Over at the First Second blog, Gina Gagliano posts an interesting piece exploring what makes a book “Young Adult”. As a teacher of ostensibly “Young Adults” (I teach middle school when I am not talking about comics), I often struggle with this same topic.
If we look at some of the most popular books of the past few years, there seems to be a blurred line between what is “for kids” and what kids actually find interesting. While the Twilight series may not be high literature, you would be hard pressed to find any girl between the ages of 12 and 18 who has not read the books (there used to be plenty of boys who read the books, but the movies and the “teen hearthrob” status of Robert Pattinson has kind of killed their interest). On the same hand, I am pretty sure you would be hard pressed to find many women between the ages of 35 and 45 who have not read the books either.
The same can be said for The Hunger Games. And The Golden Compass.
And, while The Uglies trilogy (we won’t count Extras since it was kind of a tack-on fourth book) may not be as familiar to adults as the previous books, it is another that is read voraciously by “young adults” and enjoyed by “adults” as well.
So where am I going with this?
I think the same discussion can be applied to comics. While it used to be clear that “comics were for kids” (despite Marvel’s bold claims to the contrary), nowadays it seems that those same four-colored comics are entirely unsuitable for kids.
So then, what comics should be included in a library for “Young Adults”? The kids long to stretch their wings a bit and head away from the safe confines of Disney and Nickelodeon. But, do kids really need to see The Sentry ripping someone apart in all its graphic glory? Is that really kid appropriate? These are the things I struggle with as I make recommendations to our school librarian.
So far the Library is a mish-mash of “educational” graphic novels about famous people or scientific concepts, Classics Illustrated, and the books I have brought in. I have included Astronaut Academy, Eternal Smile, Chiggers, Maus, Gettysburg, Amulet, Smile, and Flight Explorer to the collection (either directly or through recommendations). But, that collection is growing and expanding. Big Nate. Babymouse. Diary of a Wimpy Kid. All of those are greeting kids at a young age and introducing them to the joys of comics. The Young Adult comics need to be therein both quality and quantity to bridge these young readers.
I believe that right now we are experienceing a new Golden Age of Young Adult literature. there are books being published that both adults and children *ahem* Young Adults can enjoy together. Even better, these are books that can lead to discussions and interactions between parents and their children.
Even better, the quality literature is expanding beyong the traditional novels and in to the comic medium. Never before has there been so much quality available for adults and kids to enjoy together. So, next time you are at a library (be it a school library or a public library), talk to the librarian about their Young Adult section. See what comics are included. And, make some recommendations!
Do you have any recommendations for our school library? Let me know! Our librarian is always looking for new books to grab readers!