Subscribe to SLJ
Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

BBYA — Whose Award Is This Anyway?

The Blogosphere Buzz

If you search the blog chat about the BBYA issue, you quickly see that authors are the most vocal about the importance of the list, and the problems involved in a People’s Choice award. However de-linked the BBYA and PC award issues may be in the minds of the YALSA board they are clearly connected in the experience of authors and publishers — one list that went out of its way to balance appeal and quality would be gone, and an award depending entirely on popularity would be not only created but promoted. The interesting point here is that the writing and publishing community see BBYA in one way, while apparently the YALSA board, viewing from their members’ POV, sees it another. And if you follow the blogs about the teenagers who came to the session Sunday, the BBYA session means yet again something else to them.

This flap exploses the fact that the list has come to be part of the firmament of YA writing, reading, and publishing. It is not just a tool to help librarians. It is a kind of pulse, a sounding, of the growth and expansion of a rich literature. The list is a snapshot of where the growing field of YA is going — now, this year. It is imperfect — I have long felt that nonfiction was underappreciated. And with so very many books to read, the committee lives the life of triage — devoting their best reading time to books that seem to have the best chance. Maybe the librarians need help — like some book critics, teachers, or others on the committee? Perhaps the rules do need some tightning or tweaking since YA has become such an expansive category. But we need to see the problems with BBYA as a sign of the health of YA lit, and the need for a list like BBYA.

I think part of the shock of the suggestion that BBYA could be "sunsetted" — as one board member delicately put it — is that so many different groups identified with it, thought of it as something like the sun in the sky — a feature that would always be there. YALSA should see this as a strength — it is great that the list matters to so many different kinds of people. Don’t kill that goose, figure out how to polish its golden egg.