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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

The Nature of Teen Appeal

As most of you know, this is a unique blog. We only review books published for the adult market, and only those that have potential appeal to teen readers. On top of that, we only publish positive reviews.

This can be a challenge. I am writing this post in response to three things: First, a recent blog post about sources that only print positive reviews (mentioning this one). Second, a conversation with a friend who doubted that this blog would be able to sustain finding 4-5 good books every week with teen appeal. Third, a 7-day period (from last Saturday, when I finished reading Michael Oher’s I Beat the Odds, to last night) when I could not for the life of me find a book to read for review this coming week.

Fortunately, I already have a wonderful, wonderful book to post about next week (The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht), which I read several weeks ago. And I have chosen a book to attempt for the week after that (Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku) that I am fairly certain will qualify.

But this week? I might be out of luck. I have started and dismissed several, SEVERAL books, mostly February 2011 pubs. Finally, I picked up When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt. I’m not promising anything, but so far so good.

Here’s my dilemma. I also read an absolutely brilliant book last week that I cannot review for lack of teen appeal. I was hoping to be able to justify it, but I can’t quite make it fit.

You Know When the Men are Gone by Siobhan Fallon (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011) is, again, brilliant and I loved reading it. I was looking forward to writing something terribly smart relating this book to Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. About how they are perfect companion books, both connected short stories. One about the men at war, the other about the women at home. I’m not exactly the first person to make this connection, but The Things They Carried is read in schools all the time. Doesn’t that mean that You Know When the Men are Gone might have that same appeal, simply by way of its overall excellence? Well, maybe. But it is almost entirely about husbands and wives, about adult concerns. Yes, some of those husbands and wives are barely out of their teens. But saying that the book has teen appeal is stretching it.

Instead of writing a review, I’m cheating. Now you all know my opinion of the book. You know why it might or might not have teen appeal. Go read it for yourself. Come back and tell me I made a mistake – that I should have written the review.  Or come back and tell me I was crazy to even consider it for teens.

Back to my original point. Imagine if we wrote positive AND negative reviews here. Considering the plethora of adult books published every year, it would be a shame to waste time and space writing about the books that didn’t work out, either for lack of appeal or due to quality issues. But using the space to talk about books on the cusp – I don’t believe that is wasted space at all.

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.


  1. Mark Flowers says:

    1) Do you have the link to that blog post you mentioned?

    2) re: 4-5 adult books for teens a week. I feel the same way about this that I did about complaints I heard about having 99(!) books on the list of Best Fiction for Young Adults, which is, “only 99?” I feel that people who doubt that there are 99 “best” books for teens or 250 adult books for teens aren’t taking into account two things: 1) how many books are published every year – I mean, we could probably fill this blog with just graphic novels – and 2) how varied teen tastes are. It’s true that out of those 99 or 250 books, no one teen is going to love them all, but on the other hand, each of them will be loved by some teen out there, along with many other books that we didn’t get around to reviewing.

  2. Great post about the what makes an adult book appealing to teens. Sometimes it’s easy to convince oneself of the appeal because the book resonates with us as adult reflecting on life as a teen. Sometimes it seems like we think it’s books that teens *should* read, not that they’d choose for themselves. It’s a challenge, but I think your picks and reviews are thoughtful and (usually 😉 ) hit the mark.