Finished The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty and loved it.
It's smart, and whimsical, optimistic, and trickily plotted -- and most importantly, great for my thesis! I disagree with several of the reviews that suggest the adult storylines will lose the interest of teenagers, (the book covers lots of extramarital affairs, and I have to ask where all these reviewers get the idea that adult romantic intrigue isn't interesting to teenagers? I think all manner of scandalous adult behaviors are fascinating to teenagers), but I think I agree with Roger Sutton's suggestion that teens who are the right readers for it might be more likely to come to it if it wasn't published as YA.
Interesting problem because what's wrong with a book that's great for young adults being published as a young adult book? Well, it might draw in some readers who wouldn't have found the book otherwise, but it risks losing both adult readers and sophisticated teen readers. And that shows how much stigma still surrounds YA, even as it's getting more interesting.
This seems like one of those cases where the desire to have a clear marketing package forces categorization of a book that resists categorization. In my library, this book's shelved in both the YA section and the elementary section. A different version of the book was published in Australia as an adult book. I'm the age of the majority of characters in the book, and I loved it, but would I have found it if I didn't need to read it for school? Probably not.
In an article on "The Adolescent Novel of Ideas" for Children's Literature in Education, Peter Hollindale writes:
We continue to overlook the fact that these 'teenage novels' are enthusiastically read by preteen readers. They answer in part to a social phenomenon which has won plenty of attention in this quarter century: the foreshortening of childhood, earlier physical matrurity, and the virtual coming to be of a two-phase adolescence, where the 'preadult' (roughly from ten to thirteen) precedes the 'young adult' (fourteen or so until the age of leaving school).
Lots of books originally written for adults are now standard in high school English curriculums. Just as these books have been appropriated for teen readers, it seems that publishers of YA are simply seeking to appropriate these books one step earlier. One of the reviews of Spell Book mentioned how the age suggestion for YA books used to be 12 and up, but that increasingly, you see books suggested for 16 and up. Will YA eventually come to represent what its name suggests (a true "young adult" rather than "preadult" literature) and cease to be an aspirational genre, read mostly by preteens who look forward to young adult status?
I think that might be a good thing, both for YA and for young adults ranging in age from fourteen through their twenty-somethings, but I also see a case for abandoning categorization altogether, freeing readers find the books that are right for them. I'm trying to sort out what I think, so please comment if you have thoughts on this . . .