Students show love of reading as DBRL Teen Book Tournament heats up


Jay Whang

In the Media Center, yellow ceiling lights shine through all the bookshelves growing on a carpet floor. Students and readers harvest novels  from wooden shelves and put them on the table to read. When they open up the book, they jump into a wild ride through the author’s proses. They use literary nutrition as escapism.

This is what the Daniel Boone Regional Library is counting on during its Teen Book Tournament. Throughout February and March, DBRL is hoping teens will vote on their favorite books. Students can vote here. Teens are choosing what DBRL staff have called the “Elite Eight”. Since January, the public library has organized the event to make readers get excited about literature and to see the their favorite books competing against another. Teens can go on the Daniel Boone Regional Library official website and select from 32 popular books for competition. Nearly 100 teens have voted for their favorite book.

Maze Runner is one of the books in the running, and junior Joanna Zhang isn’t surprised.

Zhang just finished reading a young-adult novel called The Scorch Trials – a second book in The Maze Runner series by James Dashner. She also enjoys reading the novel Divergent by Veronica Roth, because “it brings up a lot of thought about how people are in human nature and it has full of actions.”

Like Zhang, junior Mason Humphrey also enjoys reading YA novels. During a summer break, he often reads fantasy/sci-fi genre fictions such as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, which he admits liking, while listening to country music.

Junior Kaszmere Messbarger said many people’s delight in the Harry Potter series stemmed from escapism.

“You could put yourself somewhere else for a while and forget everything else and have fun,” Messbarger said.

Screen shot 2013-02-16 at 9.44.49 PM
Mason Humphrey. Photo by Jay Whang
Screen shot 2013-02-16 at 9.45.26 PM
Kaszmere Messbarger Photo by Jay Whang

To put a brief history on Young Adult literature, before World War II ended, famous bildungsroman (or coming of age) novels like Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or adventure genre novels like The Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson had large influence on them. After the war, many children’s novels with hard adult themes like Lord of the Flies by William Golding, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger came, which presented youths exploring into a harsh reality.

Book series that Messbarger and Humphrey mentioned, like Harry Potter or Twilight, explored themes of death, love, friendship and school issues.

Young adult fiction became a genre of itself and long after that the Golden Age of Young Adult fictions appeared, when challenging novels began speaking directly to the interests of the identified adolescent market.

“What made young adult books so important, they represent a body of literature strictly for an audience, that’s going through a great deal of change and maturity,” explained Brandy Sanchez, a librarian at Columbia Public Library who is involved with March Madness, “and young adult books address issues in real life that we are facing right now. That’s how important young adult literature is.”

Last year, I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore won the tournament, beating out The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. The novel follows an alien named John Smith from a destroyed planet called Lorien and his way to survive in Earth along with his Guardian, Henri.

According to  polls from the Pew Internet & American Life Project in this article “Teens in America: Why Their Reading Habits May Surprise You” by Kristen Kloberdanz, 83 percent of Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 read a book in past year. As Sanchez said, this reading is connected to the kinds of themes teenagers would attracted to. They tend to enjoy reading more than older readers because what they choose to read contains a conflicting theme of love triangle.

However, the recurring theme of love triangles built into young adult novels may not satisfy all readers. According to the online poll from a website, of all 135 participants, 37 of them (27.6%) were satisfied with such plot twists, 32 of them (23.9%) hated it, while 42 of them (31.3%) didn’t seem to care.

“Love triangles represent drama. Whether it’s two girl and one boy or two boys and one girl,” Sanchez said. “Because it’s a plot point that anytime you get to create a conflict with your character, you made an interesting dramatic degree, and now it’s a popular method authors use. They use a love triangle to create drama in their story.”

easelly_visual Source:

Still, Sanchez said some readers show an aversion toward this trope.

“For a same reason, it is overused sometimes,” Sanchez said. “I know a lot of male readers look at me for a book recommendation of the day and said, ‘Please, anything with no love triangle.’ So there are all inconsistently overused at the popular time.”

Despite the genre aimed at them, teenagers often turn their head toward mature fictions written for mature audiences. Take Senior Tiana Stephenson, for example, who reads during AUT. She tends to enjoy reading historical/age period fiction with war theme; meanwhile, senior Duha Shebib, sticks to nonfiction for her psychology class. Her choice: Beauty Junkies by Alex Kuczynski, which is a book about plastic surgery industry and people’s obsession toward to it.

Librarian and literature buffs like Sanchez have no problems with young people reading adult-aimed novels.

“I feel like good writing and good storytelling goes transgressive all age boundary. It doesn’t matter if it’s marketed as a teen book or adult book,” Sanchez said, noting Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian as a fine example of adult fiction marketed toward to young audiences. “The Great Gatsby, it’s an adult, but I would encourage young readers to read it because it’s a good book.”

It turns out her choice was one U.S. Studies teaches agreed with. They have assigned the F.Scott Fitzgerald classic and plan to have their classes finish before the new version of the movie comes out May 10.

Watch a trailer for the new version of The Great Gatsby here: [vsw id=”h7AFnJbETLw” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]

By Jay Whang

Be sure to make your vote for DBRL’s Elite Eight here.