Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Trend Watch 2014

It’s time, one again, my friends for another edition of Trend Watch.

I like to create a RA poster for my teen area. Don’t worry, I share. But I need your help. What trends have you been noticing this year in YA lit? Share with me your favorite trends and a couple of examples of titles and later, I’ll share with you my poster.

Here are a few that have been suggested on Twitter:

You can leave a comment or Tweet me @tlt16 with the tag #yalittrends

In case you were curious, here are some of the previous posters we have made:

Trend Watch 2013

The year is halfway over and we’re tracking trends.  So, what are we seeing?  We’ll be tracking it right here.  But I can’t read everything (even though I try!) and we need your help!  Leave us a comment or Tweet us at #trendwatch2013.  We need to come up with 10 signficant trends in #yalit for 2013 to create this year’s poster.  Previous years posters are available after the jump.

Here’s how it will work:  Tell us what trends you see in the comments.  We can compile a list of more than 10.  Beginning in July, we will ask readers to vote on what they feel are the Top 10 Trends in YA Lit.  In August, we’ll put the poster together.  In addition, if you know of a title that fits a trend listed on the page or in the comments, please share.  Thank you.

Some Possible Trends

Unconventional Main Characters

In Dualed by Elise Chapman, we see a teenaged female hitman.  Technically they are called Strikers in this world, but she is a hitman.  And in Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan our main character is a female thief who becomes part of the Queen’s guard (it’s historical fiction).

You could Have Been an X-Men

Characters with mutant like powers.  New titles to add to this list: Blackout by Robison Wells (coming out in October) and The Twelve-Fingered Boy

Teenage Assasins

Dualed by Elise Chapman, Nobody by Jennifer Lynne Barnes, Mind Games by Kiersten White
Rich Teen, Poor Teen: Socioeconomic Diversity in YA Lit

Rich Teens: When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney, Winger by Andrew Smith
Poor Teens: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Strong Male Voices

Winger by Andrew Smith, Wise Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin, When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

It’s a Tech Thing: Technology in the Lives of Teens

Going Vintage by Lindsay Leavitt , Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown, Canary by Rachele Alpine

2010 Trends

Stepping Through The Screen: Reality TV and Library Programming by Christie G

Everyone who knows me knows that I am an absolute competition reality TV addict.  I love watching competition shows that bring people together from all over, fighting it out to win a specific prize in front of television cameras.  While I am smart enough to know that the contestants for the shows are cast not only for their talents but also for their appearance and demographic profile, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, delve into the fantasy, and root for a favorite.  Teens are the same way- ask them what they’re watching, and it can be anything from the new season of Survivor to Iron Chef America to Top Chef to The Great Escape.  Some of the most popular programs that I’ve done have tied in reality television with library programming and books within my collection….

Project Runway (Lifetime)
TV Concept:  With a limited budget, in an insanely small amount of time, create an outfit to fit the challenge and wow the expert judges, or be sent home.
Library Program:  Create your own fashion runway within the library, while the tween and teens have fun and challenge their fashion sense.  Connect with the local cosmetology school and see if they would be willing to send some of their graduating students to do hair and/or makeup for the tween/teen models the day of the challenge.  Have tweens/teens sign up to be contestants and their own models, and bring items from home for their challenge outfits.  Use a kicking but clean music background, and after the teens are dressed and prepped, have them walk the runway for their family and friends.  If possible, enlist volunteers to take digital pictures of the teens during hair/makeup prep and at the end like a real fashion show, and have the pictures available for download afterwards on a secure site so participants and their parents have those memories of the event.
Collection Connection:  Fashion books and magazines, how-to-sew books, how to crochet books, jewelry creation books, biographies of fashion designers and models from Coco Channel and Jimmy Choo to Heidi Klum.

See previous TLT TPIB Project Fashion for addition Project Runway inspired program ideas.

Fear Factor (Chiller)
TV Concept:  Contestants go through a variety of increasingly gross, fearsome, and dangerous challenges in order to win the game.
Library Program:  While we don’t want to make anyone sick or cause anyone harm, there are ways to twist this program to fit within the library.  First off, you can use the harmless tricks of a Halloween program for the gross or fear challenges:  take cold, cooked spaghetti noodles and peeled grapes with red food coloring, place them in an enclosed box, and tell the teens they’re something obnoxious, and make them put their hand in for a certain amount of time.  Second, you can do safe but nasty food challenges-  get a brain mold, and take green Jell-O and sink bacon and pimentos in it.  Do a Buddy the Elf round and make Spaghettio’s a la Buddy.  Mix up a baby food shake.  Or if you have access and really want to go for it, you can find chocolate covered grasshoppers and ants- completely edible.  For this type of program, whether it’s food or challenges, make sure to have a permission slip, and have a spot for allergies.
Collection Connection:  extreme sports books and magazines, books on cuisines from different cultures, weird and strange food books, grossology books, Guinness Book of World Records.
Cupcake Wars (Food Network) / Top Chef:  Desserts (Bravo TV)
TV Concept:  In Cupcake Wars, four sets of cupcake bakers compete against each other to have their cupcakes showcased at a superstar event in ever-increasing challenges.  In Top Chef:  Desserts, cheftestants compete in a series of 30 minute and elimination challenges showcasing their cooking skills in order to win the title of Top Chef.
Library Concept:  Partner with a local bakery and other sponsors and get vanilla cupcakes (or cake pops) and a variety of frostings, toppings, fruits and sauces.  Set up tables around the room with individual stations that each have a cupcake, and individual servings of each frosting, topping, and sauce that you have available, along with plastic ware, brushes, and any other decoration supplies that you think the teens might need.  Give the teens a set amount of time to dress up their vanilla cupcake to impress the judges in this cupcake war.  There are endless ways to spin this- ice cream sundaes, cookie sandwiches, dessert pizzas with the cookie crust already cooked, or smoothie concoctions.  See if there is a local culinary school in the area that would be willing to send their pastry chefs or students to be judges.  Again, since this is a food challenge, I recommend having a permission slip signed with allergies listed.
Collection Connection:  cook books and cooking magazines, chef biographies like Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson and No Reservations by Anthony Bourdain.

See previous TLT TPIB Food Fight, based on The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski for more Food Network inspired ideas.

Craft Wars (TLC) / Chopped (Food Network)
TV Concept:  In Craft Wars, crafters are to create a stunning craft using unconventional materials and use of the sponsor’s craft closet in order to win over the expert judges.  In Chopped, chefs are given baskets of ingredients and are tasked to incorporate those ingredients into a beautiful dish for the judges progressing from appetizer through dessert.
Library Concept:  Take simple lunch sacks, and pop in left over crafts materials that you want/need to get rid of- those spare buttons, the odd pipe cleaner, the random sticky foam shapes, withdrawn books or DVDs that are damaged beyond use for the Friends of the Library book sale.  Create your own “sponsor’s craft closet” by setting up a table of glue sticks and bottles, scissors, popsicle sticks, construction paper, and anything else you want the teens to use.  Have the teens open the bags, then give them a certain amount of time to create whatever craft they want to create.  They HAVE to use whatever was in the paper sack in the craft, but they can use anything they want from the supply table. 
Collection Connection:  any and all crafting books and magazines, PS I Made This,  lifestyle magazines, origami books, drawing books, biographies of those in the entertainment and style world like Tori Spelling (host of Craft Wars).
There are so many more that you could do:  Survivor or Amazing Race-style scavenger hunts, Minute to Win It Family Night Games, Ninja Warrior challenges…  the list goes on!  What type of programs do you do in your library, and what type of reality TV programs can you think of that would connect with your teens?

Don’t read those %&#@ YA books! A discussion of profanity in teen fiction

Trend Watch: Profanity in Teen Fiction

Lately, everyone has been a buzz about the profanity in teen novels.  It even made the news! A recent study was done and they counted the swear words and noted an increase in the use of profanity in teen books.  There have been some informative – and some amusing – blog posts about the topic (linked at the end of this post).  Apparently, the women’s lib movement is somehow to blame and all us women folk got a potty mouth when we put on our shoes and walked out of the kitchen.

I am not going to lie, I have noticed as a reader the increase in profanity in teen books and it has given me pause.  Not because I personally care, but because I stop for a moment and think to myself yep, a parent is going to complain about this.  So far they haven’t, but with all the press it increases the likelihood.

I am a huge believer in Intellectual Freedom.  I believe that authors have the right to tell their stories the way they feel they need to be told; it is their character and they have a right to give them the voice that feels authentic to them.  That doesn’t mean I have to like it, it means that I have to make it available and allow my patrons to make decisions for themselves.

As a parent, I can’t help but notice that faux-swearing has even invaded my tween television time.  The cast of iCarly spend a lot of time saying “shiz” or “chiz” or however they might spell it.  So here’s what I do as a parent: I either decide I am okay with it, I talk to my child about it, or I ban the show in my home.  Or some combination of the above.  I think whether you continue to watch the show or not, you have to have the conversation about what you view to be acceptable as language in your home.  If I took a moment, I could really evaluate every show we watch and tell you something that I find objectionable: Sam is mean to Freddy, Alex is a disrespectful slacker in Wizards (now over), Squidward is mean . . . I could go on, but you get the point.  This is where parenting is an active process: I watch TV with my children and we talk about it.  I read books with my children and we talk about it.  Sometimes topics come up that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to talk about otherwise, I wouldn’t think to.  That is part of the value of reading.

For example, my tween and I have had a lot of discussions about the way that Sam acts on iCarly, specifically how she acts towards Freddy.  You see, she hits him a lot and it is played for laughs – except I can’t help but feel that if the situation were reversed, if he were hitting her, there would be a huge outcry.  To me, it is not okay.  Any type of abuse between two people is never okay and I don’t appreciate the implication that it is a source of humor and I worry that it may send the wrong message to young viewers.  But again, I talk to my tween about it.  That’s my job as a parent.

So back to swearing.  As I read these various teen books, the question I always ask my self is this: is it organic to the story, to the character?  You see, books have to be about SOMETHING, and they are often about teen characters struggling with real life issues and whether we like it or not, teens cuss.  A lot in fact.  And sometimes, when you are hurting or angry, profanity is a good way to express the high emotions that teens feel because those words have known power and meaning.  Hurting people call the people who hurt them a bitch precisely because it has the known cutting power that they need in that moment.  When it comes to stroytelling, characters have to choose the words they need to convey their emotion in context of their setting and culture.  We don’t have to like it, but profanity is part of contemporary culture.  In fact, I think the F word is one of the few remaining words you still can’t hear on prime time television.

I was personally amazed when watching a special on Whitney Houston on Lifetime television and they kept showing an ad for an upcoming movie on Drew Peterson. Right there in the ad Rob Lowe said, “I’m unstoppable bitch.”  In an ad.  I understood why they had chosen that clip, it packed a wollop and conveyed their message in the 30 seconds that they had to do it.  Like I said, if our tv characters aren’t actually swearing, they are fauxswearing.  Is there really any difference?  The intent is definitely the same.

If we want teens to read, they have to have access to books that speak to them.  We can pretend that teens don’t cuss and present them with squeaky clean fiction – but they will immediately cast it aside because it’s not real to them.  This is especially true for those teens growing up in homes that we can’t imagine or in the inner cities. And of course the truth is that however we may feel about certain words, not all parents feel the same.  To be honest, I grew up in a home where my parents didn’t care about cussing as long as I didn’t direct it at them.  If I should make the mistake of cussing out my mom, well, the soap was coming out.  Otherwise, they were just words.

I think if we want teens to read, we have to respect the diversity of lifestyles that exist out there.  They are not all growing up in cookie cutter homes.  Just like the rest of the population, there is a tremendous diversity in how they live and love and think and feel and, yes, speak.  Our collections must reflect this diversity.  We must also remember that part of the value in reading is in helping the teens understand lives outside their own and develop empathy; thus, teens step into the shoes of main characters different from them and experience what it is like to grow up in homes and communities different than their own.

I understand the parental desire to protect your children, I also understand the value of engaging with your teen and helping them to see and understand that the world is a complex place full of a wide variety of people having a wide variety of experiences – some that we couldn’t even imagine.  As we talk to our teens about this, they develop the tools they need to live and thrive in a world that isn’t black and white but full of complex shades of gray.  I think, too, we have to respect our teens and recognize that if a book doesn’t feel right to them, they will stop reading it.  When we respect our teens and value them by providing thoughtful, well rounded collections, we all win.

It’s also important to remember that when we are talking about teens, we are talking about a huge age group: anywhere from around 12 up through 18 years of age.  So when I am working with teens or parents, I always tell them to look at the books before they check them out and note the age of the characters; middle school characters are going to talk the way middle school students do and deal with middle school issues and high school characters are going to talk the way high school characters do and deal with high school issues for the most part.

So what do you think, is there too much profanity in teen fiction?

Research: more swearing in teen novels than video games
Spark Life: Is there too much swearing in teen fiction?
What teens may be learning from swearing in teen fiction
Daily Kos: Rich, beautifyl and popular, fould mouthed characters in teen books have it all
Cursing: Not just for sailors anymore

Trend Watch: Contagion

What’s next on the Trendwatch? Contagions!  Suddenly in the ya books I’m reading communities – and countries – are being taken down by the age old arch nemesis of mankind: the virus.

Caution: While reading these titles please report any sudden coughing, sneezing or itching to the local authorities.  In order to prevent the spread of contagion, please wear appropriate protective gear and remember to wash your hands.  Any person showing any signs of contagion must report those signs immediately. Happy reading.

In Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas, previously reviewed by Stephanie Wilkes, teens carry a virus that kills all the adults and find themselves quarantined in the high school.  Like in Lord of the Flies, the survival instinct takes over and the teen’s go all gangster’s paradise on each other.  Daniel Kraus recently reviewed Quarantine for Booklist and points out that there are shocking moments of ultraviolence, but as these contagion books point out the looming threat of biological contamination does not bring out the best in human nature. (Total side note: Quarantine shows a rich, complicated relationship between brothers and does a great job of depicting a character with Epilepsy and showing how vulnerable this makes him in this situation.  I also appreciated how the MC made some important decisions to help others even though it cost him a lot.)

In Starters by Lissa Price, previously reviewed by me, everyone who didn’t get the vaccine for a life taking diseases has been wiped off the face of the planets leaving in its wake a new caste system that leaves young people scrambling for survival.  It also creates an illegal black market for technological body snatching.  There are only two groups of people now: starters and enders.  (Look for the companion novel, Enders, coming out in the fall.)

In Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin, a plague hangs over the land with a darkness that hangs over the land like a thick, oppressive fog.  With Masque, Griffin creates a world so darkly macabre that Poe himself would be jealous with envy.  This is a twisted world where your only hope of salvation is a specialized mask and like all good capitalist societies, the pursuit of the almighty dollar is placed above the welfare of the people.  There are twisted underground leaders, dying people lining the streets, possible mad scientists, and a superbly menacing crocodile scene.

Then last night I finished reading The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe.  Here, 16-year-old Kaelyn writes in a journal to her best friend on the mainland from her island paradise.  It begins slowly and innocently, an itch under your skin, a cough, a sneeze.  Then all inhibitions break down and you are being incredibly frank with the people around you, sharing how you really feel with no holding back or nod to the polite rules of society.  And then – you die.  As it becomes clear that this is a deadly outbreak, the government comes in and quarantines the island.  One by one the people around you die, schools are closed, society breaks down, and you are trying to find away to make sure you stay safe. 

I appreciated in this contagion tale the way some of the characters – some of the teens – really rose to the occasion and tried to find ways to help others and selflessly do what is good and noble.  Whereas in Quarantine you see teens immediately devolving into reckless survival mode, in The Way We Fall you see thoughtful, introspective teens looking out to continue community.  Not all of them, of course, because if we have learned anything – it’s that the end of the world brings out the worst in human nature.  They are different books telling different stories, each effective in their own ways.

Like with dystopian fiction, you find yourself reading these tales of contagion and putting together your survival kit in your head.  While reading The Way We Fall I developed phantom itches.  At least, I hope they were phantom itches.  So grab a book – and a face mask – and snuggle in for an eerie read about microbes gone rogue.

Do you have any contagion titles you have read recently to add to the 2012 Trend Watch? And what did you think of these ones?  You can view the other trends here.

Top 10 Tuesday: Trend Watch

2010 Trends Poster
 So as you know, the yearly Top 10 Trends is kinda my “thang”.  For the 3rd year in a row, I am following trends and getting ready to put together my annual poster.  So join us, won’t you, in a little discussion we like to call Trend Watch.

Here’s what I am seeing so far this year . . .

Reality Bites
Finally, thanks in no small part to The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, contemporary fiction is returning in popularity.  Some of the hot titles include In Honor by Jessi Kirby, The Downside of Being Charlie by Jenny Torres Sanchez, Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson and Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams.  Dying, especially death by cancer, seems to be a prevalent theme in the current crop of titles that I have been reading. Keep your eye out for Ask the Passengers by A. S. King (October 2012).  What are your favorite contemporary titles for 2012?

Darkness Ruled the Land
Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock presents a world where werewolves are known to exist.  In the Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin, perhaps the darkest book I have ever read (but in a good way), the threat of plague looms over the land.  Even some of today’s contemporary titles have a darkness about them.  Take, for example, The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison; this is an excellent read to be sure, but it is also a dark read about a young woman struggling with loss and OCD.

I’ve Got the Power
Today’s teens have amazing super powers! Well, at least in the current crop of paranormal fiction.  SPOILER ALERT! Some of the current crop of titles, including Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi and Hourglass and Timepiece by Myra McEntire present a world in which teens find they exhibit extraordinary powers to do things like travel through time.  In Slide by Jill Hathaway our main character has the ability to slide into another person’s body and see things from their point of view. 

Under the Sea
Under the sea is where it is happening! Of Poseiden by Anna Banks, The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova, Fathomless by Jackson Pearce. This trend started in 2011, and it has not lost its momentum.

Coming Soon to a Library Near You: Sequels
Without a doubt the sequel reigns supreme right now in ya lit.  With releases such as Insurgent by Veronica Roth, Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver and Thumped by Megan McCafferty – we see that all of us seem to be reading or waiting for some kind of sequel.  This year Lissa Price released Starters and the companion novel, not exactly a sequel, Enders will be released later in the fall.  In fact, with the exception of the contemporaries listed above, almost all the titles in this post either are a sequel or will leave you waiting for one.

Steampunk Still has Steam
Steampunk has been on the trends poster since the beginning, and it definitely has some steam left.  The Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross, epically good, is hitting shelves asap.  Running Press Teens has a series of Steampunk version of classics out or coming out including Poe, Frankenstein and H.G. Wells.  Steampunk also makes an appearance in Masque of the Red Death and The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry.

Stranded in a (mall/store/school)
In a twist on the popular dystopian tale, this year we see an explosion of titles where teens are somehow stranded in a small space.  In Quarantine by Lex Thomas, all the adults drop dead of a plague and the teens find themselves fighting in gangs over the occassional food supply as they are quarantined in their high school.  No Safety in Numbers by Dayna Lorentz has everyone trapped in a mall.  And Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne finds everyone trapped in a super store.

The Boys are Back in Town
Guys have always been present in teen fic; I mean, we did need to have 2 guys to lust after our main character after all.  But this year, strong male characters are making a comeback in teen lit.  From Augustus in The Fault in Our Stars to Jazz in I Hunt Killers (Barry Lyga), we are seeing complex male role models for our teen readers.  Even Timepiece, the sequel to Hourglass, is told from a male character pov.

Retro Reading
Suddenly, everything old is new again and the 80s and 90s are making a comeback in teen fiction.  The main character in The Catastrophic History of You and Me is obsessed with everything 80s.  The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler takes place before Facebook was invented.

3 is the Magic Number
Whether it be trilogies, the most popular book series format of today, or love triangles, which aren’t going away any time soon – the number 3 reigns supreme in teen lit land.

2011 Trends Poster
New Trend: Contagion (click to read the post)
Make no mistake, some of last year’s trends still have strong legs.  I see no end to the paranormal romance trend.  And dystopians?  Yeah, we’re still reading them.  And zombie fiction still seems to have some legs, even if they are some shuffling ones. (Admit it, you now have that LMFAO song in your head.)  So tell us, what trends are you seeing this year?  And what books exemplify them?  Leave us a comment and join the trend watch.
2012 Top 10 Trends in Teen Fiction Poster
You can download the poster at https://www.box.com/s/3ddeaacaa435fff16164