Granted, it is expensive and difficult to acquire enough new copies of a book or of several books to provide more options in the classroom. But, if we do have the funds to score, let's say two hundred copies of To Kill A Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre, or of A Separate Peace, is that the best use of the funds for a school with a highly diverse population. I do like all of these books, I enjoyed teaching them, and many of my students read them multiple times. At the same time, all of these books promote a white dominate cultural narrative. While informative, they do not represent the needs of many of the students in today's classroom.
1. YA isn't quality literature.
2. The YA classification isn't the classics and don't students need to know them and have a flow of literary history?
3. We have standards to meet.
4. We don't have the books and we have to teach what we have?
I will briefly discuss each point. Today, I will discuss the first one and the others in subsequent weeks.
YA isn't quality literature.
Sure, many novels within the classification are not of high literary quality. Many are just pulp fiction. It has always existed since the Ragged Dick novels and the abundance of serial novels that brought us Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins, and the Sue Barton Nurse novels. However, the ones that of high literary quality are worth reading, sharing, and celebrating.
While it is true with YA literature it as always been true of adult fiction. For every William Faulkner or Cormac McCarthy, we have 20 to 30 writers who might spin a decent story like Ludlum, Grisham, Patterson, Clancy and others. Some adults with National Book Award (and other awards) and many don't. Just has some YA fiction win the National Book Award for Young People's Literature (and other awards0 and many don't. It doesn't mean they aren't fun or worthy reading. Take Twilight, for example. it is a fun read with a twist on vampire mythology, but should it be the focus of curriculum unit? (Not automatically, but I would even argue that combined with a collection of other materials, It might be the center of a curriculum unit.)
If you are looking for literary quality, look closely at Neal Schusterman's Scythe. It is another book that takes a spin on another myth, the myth of the grim reaper. At the same time, the difference in literary quality between Scythe and Twilight is significant. No one would question the monetary success and popularity of Twilight, but it wasn't a Printz Honor book. If don't believe me read them both and apply your English major analytical skills and see how it plays out.
Be careful, I am not saying that Twilight isn't fun, enjoyable, and compelling, yet Scythe is several steps above in literary quality and equally fun, enjoyable, and compelling.
Below is a collection of recent YA novels that I believe are of high literary quality and will stand the test of time. And no, I won't pick a favorite. In fact, I know their should be a few more. Put a few of them on you to be read list. Try them out and let me know, Maybe you will have a blog post for me in a few months.