Young Adult & Children's Literature

School’s started. In just a few hours (10:29 p.m. EDT) it will officially be fall.

Right about now classrooms across the world are settling into their routine. Students have figured out where their second- period class is. Which teachers they love and hate. Who they are going to call friend for the rest of their life. Everything is still fresh. The year is full of potential.

We know that every single one of you fell in love with reading when you were young. And this most lasting of love affairs was probably sparked around this time of year, when you went back to school.

It’s been a banner year for Young Adult fiction and Children’s literature. Of course there were the regular controversies. Like, should adults be embarrassed to be reading YA? (The answer is no, by the way. A book is a book is a book is a book.) Are certain stories too dark? (No. Kids are capable of handling all kinds of stories.) Are tales of dystopia over? (Once again, no. Look at the success of the first of four planned film adaptations of Veronica Roth’s Divergent series; it earned $114 million domestically in its first three weeks. And we have the just-opened movie version of James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, and a slew of others in the green light grid, including the final two installments of The Hunger Games, from Suzanne Collins’s Mockinjay, which will star Julianne Moore as President Coin.)

Meanwhile, John Green continued his meteoric rise with the release of the fantastically successful film version of The Fault in Our Stars film. That one has grossed about $300 million so far. Might it be a reminder to adults, and not just the ones producing films, that they should check out all sections of the bookstore?

Last week the National Book Foundation released the titles it is considering for its annual Young People’s Literature Award. It is a stellar list, an indication of the vibrancy of the genre, with brilliant books by some of the best authors at work in the field: Laurie Halse Anderson (The Impossible Knife of Memory), Gail Giles (Girls Like Us), Carl Hiaasen (Skink—No Surrender), Kate Milford (Greenglass House), Eliot Schrefer (Threatened), Steve Sheinkin (The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights), Andrew Smith (100 Sideways Miles), John Corey Whaley (Noggin), Deborah Wiles (Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book Two), and Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming).
I would highly recommend that you read these books. You can download an excerpt of each of them here. And mega congrats to the two Angelenos on the list, Andrew Smith and John Corey Whaley.
In light of the new school year, we thought we’d publish a week of pieces that talk about many aspects of Young Adult literature. Today we open our series with a piece on some similarities between John Green and J. D. Salinger by Angela Yuen, a critic of sensitivity and perception who also happens to be a teenager. We will also feature Rumaan Alam on one of the first YA novels to deal with homosexuality, John Donovan’s I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip. Cara Parks waxes nostalgic on the 50th anniversary of one of her childhood favorites, Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series. Robin Wasserman reviews two novels inspired by a 2012 case of mass hysteria in the town of Le Roy, New York. Finally, Jessica Gross reports on a Pen America panel on Sex and Violence in Children’s Literature that took place this past May.

We’ve got more great essays coming up in the next few months. We hope to see you here, reading and discussing them. And do yourself a favor, whoever you are, whatever age you think you might be. Go read a kid’s book.

— Cecil Castellucci

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