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Why YA? To never forget… The List (Siobhan Vivian) as discussed by Stephanie Wilkes

Today, TLT member Stephanie Wilkes shares her Why YA? post.  You can write one too. Here’s how.

I’ve contemplated this post for several weeks now because the reason I read YA didn’t seem like something I could just pin down for a blog post.  There are so many different reasons and in my interview when I joined the TLT team, I gave away the book that made me into a YA reader.  I kept telling Karen that I was going to write this post and for several days I have just stared at my reminder post-it, seeking inspiration.  Then, during a recent outreach visit to my old high school, I found it.

One of my best friends (since 2nd grade) is now a high school English teacher and one of her requirements to complete her certification is to have community visits to her classroom.  So, of course, I offered to come in and talk about books that are not required reading in hopes of securing more readers and library users.  Kristin teaches at our high school and before I went to her class, I had to drop off my son at my mother’s house.  The same house I grew up in.  I drove the same drive that I took ten years ago and was amazed at how many flashbacks I had while driving down those back roads.  So much has changed but for the most part, all of it is still the same.  
I walked down the same hallways that I did as a student and down some of the new hallways built after they added on to the school.  The hallways smelled the same…the bathrooms smelled the same.  And then, at lunch, when I was in the cafeteria, I spotted my senior portrait on the wall (high ACT scores got to have their pics on the wall in our Renaissance Club).  I walked over and was instantly blow away by this picture.  I made a goofy face and took a pic with it and when I got home, I just sat and stared at this pic and thought about how much my life has changed in ten years.  
First thing I noticed?  Fake happiness.  Present me, happiness that is real.  Second thing, hair like all my friends…highlighted, curled…not me.  Present me, hair that I LOVE.  The night before I took that pic?  Went out with friends and drank…a lot.  Witnessed my boyfriend kiss another girl.  Got amazingly sick.  Threw up all the way to pictures the next day and made my Mom REALLY MAD.  And then came home and cried for hours and hours.  And then, while looking at that pic, I stopped dead in my tracks and realized why I read YA.
I read YA because there are millions of teenagers out there who don’t have a clue.  They have no idea that we, the adults who work with them, have experienced heartache, happiness, “falling in love” tingles, and the pain of being stabbed in the back by your best friend.  And while most adults run as quickly as possible from those feelings and that time in their lives, I choose to embrace it.  Embracing the hurt and the happy makes me a better teen librarian because I can offer real sympathy.  I can offer a kind ear, I can pick up on body language, and I can tell who has a crush on whom from across the room.  
And along that line, I can offer them books to help them realize that life doesn’t always suck and that sometimes, it sucks hardcore.  One book I just recently finished was the perfect example of the girls in my high school and at times, I was like each and every one of them.  In fact, Siobhan Vivian’s The List is quite possibly one of the best books that I’ve read this year.
At the beginning of each school year, a list is posted.  The prettiest and ugliest of each grade.  So right off the bat, we are introduced into our cast of eight…the pretty girls and the ‘ugly’ girls.  It’s a story of how girls see themselves and how others view them.  At times, I could identify with all of the girls and their feelings and one of the first books that truly took a realistic view at girls and their behavior and instead of offering resolution, because not all of the stories were resolved, offered a snapshot into a life and then, as you closed the book, made you call into question your own actions.

It is these types of books that give teens power.  And especially the girls in the book.  Each one of them is empowered because of this list in some way, shape or form and it is up to them to learn how to use this power wisely (and now I feel like the whole ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ Spiderman-quotey).  So, not only these 8 girls are affected by The List but also their friends, their boyfriends, and everyone around them.  It makes you remember that so much of your high school life is dictated by others opinions of you or what people say behind your back and at times, it is extremely painful.  And sometimes we make decisions that we might not have made otherwise and I know we have all been there.

 Why do I read YA?  Because I never want to forget.  Thanks to the hundreds of YA authors for keeping it real and reminding me everyday that I’m human and that the pain and happiness made me into the awesome nerdfighter I am today.  And thank you for empowering me as an adult to always passionately serve my teens and give them an outlet to learn more about the world and about themselves. 


  1. I love this post. And I love that you have real happiness. You rock and I am so glad that you are there to help your teens navigate the teen years. And that you are a part of TLT! Love ya.

  2. I really love this post. I love the heck out of my job as a teen librarian and reading this made me really look at exactly why I love all aspects of my job. When people look at me like I am crazy when I tell them I am a teen librarian it just makes me laugh because it makes me realize we really are a unique bunch of people. People who truly CARE about their jobs and know what they're doing versus just sitting at a desk behind the scenes all day. GO US!

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