Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults: It's All about the Popular

By Brooks-Reese, Karen; Saxton, Beth | Young Adult Library Services, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults: It's All about the Popular


Brooks-Reese, Karen, Saxton, Beth, Young Adult Library Services


Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults (PPYA) is a YALSA selection committee charged with creating between 1 and 5 themed lists of titles that are available in paperback and popular with teens. The PPYA committee has a stated purpose of "encourag[ing] young adults to read for pleasure by presenting to them lists of popular or topical titles which are widely available in paperback and which represent a broad variety of accessible themes and genres." Fifteen YALSA members serve on the committee and each member reads, nominates, and votes on books for the themed lists. Most years the committee develops 4 lists with themes that are in demand from both our teen patrons and our colleagues, with each committee member serving on a subcommittee for 2 of the 4 lists. Some topics like mystery, fantasy, and humor are perennial and the committee enjoys updating and finding new perspectives on these themes every couple of years. Other themes come from hot topics like "Change" or formats like epistolary novels, while others arise from requests from the YALSA community for clean reads, GLBTQ titles, and gritty realistic fiction.

Narrowing a selected list for a topic with a large number of possible titles can be challenging, as each thematic list is limited to 25 titles. An ideal title for Popular Paperbacks is widely available, fits well with the theme of the list, is popular with teens, and lends an element of diversity for the overall list. Committee members examine the circulation statistics of nominated titles at their own libraries and solicit opinions from teen readers about individual titles. Teen readers are a diverse group and each Popular Paperbacks list aims to represent that diversity with the included titles.

The PPYA lists, by their very nature as themed lists of popular materials, are ideal for practical use in public and school libraries. Because we choose our themes based on what we know or have heard teens are looking for, other librarians may find the lists very helpful for collection development--especially in libraries that are strapped for time and cash.

Paperback books, with a cover price significantly lower than hardcovers, are a great way to stretch your collection development dollars. The PPYA lists include both paperback reprints and paperback originals, but since the committee's primary concern is the popularity of the book, librarians can be fairly certain that the titles on the lists will not be dated or boring. The themes also can be very helpful for collection development: librarians in conservative neighborhoods with families that are concerned about sex, language, and violence need look no further than 2006's "Books That Don't Make You Blush," while librarians whose teens clamor for racy reads can check out 2008's "Sex Is ..." With recent themes that run the gamut from tear jerkers ("Read 'Em and Weep," 2005) to activism ("Change Your World," 2010), librarians are likely to find books that suit the needs of their collections and communities. Just keep in mind that our lists are developed by librarians from very diverse areas of the country, so not all the books on any given list will be right for all libraries.

Collection development goes hand in hand with reader's advisory: being familiar with and having PPYA titles in a library collection provides librarians with the knowledge and resources to pair teen readers with the books that are right for them. Teen readers are passionate about their favorite type of books, and avid readers can often quickly exhaust our suggestions of similar titles, especially in genres of which we are not heavy readers ourselves. …

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