Monday, December 08, 2008

Disappointing Books for Young Adults

All day yesterday, a post I read on The LiteraBuss has been going through my brain, thank to Jen Robinson's Friday Visit.

The original post dealt with books that should not be required reading. This has validity. However, I don't think any librarians or teachers are going to remove all Laura Ingalls Wilder from the shelves because of irrelevancy. Much of the discussion I've seen on this topic has to do with personal opinion, and most of the titles could be argued. (The Borrowers? Where the Red Fern Grows? Certainly, students still read these.)

I felt compelled to list young adult books (no fair listing Vanity Fair, the most boring book ever written) that are without question boring and dated, butI found that most of those books are gone from my shelves, and from my memory. Therefore, I will list some books that are disappointing to many students and yet I can't see to take them off my shelves.

Should I? I checked out I Am the Cheese to a student who was bored and asked for a full report.

Babbit, Natalie. The Search for Delicious. Disappointment Factor: Tuck Everlasting was so good.

Byars, Betsy. The Summer of the Swans. DF: Nothing happens. It's not funny.

Cormier, Robert. I am the Cheese. DF: Caused my best friend to never trust her high school librarian.

DeJong, Meindert. The Wheel on the School. DF: Won an award in the '50s. Hmmm.

Duane, Diane. So You Want to be a Wizard. DF: Love the series; first book confusing.

Fox, Paula. Any title. DF: Depressing, dated, ponderous.

Fleming, Ian. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. DF: The movie had Dick van Dyke and was really good.

Hunt, Irene. Up a Road Slowly. DF: Small town relationships and coming of age story doesn't resonate with students.

Paterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terebithia. DF: No student in the last five years has liked this.

Voigt, Cynthia. The Tillerman Saga. DF: Really long, really depressing. Students get about halfway through Homecoming and give up.

Zindel, Paul. Books not about monsters. DF: Once these were cutting edge. Now they are just a little odd.


  1. Of course, I guess the same argument could be made of your post. Someone out there is very passionate about the books you list, and could argue that they are still valid and loved by some to this very day. It all comes down to a matter of opinion, you disagree with some of the books on my list, and I disagree with some on yours. Bridge to Terabithia, in my opinion, is a fantastic book. So it's all perspective and opinion, and that's what makes literature so great.

  2. I can't wait to see what the students in the school list as books they really didn't like!

    I was surprised to see a student reading Hemingway when I was there today. ;-) Used to love ol' Ernest. Did my college (undergrad) thesis on him.

  3. Anonymous11:27 PM EST

    I think the issue with Bridge is that our kids are more grown-up than we think. Death is not a big ogre to the targeted age group for this book. When I read it out loud to my kids (7 &9) they found the story compelling, the bullies frightening, the friendship true and the death a total surprise. We had interesting discussions about escape and reality after reading this.
    In general I am against assigned group reading, especially for a whole class. I remember hating The Pearl, and loving Vanity Fair. That said, I like to use a recommended book list (easy to put together, thanks to this site) and kids interested in reading the same book join a temporary "book club" with the teacher offering suggestions for discussion. In some classes a presentation about the book by the club works well too.

  4. I agree with you on a lot of those books. I loved I AM THE CHEESE, although it did sorta tick me off in the end. It certainly stuck with me all these years.
    Overall, I think it's more about what the librarian is excited about. It's so much easier to promote books you're excited about. I refuse to talk up a book that I hate. So...those tend to not get checked out as much.

  5. I read Bridge to Terebithia long long time ago when we read it in school. I did not like that book. I was kind of angry they made us read it actually. I remember it making me rather sad!