A Target Audience is Not a Genre, part II, OR, Introducing the Xela Awards!

spellbook.jpgMonday was a big day for children’s/teen lit geeks like me.

Monday, at the American Library Association’s Mid-Winter Conference, various committees announced the winners of this year’s Youth Media Awards. You might have heard of these– the Newberry and Caldecott being the most famous.

But there are other awards besides those–the Printz, Coretta Scott King, Batchelder, Schneider Family, Belpre, Geisel, Sibert, Alex, and others.

To say the results are surprising is an understatement. Many people will comment about how the books with most Printz buzz were all left off the list, how the Newberry has gone to a librarian 2 years in a row (conspiracy alert!) and on and on.

After last week’s post and resulting conversation, I’m most interested in the serious cross-level, cross-generation aspect to this years lists. This years lists feature the fact that the Caldecott winner (given for excellence in a picture book) was also named a Top 10 Best Books for Teens. Or the fact that 3 Alex winners (given for adult titles that will appeal to teen audiences) appeared on the Top 10 Best Books for Teens list. So, almost HALF of the top ten list has massive non-teen appeal as well.

But, it brings us back to the point, how to get adults to read teen books? Really good teen books that they’re going to really enjoy?

Simple! We need a new award. If the Alex award is given out for the top 10 adult titles that will appeal to teens, then we need the exact opposite, the Xela Award (I pronounce this X-ela, yes I know it sounds like a cross between a nice Amtrak train and a spread sheet. Work with me on this one.) The Xela will be given to the top 10 teen books that will appeal to adults.

Quite simple, really.

To get us started, here are some books that could have won this year, or in years past.

Some books will be really easy to put on this list:

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
  • The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty (published in Australia/Canada as I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes)

These titles were all originally published as adult titles elsewhere in the world.

Along those same lines, the following are books that I’m not sure who they were published for, but  could have gone either way:

  • Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty (and sequels)
  • The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend (and sequels)
  • Kampung Boy and Town Boy by Lat
  • The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar

Then, there are a ton of books that were written for teens, but will appeal to adults.

  • Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay (and sequels)
  • Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (and sequels)
  • King Dork by Frank Portman
  • Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
  • Kipling’s Choice by Geert Spillebeen
  • Looking for Alaska by Jonathan Green
  • As Simple as Snow by Gregory Galloway
  • Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller (and others)
  • The Pull of the Ocean by Jean-Claude Mourlevat
  • Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
  • Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marrilier
  • What Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles
  • Gossip Girl by Cecily Von Ziegesar (and sequels)
  • My Cup Runneth Over: The Life of Angelica Cookson Potts by Cherry Whytock (and sequels)
  • The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
  • Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison (and sequels)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling (and sequels)
  • Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
  • Sold by Patricia McCormick
  • Tamar by Mal Peet
  • Cupid by Julius Lester

So, now my gears are turning (would this be a YALSA thing? A PLA thing? Or not ALA? Maybe a new CYBILS category?) but, until we get an award in place, try some of these books out, make your own recomendations below, and, wander into a different section of your library and bookstore. Read something that’s “too young” for you. And, when you find something you like, put it in the hands of others, no matter what their age.

Happy Reading!


4 Responses to A Target Audience is Not a Genre, part II, OR, Introducing the Xela Awards!

  1. Dana says:

    The first ones that come to mind right now, while I can’t see my bookshelf, are:

    The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
    The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
    A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
    Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

    And these are old, but seem to now be considered YA, although I think they’re also shelved in adult in my library, too:

    Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
    Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey
    Dragondrums by Anne McCaffrey

    (McCaffrey won YALSA’s Margaret A. Edwards award in 1999 for these and the original Pern trilogy, which are definitely shelved adult.)

  2. Abby says:

    I’d add

    Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

    Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Lawson


    Dairy Queen (and sequel The Off Season) by Catherine Murdock

  3. I’d add Rairarubia by Royce Adams (and sequels) … it’s an older series, but it is wonderful reading.

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