by Lisa Goldstein
Wondering which YALSA committee to apply for? Consider Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults. I’m currently the chair of PPYA, and this is my third year on this selection committee.
PPYA creates three to five themed booklists each year. Past themes have included food, body image, and spirituality; this year’s themes are war, humor, and GLBTQ. Books of any format – fiction, nonfiction, graphic novel – which fit the declared themes and are popular among teens make the list. Literary quality is not a strong consideration. Members use circulation stats and teen feedback to gauge popularity, and do their best to ignore standards in taste, writing, or cover art.
Committee members serve on two of the subject lists, for which they acquire, read, and evaluate every nominated title. Each list usually ends up with between fifty and seventy-five nominations, and is eventually whittled down to twenty to twenty-five titles.
One of the most helpful things about PPYA work is also one of the trickiest: most books do not fit neatly into one category. Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens, for example, is hilarious, but it also has fantastic GLBTQ characters. Which list does it belong on? This can lead to fascinating discussions with committee members, and helps immensely with readers’ advisory further down the line. Does a teen in your library need a book with a positive portrayal of a transgender character? Give her Bray’s Beauty Queens. Does another teen want a funny book? Recommend Beauty Queens. Because PPYA doesn’t focus on new releases, committee members attain a well-rounded knowledge of young adult literature. Reading and categorizing over one hundred young adult books can’t help but aide readers’ advisory, as well as the creation of book lists and pathfinders.
Of course, the amount of reading is quite manageable. These are popular books, meaning that most of them are quick, accessible reads. Many of them are also reprints, so committee members widely read in young adult literature will be able to nominate a number of suitable books for PPYA’s lists with no extra reading.
This year, PPYA became an all virtual committee. In-person discussion at the Annual and Midwinter conferences is not required, nor is it supported. All discussion and voting occur virtually using a variety of tools – ALA Connect, Google Hangout, conference calls, and the PPYA distribution list. Because of that, our deadlines are a bit looser, and much of our discussion occurs asynchronously, through comments on individual titles on discussion threads in ALA Connect. Our discussion gradually builds as more members finish and comment on nominated titles – it’s quite different from the in-person meetings at ALA conferences! Still, I really feel I’ve come to know the PPYA committee members well. ALA Connect archives its content, so our discussions will be preserved to guide (or amuse) future committees.
If you’d like a year of fun reads, good discussions, and virtual connections, give Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults a try!