet, people are still spending money on these books, still enjoying them. What does THAT mean for the future of books and reading?

Why do we care so damn much?

Why do you feel like commenting on this issue? Why do you feel like you have something to say? What tugs at you? What are the issues you decide, as a blogger, a professional, or a thinker, are worth debating? If you are a librarian, do you think that talking about these issues is an important part of your job? Why?


Anyway, if anyone wants to write a blog post/article/dissertation on any one of those topics, I would be interested in reading it.


18 Jan 2013

reading wishlist: shiny new young adult fiction

I have something traumatic to tell you: my library is not buying books right now. I know, the horrors. It’s a technical issue – we’ve unrolled a new ILS, and for those of you who’ve had the privilege of working in a library during an ILS switch, well, you will understand these horrors. They are horrible. Not buying books is almost the least of the horrors, but it is still quite sad.

We should be ordering soon (crossing my fingers every day…) but in the meantime, all these new releases are stacking up. Once orders start rolling through, there will be so many new books it will be overwhelming. Here are some upcoming YA titles that have caught my eye, that I gaze longingly at in their little Titlesource carts, waiting for the day that they show up in the flesh, on my hold shelf.

Once I am out of hold jail, that is.

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

I liked If I Stay alright, but didn’t feel like re-reading it before Where She Went came out… but Just One Day looks intriguing enough to keep Gayle Forman on my radar. We should talk later about the recent proliferation of YA novels featuring European-Romances. I suspect Anna and the French Kiss is to blame.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray got so many awards and recommendations that I wanted to read it despite my relative disinterest in the topic of Lithuanian refugees. Out of the Easy, however, seems much more up my alley – New Orleans prostitutes in the 1950s? Yes, please. We should talk later about whether or not it’s okay to not be interested in refugees. It’s probably not and we should all go work on our empathy.

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban

I had never heard of this book, but THREE library patrons requested its purchase this past week. Three is not a big number, but, as I’ve mentioned before, I very rarely get any requests for YA books, and if I do they are typically asking for the next Pretty Little Liars installment. Three patrons requesting a seemlingly under the radar contemporary YA novel? Yes, I need to see what that’s all about.

Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

I love this cover and I love books about characters learning the power and limitations of one’s new-found sexuality and I really do just love this cover.

Five Summers by Una LaMarche

Spied this book on Netgalley or Edelweiss or something, and the blurb said “for fans of Summer Sisters.” There are five main characters, girls who meet up every summer at camp and share various traumas and problems, and while some of these plotlines seem a bit melodramatic, I have been jonesing for a good summer camp story lately, and yes, yes I am a fan of Summer Sisters. Is it sacrilege to read a summer book when it is below freezing? Maybe not, but probably depressing either way, especially if read while residing in Arctic Apartment.

The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer

House of the Scorpion sequel. I don’t think I need to say much more than that. It is upsetting when authors of great talent actually require significant amounts of time to write their masterpieces and don’t feed you a new story every year for the duration of their writing careers… but then when that new book shows up it feels a little triumphant. It comes out in the fall, if you haven’t yet, read HoS now to get ready, review here. 

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Ever since I started listening to her This Creative Life podcast, I’ve become a bit more endeared to Sara Zarr. She takes her craft, her career, quite seriously and I haven’t read as many of her books as I think I ought to have. Her 2013 book is about competitive piano-playing teens – Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, anyone? Also, love the cover.

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Yeah. A Sarah Dessen year is a good year.