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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Yet One More Problem with the New BBYA

What Will Happen In Teen Reading Groups?

When BBYA was open to all books, library teen reading groups would get the nominatiions list as it evolved, and those books would make up the basis of their discussions. Fiction and GN lists may still be available, but since the NF is an award, its discussion list cannot and should not be made public before the finalists are announced. And the putative all inclusive nominations list can’t be available until the end of the eligibility period, and certainly won’t be vetted and annotated in that time. So does that mean we are telling library teen groups not to discuss new NF? 

Do you see what a disaster this is? We are telling boys — and lets face it, most teen reading groups are already dominantly female — that their interests do not qualify for open discussion. And does that mean libraries will not ask publishers for galleys of new NF for their teen groups — since the groups no longer discuss NF?

This has not been thought through — this is the world as it looks to fiction lovers, where NF is so marginal you don’t have to think about how it reaches teenagers, how to engage them, how to solicit their comments. Just yesterday, one of the teenagers at BBYA picked the Claudette Colvin as her(?) favorite book of the year — we would now be shutting that kid up, and excluding the book she cared for from open discussion.

At the session I was thrilled to meet two teenagers who have read manuscripts of mine while I was writing them. I love getting comments from teenagers — and I have the good fortune of generally being able to find teen readers for works in progress. But what of other authors, editors, publishers — indeed all of you librarians: don’t you need to hear how teenagers respond to nonfiction, what they like, dislike, are moved by, upset by, inspired by, curious about? What venue do we have for that discussion if our library teen reading groups and advisory groups are limited to fiction? 


  1. Deborah Taylor says:

    Marc, I couldn’t agree more. Just as the world of nonfiction is telling more stories, tackling more areas of interst to teens in an engaging way, this is the worst direction to take. I am more than disappointed. The former BBYA list reflected the wide range of teens and their interests and concerns.

  2. I have worked up a set of questions for the board, but so far no one has responded.

  3. Marianne Follis says:

    I loved your line “this is the world as it looks to fiction lovers..” From where I sit it seems that publishers and authors are getting it! We want and need better written and designed NF to reach this audience of readers. Now we just need to get more librarians on board. I am sure with advocates like yourself, we will be able to get this point across!

  4. thanks, lets all keeping speaking out

  5. Betty Carter says:

    I’ve just finished reading the board document and looking over the new BBYA list and both bring several questions to mind.
    1. What’s the problem with overlap? We see it with other media, such as movies, with Golden Globes and Academy Awards, for example. Doesn’t that overlap tell us something special about films that appear more than once and something special about the people who make those awards — each of which is useful information?
    2. I wonder why young adult fiction is treated differently from nonfiction or adult fiction. If there is going to be a list of final “bests” in nonfiction and adult fiction, and then a list of all nominations, why not the same treatment for BBYA? Why not a top ten for BBYA and a list of nominations? That way, one genre doesn’t get automatic “top billing.” Depending where a librarian is, there may be more call for adult fiction or young adult fiction or nonfiction, but the comparison of lists would be more even if they were more alike.
    3. I think it’s worth noting that 2 of BBYA’s “Top Ten” this year were nonfiction. Yes, they showed up on the nonfiction list as well, but that showed librarians something special about those two books.