What the BBYA?

Writers are like hornets. If you shake up our nests we’ll come out buzzing, stinging and fighting to defend our home. The blogosphere was abuzz with agitation, Friday, when SLJ announced that the Best Books for Young Adult list would be bidding us adieu.

The Young Adult Library Association (YALSA), keeper of the list, feels that there’s been a good deal of overlap between BBYA and other “best” lists and wants to overhaul the list so that includes more participation across blogs, social networks and other internet outlets.

On first thought, yeah that sounds good. But Sara Zarr, author of National Book Award finalist, Story of Girl, brought up another really good point.

Her post is worth reading in its entirety, but the sum of the parts is:

I think we lose a lot by the way star ratings have encroached on how we make choices, and I fear that they—and any kind of popular vote scenario—can even keep us from knowing certain choices exist. The breadth and depth of the BBYA list has been so great—it’s hard for me to see the proposed changes as anything but a loss, with nothing gained since there are already so many ways to measure and reward popularity.

YALSA will present its proposal of BBYA’s replacement on July 13th. I anxiously await the news, because I’m on the fence about the changes.

Popular books sell by the thousands. Do they really need to be the only titles named when other readers or gatekeepers who recommend books are searching for good reads?

Yet, as I commented on Sara’s post – it’s our own fault. Too often “best” lists for young readers consists of books that critics and adult gatekeepers love but kids, not so much. We’ve locked ourselves into a stand-off. Even as we lament readers we’ve lost (reluctant) there’s still a bias when it comes to feeding the minds of young readers via books.

Either we give in to the call of pop culture and name the books kids love (because that makes us cool in their eyes?) or we rebel and attempt to steer them to the more literary (to heck with whether they actually read it or not!).

Fact is, best lists rarely show the diversity that exists in literature. So if YALSA develops a list that showcases the literary, popular, mainstream and niche they’ll be one step ahead nearly every other list out there.

So we wait, with our stingers at the ready. Here’s hoping the ultimate buzz will be good.

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