24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Month: September 2014

LIBR 200: Interview with an Information Community Member

Although the YA readership/information community is made up largely of the intended audience of YA fiction (young adults, of course), there are plenty of “new adults” and adults who read YA fiction. Feelings of discomfort and embarrassment may sometimes bother such members of this information community, and so I decided to examine this issue closer by speaking with a “new adult” (Grace, 22) reader of YA fiction.

Like many other high-profile admitted readers of YA fiction (such as Holly Black, Libba Bray, and Michael Grant), Grace is a writer herself. Although she reads YA fiction for pleasure, it is also a form of research for her. By reading other YA works, Grace can more effectively create compelling and well-written fiction and poetry for young adults. In our interview, she mentioned that, “Research in general is likely to be dictated by my current writing project(s).” This, of course, may mean reading fiction or poetry with similar themes, characters, or plots to what she would like to write, or researching more practical issues such as historical information, scientific information, or any other subject that enters her work.

In finding books that spark inspiration for her own writing or better inform her work, Grace relies on the internet to bring popular books to her attention. She subscribes to a number of electronic newsletters which keep her up to date on recently released work, and she goes out into the blog world to find new reads. “…If I see a title or author come up enough times, it’ll start to stick.” This method is especially effective on Tumblr, where blog posts come to her dashboard in something like an RSS feed. If multiple blogs post about the same author/book — or even if one blog posts about the author/book multiple times — then the name/title starts to become more appealing. As the name/title appears multiple times, the question of “Why is this name/title appearing so frequently?” becomes natural and leads the audience — in this case, Grace — to seek more information on the author/book.

Grace also utilizes Goodreads to keep up with her long list of books to be read. “I obsessively use Goodreads for keeping track of books that I want to read that I’m afraid I’ll forget about.” Goodreads is certainly a useful tool for all readers, though the typical YA reader (young adult or new adult) may be more comfortable making use of it as a new technology. The website provides spaces for communities to grow around books and genres while allowing users to keep a list of books they’ve read, books they’d like to read, and books they are currently reading. Goodreads can also suggest books to users based on the users’ preference (for which Goodreads gathers rating data).

Though Grace may not be the typical YA reader, her information needs are equally important. With limited research on the YA community, there is even less research available on the atypical YA readers. Grace provides an excellent start to this often-overlooked sub-community and is only the beginning.

Abby Reads: Romeo Redeemed by Stacey Jay

Romeo Redeemed by Stacey Jay
Delacorte Press, 2012, 362 pages
YA Classic-Remake Fantasy

Removed to a universe different from the original novel and with a chance to be redeemed through a final act of love, Romeo Montague — reincarnated into the body of eighteen-year-old Dylan — is determined to convince California native Ariel to love him. With the forces of good and evil watching his every move, Romeo has little time and space for error. Full of guilt for a past tainted with acts of malice and hate, Romeo struggles to find the balance of seeking forgiveness and doing the right thing.IMG_2414

As many Goodreads reviews indicate, the plot of Romeo Redeemed ignores a number of continuity points as a sequel of Juliet Immortal. While this doesn’t have a large effect on the quality of the book by itself, the sequel doesn’t provide quite enough information to be read as a standalone. Because it must be read as the second part of Juliet Immortal, the continuity errors are glaring and, in some ways, make the plot more confusing than necessary. Many of the questions readers are left with at the end of Juliet Immortal show promise in being answered in Romeo Redeemed. However, many of these questions are left unanswered or are completely disregarded as plot points with the change in plot history according to the sequel.

As a character, Romeo remains fairly consistent. He is neither fully “good” nor fully “evil,” allowing the fantasy plot to ground itself in reality.  As well-rounded as Romeo is, other characters’ fullness seem to suffer as a result. Characters who were fully rounded in the alternate universe of the original novel are reduced to secondary and tertiary characters, existing only to push the plot forward with undeveloped or ignored motives of their own. Ariel and Romeo spend the vast majority of the novel interacting with only each other and, when other characters do make an appearance, it is for the plot’s sake, not character development. Gemma, for example, is provided with compelling new information for the reader, yet her purpose in the novel remains sadly underdeveloped. Ariel’s relationship with her mother, too, is nearly ignored in this alternate-universe sequel. Although this relationship was explored at length in the original, the difference circumstances in the sequel warrant another go at it.

Jay’s writing style is generally not distracting and unremarkable. The language does its job in telling the story and promotes enough flourish of vocabulary so as to keep the reader interested without alienating the reader with overly-flowery language. Dialogue in some parts did not seem to fit the characters or the era well, though it was a small issue that could easily be overlooked or even explained in some instances.

❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

LIBR 200: YA Readers as an Information Community

With the boom in interest in YA literature thanks to popular novels/series such as Harry PotterTwilight, and The Fault in Our Stars, libraries are in a position to provide more and better services to YA readers. YA librarianship, it seems, has become something of a fad. This does not mean, however, that meaningful and important research can be done for the YA readership.

In fact, it is because of the explosion of interest that we need to more critically evaluate how we approach YA readers. First, YA readers are probably more likely to use new forms of technology to communicate compared to many other information communities. Because YA readership is composed largely of their “intended audience” (that is, teens), it is the very population that has grown up with these various technologies and communication platforms and are therefor typically more comfortable using the technology/platforms.

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Some popular YA books have larger fan communities than others.

Some libraries have recognized this and taken advantage of various media to better connect with their young patrons. While the content is not always geared toward your typical YA reader (see, for example, the Arlington Public Library’s Tumblr page which has content relevant to all patrons), the use of this platform can help libraries find their way to a number of patron “types.” By reaching this larger community, public libraries and can better serve adult readers of YA literature, who may otherwise be too embarrassed to engage in the YA community due to the negative reputation attached to YA lit (eg., that it is unintelligent compared to “adult” literature). YA readers, both young adults and adults, therefor can be greatly motivated to make use of various technologies to communicate — one (young adults) because they are naturally drawn to new technologies as a result of their age, and the other (adults) because of the anonymity internet communication can provide.

YA readers may also use a number of platforms to collaborate in seeking more information about the literature they enjoy. Fans of the popular YA science fiction/fantasy Gone series by Michael Grant have collaborated to create an extensive wiki, as have the fans of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series. Other fans choose to work together in different ways, such as fanfiction big bangs, in which fans (often of a published YA work), commit to writing a novel-length piece of fanfiction for the enjoyment of the community and with support from that community (editors, co-writers, readers, etc.). Fans of the Animorphs novels arranged such an event at LiveJournal in January. Readers may also rely on collections of reviews of books, such as A Certain Slant of Light at Goodreads to determine whether or not they are interested in reading the book. This would be impossible without the collaborative effort of readers to provide varying opinions of the content.

The informational needs of YA readers are unique to those of other information communities. YA readers, again because of the relatively large percentage of teen readers making up that population, are more likely to require information regarding vocabulary used in the novels they read. This, of course, is not indicative of their intelligence, but rather the amount of reading they have had the opportunity to do and number of words they’ve had occasion to learn and use compared to other information communities, which may be composed of older individuals with larger vocabularies as a result of their age. Publishers have keyed into this market and offered “SAT” editions of previously-published YA novels. The content of these novels remain the same, but unusual or “difficult” words may be pointed out and defined within the text or the margins. Others, such as Brian Leaf, have written companion books to solve the same problem. Teen readers of YA fiction may also find that they require critical analysis of the books they choose to read for school projects.

The various barriers which the YA reader information community encounter are often met with solutions using the available technology. Both teen and adult readers can easily obtain internet access, be it through personal connections, school or work connections, or at the library. Geography then becomes a small thing when a reader wishes to communicate with fellow fans of YA literature. Meanwhile, translation abilities on internet browsers make it possible for fans who speak different languages to communicate about their favorite YA reads.

It is not uncommon for YA readers to share a similar mentality. Some YA readers choose to help their favorite authors promote new books. Others get involved in larger communities, such as Nerdfighteria, which formed as a result of YA author John Green and his brother Hank Green creating videos on their YouTube channel, Vlogbrothers. People of the Nerdfighter community are often dedicated to various forms of community service, education, and “decreasing world suck.” While the Nerdfighter community is not composed entirely of YA readers, many YA readers are attracted to the community (and may form sub-communities) because they read Green’s novels and wanted a community with whom they could discuss the books. Of course, all YA readers who communicate about whatever novel or series they enjoy naturally are connected by their enjoyment of that text.

While the YA readership is mainly composed of teen readers, adults, too, participate in the resulting information community. Some of these adults may be YA writers who read the material and participate in the community in order to improve their own authorship, others may do the same to create better relationships with the teens in their lives, and still others may read simply for their own entertainment. Although the information needs of adults tend to differ greatly than those for teens, in the YA readership community, those needs blend and become more similar.

Abby Reads: How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
Scholastic Press, 2009, 276 pages
YA Realistic Fiction

Life as a “faculty brat” isn’t easy for Bea. She’s tired of moving and frustrated with the strange behavior her mom has photo 1taken on. Meanwhile, Bea’s dad isn’t doing much better — he continues to distance himself from the issues, leaving Bea in the dark. When she moves to Maryland, things get worse, but at least this time she’s making some friends. Jonah, or Ghost Boy, is one of those friends. And Bea, along with her classmates, can’t quite figure him out — that is, until she starts listening to Ghost Boy’s favorite radio show.

Much like Nick Carroway in The Great Gatsby, Bea finds herself as an observer of much of the plot, rather than a main player. Certainly she assists Jonah in his journey and comes to have a sort of internal journey herself, but reports many of the events with Jonah at the center. Apparently a single child, Bea watches Jonah struggle with what it means to be a sibling. Standiford brings forth interesting questions regarding the amount of responsibility siblings “should” have for each other, how parents fit into that relationship, and to what information siblings are entitled. Bea also explores dating and popularity and, through her relationship with Jonah, is able to compare popularity to isolation.

Even as the protagonist of How to Say Goodbye in Robot, Bea edges seriously close to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype, if not embodies it entirely. While she has troubles of her own and is interesting as an individual, her purpose in the novel largely comes down to what she can do for Jonah and his journey. As a feminist, I took some issue with this, but was glad to see there were some issues Bea owned that extended beyond her relationship with Jonah (though there may have been some symbolism in parallels). Standiford achieves her goal in making Jonah impossible to pin down for the majority of the novel. Interestingly enough, while Bea is very much a MPDG, Jonah may be some kind of male equivalent. A number of minor characters really brought color into this novel, giving the text a distinct flavor, paired with a minimalist writing style that served to enhance, rather than pare down, characters.

Pieces of the novel were predictable, though others were not. As much as I dislike comparing YA novels to John Green novels (it seems to be an unhelpful fad, except in a few cases), I will here: the plot structure was similar to what you might find in one of Green’s novels, as were the characters and the general atmosphere — though the writing style was much more simplistic (and arguably more effective). If you enjoy Green’s books, this novel is probably a good bet for you.

❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay

Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay
Delacorte Press, 2011, 306 pages
YA Classic-Remake Fantasy

You’d be hard pressed to find an individual unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Curious of how author Stacey Jay would put a new twist on the classic story, I’ve been meaning to get around to this novel for a while. Unlike many of the interpretations of Romeo and Juliet, Jay takes on what many argue is a more accurate perspective — the story is not, as several film adaptations seem to suggest, a love story, but rathphoto 2er a cautionary tale. Jay certainly touches on this in her version of what happens after the poison kills foolish Romeo and the dagger pierces young Juliet. In Jay’s universe, the two live on in a sort of limbo, possessing the bodies of innocents
in order to work as pawns for a higher power. Juliet, tasked with assisting lovers in cementing their commitment, faces off with Romeo, who’s intent on convincing one lover to kill the other and join the ranks of those like Romeo. For seven hundred years, their feud rages on, but this time, something is different and Juliet doesn’t know who she can trust.

Throughout the novel, Juliet inhabits the body of a young girl named Ariel. Because she must convince everyone that she is still Ariel, Juliet’s personality can be difficult to pick out — she often does things “out of character” but the reader is never lost as to why. Jay does an excellent job reminding the reader of the difference between what Juliet is doing for the sake of appearances and what she would actually like to do in any given circumstance. This is largely helped by the first-person perspective. Romeo, meanwhile, is much more difficult to pin down. With a fascinating take on the tragic hero, Jay never quite allows Juliet — and thus her readers — to understand Romeo and his motives. One moment, he’s a sympathetic character, the next he is cruel and unforgivable. This is likely due to the (probable) fact that Romeo himself has not decided what side he is truly on. Ben (our new love interest) is similarly conflicted, though often cast in a much more benevolent light than is Romeo. The complexity is all there. Though it sometimes feels underdeveloped, a little imagination goes a long way when reading Juliet Immortal.

Jay runs into some issues with the plot as she navigates the complicated history and present of Romeo and Juliet. Because Romeo and Juliet are not acting solely on their own motives, the true purpose of their actions are unclear. Jay manages to muddle her way through the particulars, but it seems she is much more aware of all that is to be known than are her readers. The final pages of the novel do promise a sequel (Romeo Redeemed2013), so it’s possible Jay wished to withhold information to be released in the follow-up.

The wagon which carries Jay’s plot — that is, the actual writing — is nothing to be noted. It is undistracting and simple, never too flowery or too bland. With the first-person narrative, we rely entirely on Juliet to report all that happens, leaving the style of the language to reflect Juliet rather than Jay or some unnamed narrator. With what little effort the writing requires in the way of reading and deciphering, the book is an enjoyable adventure (although sensitive readers beware — there are some rather gory moments) peopled by a likable and interesting cast.

❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

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