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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

National Book Awards

Monday was the big day for the National Book Awards in the YA and Children’s worlds, with the announcement of the longlist for the award for Young People’s Literature.  But we here at Adult Books 4 Teens had to wait through the week for the other three longlists to be announced: Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction.

So, the results are in, and they are . . . not terribly teen friendly. Of the 30 books on the three adult l0nglists, we had a whopping eight on our list of books to review.  One of those, Joan Silber’s Fools, I never even sent out to a reviewer, because in rereading reviews, it didn’t seem to have a lot of teen appeal, as well as the fact that it is a short story collection, and we know how I feel about short stories and teens.

Another three books from the longlists were rejected by our reviewers: we felt that Frank Bidart’s Metaphysical Dog, Elizabeth Graver’s The End of the Point, and James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird were all excellent books but lacked teen appeal.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland and Mary Szybist’s Incarnadine are still out with reviewers, so it remains to be seen whether they have teen appeal.  And there’s still hope for Alice McDermott’s Someone, which we haven’t sent out for review yet.

Which leaves the big winner: Scott Johnson’s The Wolf and the Watchman, which we gave a starred review back in May.

So, what do we make of the rest of the longlisted titles? The Nonfiction list, as usual, contains quite a few books that are a little to thick and academic or specialized for this blog’s purpose:

  • Freedom national : the destruction of slavery in the United States, 1861-1865 by James Oakes
  • The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer
  • The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 by Alan Taylor
  • Finding Florida: The True Story of the Sunshine State by TD Allman
  • Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami by Gretel Ehrlich

And as much as I love the Duke, I’m not sure Terry Teachout’s Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington is up the alley of most teens today.

No guarantees, but the few remaining titles might be worth a look for teen appeal:

  • Jill Lepore’s Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin
  • Wendy Lower’s Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields
  • Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief

As for the Poetry list, frankly I’m just excited we were even aware of two of the ten titles on the list, since poetry has been a week spot for this blog.  I may try to dip into a few of these collections to see if there’s anything there for teens.

Finally, the fiction. After last year’s phenomenal year for teen appeal (we recommended three of the NBA’s five fiction titles), perhaps it’s just regression to the mean that so few of this year’s seem to fit.  Tom Drury’s Pacific and Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena might be worth a look, but otherwise, there’s not a lot left.

Based on the comments from reviewers who rejected some of these titles, as well as other reviews I’ve read, it seems that the NBAs have chosen a really great group of adult books to honor, just not very much to appeal to teens.  So, we’ll just have to await the next round of year-end lists, to see if there’s anything more to appeal to teens.

About Mark Flowers

Mark Flowers is the Young Adult Librarian at the John F. Kennedy Library in Vallejo, CA. He reviews for a variety of library journals and blogs and recently contributed a chapter to The Complete Summer Reading Program Manual: From Planning to Evaluation (YALSA, 2012). Contact him via Twitter @droogmark


  1. Angela Carstensen Angela Carstensen says

    I have been reading LOWLAND by Jhumpa Lahiri and must confess that I see little teen appeal there. It is a wonderful read, however, and I look forward to finishing it.

    That said, I do have a teen in my library who will read anything Lahiri writes. There is absolutely no reason not to recommend this novel to teens who enjoy literary fiction and feel little need for an adolescent experience in that fiction. But I don’t see the need to review it here, because there is no particular element of appeal for our audience.