This week, I want to command all of you adults, lurking in the shadows of the Teen section, to come into the light! You know who you are. I am speaking to those of you who sneak in for a clandestine copy of Mockingjay, The Maze Runner, Divergent, or the latest James Dashner book. You can reveal yourselves now in honor of Teen Read Week. That’s right, there is an entire week, from Oct. 12 to 19, dedicated to celebrating teen readers and teen books. Would you be more comfortable if I called this amazing section of literature Young Adult literature instead? Then you could feel like, hey—I don’t have to justify reading novels by some of the most gifted and interesting authors of our times. I don’t have to hide that I like some of the most interesting storylines, plots, settings and characters in modern literature. I mean, you could qualify as a “young” adult, sort of, kind of, maybe.
I mean, let’s be honest with ourselves: Sometimes teen fiction just hits the spot. In recent years, books by John Green, Suzanne Collins, and Rainbow Rowell have outsold many “adult” authors, and not just because they were selling books to teens. Forbes magazine lists Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins, and even Jeff Kinney as some of the world’s top selling authors in 2014. Recently, adults have been lurking in the teen bookshelves of the public library, furtively asking for Brandon Sanderson’s The Rithmatist—a thrilling adventure about a futuristic dystopia where “wild chalklings” must battle magically trained rithmatists for the control of the United States. College students have been clamoring for books like the oddly prescient paranoid thriller Little Brother, where teens attempt to overthrow extreme government surveillance in (the not too distant) San Francisco. The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey has been checked out to grown men who claim to be doing reconnaissance for their teen sons or daughters, but who are actually looking to be engrossed in the realm of alien invasions.
This is not to say that Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell, is only being checked out by adults who want a quick fix of 1980s love and heartache. Nor that the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs is only going to 20-somethings with a yearning for amazing oddities in pre-war England. Yes, 55 percent of “teen” novels are now sold to adults, but 45 percent of 17-year-olds still read for pleasure, according to a study by Common Sense Media, in addition to all of the work that they have to do.
Unfortunately, more often than not, modern teens are only reading assigned materials from school. Teens are so overwhelmed with schoolwork that they do not have time to read for pleasure. They are often the last to discover books that were created for them. So I challenge you this Teen Read Week: Talk to a teen about that great book you are reading, whether it is The Fault in our Stars or the latest Steven King book. Studies show that teens who are around adults who read for pleasure are more likely to do so themselves. So share your love of teen lit and encourage a love of literature, helping local teens become strong literate young adults themselves. Share your Jay Asher, your Maggie Stiefvater, or your Orson Scott Card books. I challenge you to take those incredible teen books out of the shadows of your bookshelf this October and encourage a teen you know to pick them up and read. After all, there is enough great writing out there to share.
Join the online discussion with the hashtag #TRW14. To learn more about Teen Read Week, please visit ala.org/teenread.
Margaret Kensinger-Klopfer is the youth services coordinator for the San Luis Obispo County Library. She loves teen books about futuristic Mafioso, and she won’t judge you for loving them, too! Send comments to the executive editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.