The newest special issue of YALSA’s Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults features selected papers from the 2014 YALSA YA Literature Symposium. In “You Are What You Read: Young Adult Literacy and Identity in Rural America,” Robin A. Moeller and Kim E. Becnel of Appalachian State University present a survey of 118 rural North Carolina high school sophomores’ reading interests and habits. They found the female students’ top favorite fiction genres to be: 1) romance, 2) mystery, 3) adventure, and 4) horror. In contrast, the males’ top four favorite genres were: 1) adventure, 2) science fiction, 3) humor, and 4) horror. Nearly two-thirds of both of female and male students indicated that they read for pleasure an hour or less per week. These results highlight the importance of providing free reading time and materials access in schools and libraries, particularly for rural teens with limited access to book and electronic resources. Additional implications for library services to rural teens are discussed.
In “The Real Deal: Teen Characters with Autism in YA Novels,” Marilyn Irwin (Indiana University, Indianapolis), Annette Y. Goldsmith (University of Washington), and Rachel Applegate (Indiana University, Indianapolis) analyze 58 YA novels, each with a teen character with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The authors contrast the character portrayals in the novels with recent research on real youth with ASD to evaluate the accuracy of the fictional portrayals. They find the portrayals to be largely accurate overall, with some notable differences, particularly with regard to friendships. Irwin, Goldsmith, and Applegate close with a discussion of the benefits for teens of reading fiction that includes characters with disabilities. These benefits also stand as compelling arguments for YA librarians to collect and promote YA fiction with realistic depictions of teens with ASD.