Saturday, February 23, 2013

Teeny Tiny YA Book Club

One of the responsibilities of my job at the library is running a young adult book club. We had our introductory meeting in January, and in my head, I imagined a couple dozen teenagers showing up, ready to read. In my fantasy vision, we all busted into this awesome dance party because we loved books so much.
I wish this was my life all the time.
Needless to say, this vision did not come to pass. At the first meeting, two teens showed up and we had an awkward conversation about what they liked to read and what they wanted out of a book club. All of the snacks and soda I bought went unopened. I was discouraged, but my library is a small one and maybe kids just don't have time for this stuff during the school year.

I pushed the heck out of the first book club pick, The Maze Runner by James Dasher, and I held the book club's second meeting this past Tuesday. One lonely student showed up, but at least she had enough enthusiasm for 10 kids and between myself, this awesomely overexcited kid, and a library coworker, we had a really good conversation about The Maze Runner and books in general.

I would still like to have a bigger book club. I know there are teens who come to my library who read voraciously - I've helped them pick out books. I know there are teens who come in who would like book club a lot, but who are too shy or too cool to join. I'm not sure how to reach them. Hopefully, with time, and a good book selection, more kids will show up. Surprisingly, the lure of free food has not been working.
Isn't this how teenagers operate? I don't know anymore because I'm old.
But speaking of book selection, I think the one mistake I did make and will be careful not to repeat is that I picked a book that I was not invested in. I picked The Maze Runner for bad reasons. I picked it because it was gender neutral. I picked it because it was safe in terms of subject matter. I picked it thinking it might draw fans of The Hunger Games. I did not pick it because it was well written (which it is not) or because I liked it (which I really don't). Big mistake. It's hard to get excited for a book that you don't particularly like.

The Maze Runner is a whole bunch of neat dystopian... uh, stuff? Scenarios? Ideas? without any solid foundation. I feel like Dashner came up with a series of neat sounding scenarios for kids to be trapped in, but didn't bother to build a world to support those scenarios. The plot holes are tremendous. For example, in the world of The Maze Runner, humanity has been decimated by a disease called the Flare. A shadowy organization takes all the kids immune to the Flare and sets them up in dangerous situations where roughly 50% of them die, so they can weed out the strongest and smartest. Um. Wait... what? Wouldn't it make more sense to research and cultivate this immunity to maybe, uh... cure everyone else? That idea is never really addressed, among many others.

Kittens and shirtless Hugh Jackman all in one post. You're welcome.
At any rate, I need to trust that these few kids who are interested in book club will be able to tell a crap book from a good one. I need to really examine the difference between bad books and books I don't like. And while breaking out into song and dance over our love of books would be awesome (and completely weird), I will be a happily available resource at my library for all teens who come in to check out books. And, I will remember that I was a teenager once too and probably wouldn't have joined a book club either.


  1. Mar said she sometimes has double digits, up to twenty, but on average only has around 4. Also with hers she doesn't hold them to always talking about the assigned book. She does that at the beginning of a meeting and then everyone can talk about the books they are reading.

  2. I try to run my book club that way as well, and that's how my adult sci-fi/fantasy book club runs. We all read a book and talk about it at the meeting, but we always get onto other topics and other books. I don't mind deviating from the book at hand. Once we get more kids, I'm going to let them pick some of their own books.

  3. It was Wanda, Jeff, and me for quite a while. I gather Beautiful Creatures was a YA book. Maybe take advantage of media tie-ins to get started.

  4. I used to be a member of the Chicago Public Library's Book Club when I was a kid. I think from the time I was 11 until about 14. I liked to hang out in the library on summers and read. Not every day, but on really hot days that I did not want to play street hockey. Plus, I was a volunteer for 2 or 3 years, so I'd help the librarian with the book club.

    Food wasn't the draw for me. Food isn't a draw, I think, until you have to pay for your own groceries. One big attraction--besides trying to out-read my sister and her best friend--was that we'd get a roll of the dice at a big board game for every book we read, and if you made it to the end you'd get a prize. I think one summer I made it to the end of the board 6 times.