Saturday, April 23, 2016

Observations on Teen Reading

I just received in my email a list of the books that were most frequently checked out during the past quarter (three months) at Burbank Public Library. This list encompasses all three branches (so it's system-wide), and is in descending order, from a high of 39 checkouts in three months to a low of five. (That's where I chose to cut it off--it was twice this long, but all the rest were one, two, and three checkouts.)

I find this list revelatory in several ways. I find it predictable, reassuring, and also a little disconcerting!

It's easy to see what tops the list: Any book, or any book from a series, that has been made into a movie within the past couple of years. That accounts for the Divergent books, the Maze Runner books, the Hunger Games books, Cassandra Clare's City of Bones series (which has been a cheesy movie followed by an even cheesier TV series), and, of course, all of the John Green canon and a couple by Gayle Forman. I suppose it could also account for the Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer (although I find it astounding that there are still people who haven't read them and are doing so, they having lately acquired the same status as the band Nickelback!).

I'm not saying, however, that most of our readers discovered these books after the movies were made. In fact, I think the movies were made because of the overwhelming demand from readers who wanted to see their favorite books interpreted for the big screen. But I do think we can attribute the longevity of these books on the check-out list to those who only discovered the series after the movies were released. The lifespan of a book may have grown because of its movie tie-in, which is a reassuring thought.

So many of these books are also part of a series. It seems that when teens start a series, they are loyal to it and follow it to the bitter end. Out of the top 25 books on this list, only seven are stand-alone books, and out of those seven, four are by John Green! (Reaffirming that John Green can do no wrong...)

I'm kind of amazed, since as librarians we are focused primarily on the future in publishing--what's new this month, next month, this fall--how many of these books are not new. Of the top 40 books on this list, some are two or three years old, while others go as far back as 2005 (Uglies), the oldest publication date being 1985 (for Ender's Game). The first book still on the "new books" shelves at the library is #61, Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard, and the number of new books on this list can be counted on the fingers of one hand! But I think this can be accounted for by the fact that teen referrals and word of mouth are the most powerful goad to popularity. One teen reads The Hunger Games and tells a friend, and suddenly there are a bunch of people asking for this book by a previously unknown author, and it's all anyone wants to read, for a period of time.

Burbank Public Library has one of the best, most extensive young adult collections of any library in Los Angeles. I don't say this to brag, it's a simple collision of interest and opportunity: We are fortunate, as teen librarians, to have bigger budgets than many of our colleagues at other libraries and branches, and we are also, both of us, avid readers and acquirers of new teen fiction for our patrons. But from this list, it would seem that if we simply kept up with the most popular 10 series (plus the inevitable John Green), we'd be good to go and could stop perusing the reviews!

But what will those most popular series be in the future? I do think that we as librarians can take some credit for creating buzz about certain books that then go viral. For instance, when I initially bought Twilight for the library, I bought one copy as an experiment to see if teens would like it; who knew that five years after, we'd own 33 copies and that all copies would be checked out anyway? So I am curious, looking at our recent orders and at all the books on the "New Books" shelves, what we will be seeing on this list in the months to come.

I must say that I wish more of our teens would not be entirely led by popularity and would branch out to discover some of the wonderful novels that are overlooked in the rush to check out the next book in "that" series. We have a small but loyal group of teen readers who show up about once a month to see what's new, and I'd love to see that group grow! If you'd like some ideas for new books popular with your peers, check out the top 25 new books post I did a few days back. And consider reading one of the new books pictured above--I just finished two of them (Illuminae and Ink and Bone), and reviews will be coming soon, but for now I will just say, Read them! Here is a review of The Truth Commission but I guess I never reviewed Court of Fives, so I'll have to do that. Haven't gotten to the Marie Lu series yet, but soon.

Here's the list of most frequently checked out books:

Divergent / Veronica Roth 
The Maze Runner / James Dashner
Paper Towns / John Green
Looking for Alaska / John Green
Allegiant / Veronica Roth
The 5th Wave / Rick Yancey
Catching Fire / Suzanne Collins
The Scorch Trials / James Dashner
Mockingjay / Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games / Suzanne Collins
The Fault in Our Stars / John Green
An Abundance of Katherines / John Green
City of Bones / Cassandra Clare
If I Stay / by Gayle Forman
Thirteen Reasons Why / by Jay Asher
Twilight / by Stephenie Meyer
Insurgent / Veronica Roth
Eleanor & Park / Rainbow Rowell
City of Ashes / Cassandra Clare
Fangirl / Rainbow Rowell
Matched / Ally Condie
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children / Ransom Riggs
The Kill Order / James Dashner
Ender's Game / Orson Scott Card
The Death Cure / James Dashner
Clockwork Angel / Cassandra Clare
City of Glass / Cassandra Clare
Where She Went / Gayle Forman
City of Fallen Angels / Cassandra Clare
Uglies / Scott Westerfeld
Speak / Laurie Halse Anderson
The Selection / Kiera Cass
The Perks of Being a Wallflower / Stephen Chbosky
Four / Veronica Roth
The Eye of Minds / James Dashner
City of Lost Souls / Cassandra Clare
City of Heavenly Fire / Cassandra Clare
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas / by John Boyne
Insurgent / Veronica Roth
The Infinite Sea / Rick Yancey
Go Ask Alice / Anonymous
The Elite / Kiera Cass
Cinder / written by Marissa Meyer
Breaking Dawn / Stephenie Meyer
The Alchemyst / Michael Scott
The Young Elites / Marie Lu
Unwind / Neal Shusterman
To All the Boys I've Loved Before / Jenny Han
Scarlet / written by Marissa Meyer
Russian Roulette / Anthony Horowitz
The Rule of Thoughts / James Dashner
The One / Kiera Cass
Just One Day / Gayle Forman
Just Listen / Sarah Dessen
Before I Fall / Lauren Oliver
The Bane Chronicles / Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson
Will Grayson, Will Grayson / John Green & David Levithan
The Wicked Will Rise / Danielle Paige
We Were Liars / E. Lockhart
Unhinged / by A. G. Howard
Red Queen / Victoria Aveyard
Pretty Little Liars / Sara Shepard
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl / Jesse Andrews
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment / James Patterson
The Heir / Keira Cass
Gone / Michael Grant
Every Day / David Levithan
Cress / written by Marissa Meyer
Clockwork Princess / Cassandra Clare
The Book Thief / by Markus Zusak
All the Bright Places / Jennifer Niven
World War Z / Max Brooks
We Are All Made of Molecules / Susin Nielsen
Throne of Glass / Sarah J. Maas
Son / by Lois Lowry
Scorpia Rising / Anthony Horowitz
Reached / Ally Condie
Pretties / Scott Westerfeld
New Moon / Stephenie Meyer
The Looking Glass Wars / by Frank Beddor
Let It Snow : Three Holiday Romances / by John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle
It's Kind of a Funny Story / Ned Vizzini
I'll Give You the Sun / by Jandy Nelson
I Was Here / by Gayle Forman
Hollow City / Ransom Riggs
Heartless / Sara Shepard
Graceling / Kristin Cashore
Frostbite / Richelle Mead
Flawless / Sara Shepard
Fairest, Levana's Story / Marissa Meyer
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe / Benjamin Alire Saenz
Ali's Pretty Little Lies / Sara Shepard

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