Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Confession Tuesday

In an effort to learn more about what teens read and think, I spent roughly six weeks blog hopping at teen blogs. What did I learn? Well, I was reminded what I didn't like about high school: cliques and alienation. Now to be fair, I am a 40-something mother and my YA reading habits are vastly different from the bloggers I was visiting so why would they warm up to me? This experience reminded me there are other ways to keep up with teen reading habits (I am involved in other communities that were working before this social excursion). I was struck by the sameness: same books, same awards given to the same folks over and over, same opinions. I was depressed by the lack of diversity. I mentioned the same books but I'm referring to the lack of diversity in authors, themes, genres, bloggers themselves and opinions. I found little discussion where there was dissent or exploration of different views. To be fair, I have had some choice moments with my own daughters and have been surprised by their biases and narrow views. And I think I get why. When you're young and discovering who you are and trying to figure out what's next for you, how interested would you be in things or folks who aren't like you?

I was going to talk about applying to a poets' workshop, but I just learned the application period ended. I'm depressed and annoyed. The dates for the workshop have changed again and there's little information on their website and their blog, let's not go there. I think they can and should do a better job of promoting the program. Every year the dates are different enough that there should be more communication. ((sigh)) It seems the only folks who know what's going on are the folks who have attended in the past. Hmmm, are the alienation and clique issues shrouding me today?

Read more confessions here.

21 comments:

Steph Su said...

There's also, educators believe, a rather biological explanation, in that teenagers are basically *incapable* of thinking past black-and-white (dualism) into accepting that there may be multiple right answers (relativism). I for one have seen my fair share of dissentment, but for the most part I don't think that YA bloggers are attempting to stir up conflict: the dissenting statements are usually just a sentence or two saying that you DO dissent, but with little explanation as to why. Sometimes it's just hard to voice exactly what bugs you about something or other.

The sameness of the reviews and the books reviewed comes from the fact that there's this unsaid pressure that bloggers should give readers their first glimpse into just-released or upcoming books. Hence, the plethora of sameness. But that's just my opinion. Also, a lot of teen bloggers have only been reading YA for a couple of years or less, so they have been unable to read some of the YA lit that's been published over the past, say, ten or so years. Like I said, there's a lot of pressure as to staying "ahead of the game," so to speak, to not feel as if you don't have any access to the most recently published stories.

susan said...

Thanks Steph, I didn't give it a whole lot of thought just accepted that it was normal. My daughters behave the same way. One blog I intend to continue reading is yours. You're a college student so you have a few more years of reading to your credit and as a young adult in college you're required to examine and consider and articulate your views.

I'm old and while I'm vocal, I still find it challenging to say why at times.

cupcakewitch said...

Alienation and cliques are something that infects every aspect of society. Sometimes, it is better to accept that you are an outsider... It took me years to figure that one out!

susan said...

Hey CW, I hear you. I don't miss my teen years. I had forgotten what the alienation and cliques looked like. As an adult, I prefer being an outsider so I don't bump up against it often.

farmlanebooks said...

I'm sorry to hear that they didn't engage with you. I remember loving every book I read as a teenager - I am much more picky now. I think we just need to accept that teenagers are different to us, and leave them to enjoy their cliquey world. Hopefully they'll emerge into adulthood soon and enjoy a good discussion.

I hope you manage to find other, offline ways to engage with them soon.

susan said...

Hi farmlane, well, I would have liked more interaction but I didn't expect to be treated like a peer. I think most knew I was old (my girls tell me that all the time). I do engage with teens elsewhere now and we have a great time. Do I sound like the kid no body talks, to? lol

My point was I had hoped to find out something different than I did.

Lenore said...

In regards to the same book phenomenon, I know I'm guilty of that to a point too. Probably only 7 of the 32 books I've read and reviewed so far this year are books that didn't get a lot of attention on the blogs. Authors and publicists target a lot of the same bloggers, and when you accept a book for review, you don't know how many other people accepted it too. But that's the danger when you review new books. And the new books are the ones everyone wants to hear about. I do need to make an effort to mix in a few "older" books.

caite said...

I was going to say the same thing that Lenore said, that some of those "sameness" issue exist in adult book blogs as well, most likely for the reasons she gives.
Lucky for me, I am so far behind in my reviews recently that all the other reviews for the same book that have been out there is the blogsphere are most likely forgotten by my readers by now!

belledi said...

This reminds me of Doret's Chameleon post. Ah, the confluence of life!

January said...

I love that you do the research with YA books. You probably know more about the book buying audience than most publishers out there.

Keep trying for those workshops.

susan said...

Lenore and Caite, that is not my experience. While there is some overlap, I have not seen the level of homogeneity on adult blogs or the book community I belong to. Moreover, the focus on new releases is not the same in all communities or demographics. I think Steph got it right: on the teen blogs there is a pressure to be in the know about what's new. That is not the case in adult communities I belong to. And I participated in more communities than I'm going to admit. lol

susan said...

On second thought let me back up what I'm saying. I belong to 50+ communities at Shelfari. I swap at paperbackswap, frugalreader and I'm a member at Jacketflap. There are roughly 90 blogs on my blog roll here. In short, I get around. lol

January, I worked in reference publishing, and my clients were educators and librarians. Many of my friends are educators, librarians and writers so yes, I am fortunate to have access and experience. I am not a expert, but I do have access to those who are.

susan said...

edi, I'm going to look for Doret's post. :-)

Lenore said...

Of course it depends on the blogs you frequent. There seem to be two types of YA blogs - the consumer focused blogs and the educational focused blogs - and both of these have their own separate communities, with surprisingly little overlap.

The adult blogs are often genre focused so that you have a lot of blogs that are pretty focused on i.e. historical fiction or paranormal romance. Which brings a lot of diversity. There are a couple of YA blogs that are so narrowly focused (YA romances for example) but it is much more difficult to do, especially if you tend towards featuring new releases.

Many of the adult blogs that Caite and I visit are part of the LibraryThing community and trust me, we see a lot of book overlap. All the books I've requested from Shelf Awareness for example are books I really want to read, but every one of them has been reviewed many times already.

susan said...

Lenore, I think we agree more than we are disagreeing here. My point was I was surprised by what I encountered. There are no shortages of resources for finding what you want. I know now that what I had been relying on is a good fit for me.

campbele said...

CUPCAKE: I'm the outsider?? I thought it was them!!LOL

odessa said...

susan, i work with some middle schoolers and i must say that your observations are spot on. they really tend to like or dislike the same things. i think a lot of it has to do with lack of experience and unwillingness to try something new.

Thinking Aloud said...

They are all so afraid to be the one with the original thought or a book that has not been written yesterday.
I had a student-a thinker in the 6th grade-who chose not to follow the lipstick crew, or the high gloss girls, and chose to read and review Pride and Prejudice. The others looked at her strangely, suggested other books, and told her that decades of reviews must have been written about that book already.
Her response: "It just goes to show that it is a classic, and I look forward to sharing some fresh new insights and observations to a timeless treasure."

And she did!

christine said...

I came over here from Odessa's blog. Your comment about how 'your pants are talking to you' cracked me up. I totally get that.

Why don't you write one of your polls about favorite books for teens? Have teen readers write in the last two books they read that they really liked.

My boys like biographies about athletes, and historical fiction, fantasy, SF. I'm sure teen girls have much different taste.

Doret said...

I am looking forward to reading a lot of popular YA releases this yr like new Laurie Anderson, Sarah Dessen, Melissa Marr, Rick Riordan etc but since I know they'll be reviewed on other sites I won't spend that much time on them or I may not mention them at all. I can understand bloggers wanting to show some blogger love to books or authors they love, its probably why they started blogging in the first place but you're so right it is totally frustrating to see the same books talked about over and over. Bloggers shouldn't stop talking about popular books but they should definitely mix in some other titles. And if a blogger has star rating system, and 90% of what they review gets either 4 or 5 stars, with a few 3 thrown in,why even have it.

susan said...

I don't think any members of the CT group ever expected to elicit this kind of response with this kind of exercise. I know I didn't.

Christine, I don't have a lot of teens readers on this blog. I was the one reading them. lol