Helping YA readers decide …

Some time ago, I wrote a post which opened up a great discussion about age-appropriate reading for teens (see here), particularly about sexual boundaries – and the debate is still open – it’s a book by book decision.

Today I’d like to raise another question?  How might you help picky teen readers find books they want to read?  Read the blurb – naturally, but they tend to make snap decisions based on the cover art. By the time they might turn the book over to see the blurb, it’s often too late in my limited experience.

That’s why I really like what Hot Key Books have done. They are specialist publishers of titles aimed at children aged 9-19 years old. I’ve read several of their books now and have been impressed by them all.

Their innovation is that all their books have a simple little “themes wheel” on the back cover, which tells you at a glance where each title is situated in the world of genres and general fiction. Here are a few examples:

This is for The Savages by Matt Whyman which I reviewed here.  Personally, I’d have made the black comedy portion a little larger, but it is accurate enough – it just doesn’t mention one key word, which I think I’ll leave as a surprise – click through if that intrigues you!

This one is from Stray by Monica Hesse, which I reviewed here.  The theme ring captures the four main themes perfectly. I loved this novel and can’t wait to read the sequel set in this kind of dystopia.

I’ve just finished reading The Madness by Alison Rattle – review to follow, but you can get the picture from the graphic and title, without needing to see the cover necessarily…

And lastly my next read from Hot Key Books is called Tribute by Ellen Renner. It has a feel of Dark Ages mages and slavery about it… I hope I’m right.

Forgive me if this is sounding like a commercial for this particular publisher, (I should say too that all the titles mentioned above have been sent to me by the publisher after selecting them from their lists), but, I think this is a genuinely helpful little graphic device.

Anything that encourages teens to keep reading and to not dismiss a book by its cover should be encouraged.  As an adult who loves to read books written for teens, I’m finding them useful (although I think the general populace might think them condescending were they to start appearing on grown-ups books!). I do like the idea that they might get people to read outside their comfort zone too – I’m not a big reader of full-blown historical fiction – but 30% historical, 30% passion and 40% obsession sounded good to me – and The Madness was excellent!

What do you think? – Discuss!

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Don’t forget that my giveaway of a signed poster and copy of Mark Miodownik’s excellent new paperback Stuff Matters continues until Wednesday tea-time. See the previous post or click here.

3 thoughts on “Helping YA readers decide …

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    This is a *really* tricky one! I understand the reasoning behind it, particularly nowadays when young people seem to have so many things competing for their attention and consequently short attention spans! Nevertheless, I’m a little nervous, because I personally feel that modern novels are already having to be squeezed into categories to be marketed more than I’m comfortable with. Half of the joy of reading is finding something unusual, different, quirky, thought-provoking – and if writing becomes too categorised all the little bumps and idiosyncracies get ironed out and we end up with bland books in bland boxes. Having said that, when my three were in their teens I may well have found this useful, because they did tend to be a little rigid about the sort of thing they read, going through phases. I guess times have changed, because I can recall being willing to read whatever came along and happy to try anything!!

    • Annabel (gaskella) says:

      I know what you mean, but I showed my daughter the Hot Key books and she liked this idea. I can also see it being helpful to school librarians. But from my late teens to my early 20s I only read SF&F – rigid or what – and I’ve turned out alright as a reader – Ha ha!

  2. Jenny @ Reading the End says:

    I kind of love this idea!! I don’t know that I’d rely on it exclusively, but I think it could be an amazing way to get myself to pick up a book that’s not in a genre I would regularly read. Like you said, if you don’t love historical fiction, the percentages wheel can alert you that that isn’t the main dish of that book.

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