Kay E. Vandergrift

Special Interest Page


Young adult readings

100 list

Reader response criticism

Feminist Readings

Feminist background reading

Female coming of age stories

Male-coming-of-age stories

Fairy tales

Literary biographies

Informational resources

Websites for YA Resources

Cyber library




Young adult literature is often thought of as a great abyss between the wonderfully exciting and engaging materials for children and those for adults--just as young adults are often ignored in planning library facilities and services. There is, however, a wealth of fiction created especially for teens that deals with the possibilities and problems of contemporary life as experienced by this age group. These contemporary problem novels reflect the troubled times in which young readers are coming of age, but young people also need to laugh at themselves and at their world and to escape that world in flights of fancy.

With greater freedom in both content and form, young adult literature is moving into a closer connection with adult literature, and fluent readers in this age group may read primarily adult books. Societal changes and the mass media have, in some ways, pushed young people to an earlier maturity, or at least a facade of maturity. What might once have been thought appropriate for a fourteen-year-old is now appropriate for a considerably younger reader. Often, however, what is perceived as knowledge or maturity is only at a surface level, and young readers need a great deal of time for the distancing and reflection possible through literature. Nicole St. John wrote about teenagers as "inexperienced adults," and literature provides a safe haven to accrue experience.

Through story a reader can confirm one's own life experiences, illuminate and gain insight into those experiences, and vicariously expand and extend them. Although each of us must walk alone, authenticate our experiences, and make our own meanings and sense of truth in the world we know; there is always that tension between the uniqueness of the person and the commonalties of the human condition. This tension is evident in everyday life but revealed most fully in story. Story has always been a very powerful way of venturing beyond the scenes we know to connect with people, places, ideas, and events beyond our normal range.

Those committed to an understanding and appreciation of young adult literature should be able to:

  1. Describe the historical development, current trends, and enduring characteristics of young adult literature.
  2. Identify current reading, viewing, and listening interests of young adults and incorporate these findings into collection development and program planning.
  3. Apply factual and interpretive information on adolescent psychology, growth and development, sociology, and popular culture in planning for materials and services for young adults.
  4. Recognize literary elements in story and apply critical judgments to selected literature.
  5. Use Reader-Response, Feminist and other literary theories in work with young adult literature.
  6. Interpret current research on young adult reading, information needs, and library usage and apply it to selecting materials for young adults.
  7. Provide a variety of information services (e.g., information referral, crisis intervention counseling, etc.) to meet the diverse needs of young adults.
  8. Select and use appropriate tools in collection building and user guidance; analyze and criticize the usefulness of the tools in terms of coverage, cost, and special features.
  9. Devise and publicize pathfinders, book lists, displays, etc., which will ease access to collections and motivate use.
  10. Develop a materials collection for young adults which includes all appropriate formats, using a broad range of selection sources.

The Young Adult and Society

In order to work successfully with young adults, we must read widely to acquaint ourselves with the best and the most current thinking about young people and their literature from a variety of perspectives.

Young Adult Problems and Concerns

Probably one of the best means to explore young adult problems and concerns is to read the books created especially for this audience. This literature may also be useful in opening a dialogue between adults and young adults.

Young Adult Literature and Reader-Response Criticism

Reader-response criticism with its sensitivity to the meaning-making of the individual reader is an essential aspect of study for those interested in young people.

Young Adult Literature and Feminist Criticism

Much of feminist literary theory, as well as historical and other forms of research, lends itself to the examination of young adult literature.

Focus on Specific Works and/or Authors in Light of Feminist Criticism

It is useful to read female coming-of-age novels to explore the nature of this growth process. It is also worthwhile to engage with books that provide background for this exploration. Male-coming-of-age stories are listed that particularly reflect a multicultural world.

Traditional Literature for Young Adults

In recent years, there have been many full-length novels based on traditional folk and fairy tales both for adult and young adult audiences.

Biographical & Informational Works for Young Adults

Biographical and other forms of information books and materials are important as a means of learning about self through the lives of others and about the world we live in.

Periodical Literature for Young Adults

New and exciting periodicals are available for young people, and many teens who are not comfortable with books read these magazines.

Website Resources for Young Adults

New and exciting websites are available for young people, and many teens who are not comfortable with books read these websites.
SCILS, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey