Middle school librarians-- if you have R.L. Stine's The Sitter on the shelf, go pull it. Now. How did I not see the "Contains mature material" warning? It does. Liberal use of foul language and fairly graphic sex. I may have thought this was a compilation of several of the Babysitter books. It's going. Bad.
Rachel Chance, by Jean Thesman (1990) is from the Cynthia Voigt, late '80s school of angst. The book summary reads "When Rachel's illegitimate baby brother is kidnapped by a travelling band of revivalists in 1940, she sets out with her grandfather, a hired hand, and an eccentric neighbor in a desperate attempt to steal him back." Oddly, this has not appealed to my students. Throw in the reverend Billy Bong, a developmentally delayed cousin who constantly sings Camptown Races and a lot of home-spun epithets like "Judas Priest" and "Sneeze and go blind!" and the appeal to students is low. Not a bad read, but a tough sell.
Author/Illustrator Sean Ashby had an interesting post on how, when writing for young adults, it's hard to make a character who stands out, since all children do basically the same things. I thought a lot about this, and it's impact on teen fiction. Short of throwing characters into fantasy worlds, how can authors make their characters different. Sonnenblick does a good job creating quirky but believable characters who are different despite the commonality of their experiences. Something to mull.