Since late January, I’ve served on YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults committee, which means, among other things, that I’ve spent an awful lot of time this year looking for books about ghosts, vampires, zombies, dead classmates, dead relatives, and road trips.

To come up with relevant titles to consider, I’ve used my own knowledge of YA books and gotten suggestions from teens.I’ve also been using reference tools, traditional and non-, to discover new titles or jog my memory.

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Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults is probably the most-fun-having committee in all of YALSA. At least, that’s what I think. After serving on the committee in 2005-2007, I was truly sad to see my term end. Luckily, I was asked to serve as the administrative assistant for 2007-2008, and that time convinced me that I wanted to serve another term on PPYA.

So just what makes PPYA such a great committee? First and foremost, it’s the people. I’ve been lucky enough to work with truly outstanding librarians on PPYA, who are passionate about and dedicated to the reading interests of teens. In addition, the feedback from librarians and media specialists across the country, who express thanks for our work and submit field nominations for books, is truly invaluable.

Of course, reading is a huge thrill for us PPYA members. Finding a book that’s popular, will fit on one of our thematic book lists, and is still readily available is a tough task. We feel crushed when a book that would be a perfect fit isn’t available in paperback. Yet when we read a nominated title that’s ideal for a list, there’s such a feeling of excitement–it’s truly a rush.

I’m so happy to be back for another two years on PPYA. If you like the sound of what we do on this committee, why not submit a Committee Volunteer Form? We’d love to have you on board!

Melissa Rabey
Member, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults

The Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults committee has just finished up our first month of nominations, and we’ve got some great titles on our list of possibilities! You can see the February nominations here.

I would very much like to encourage all you amazing teen librarians (and any teens who might be reading this) to submit field nominations for PPYA. We want our lists to be as useful in the field as possible, and we can only do that with input from the people who use them! You can submit a field nomination here. Please fill the form out completely!

We’re looking for titles that fit one of four themes:

Dead, Dying & the Undead: Death can be an adventure, but not everyone lives to tell about it. Join us in exploring the often mysterious world of death and those who experience it . . . and those who come back.

Fame & Fortune: Stardom! Wealth! Notoriety! Read all about teens aspiring to make it big.

Journey>Destination: Take a journey of your own by reading about authentic and imagined road trips and journeys by any and all means of transport in the world.

Spies & Intrigue: Political intrigue, daring deeds, great escapes, and more in this thrilling list of fiction and nonfiction about those who operate within the world of shadow.

A few things to keep in mind when considering titles to nominate:

* Title must be in-print and in paperback
* Young Adult and Adult titles with teen appeal will be considered
* Fiction and nonfiction will be considered
* Copyright dates are not a consideration
* Publishers and authors may not nominate their own books

* It’s all about the popular!

All field nominations do need to be seconded by a committee member, but we truly appreciate your input! Help us out — nominate something good. And popular.

Karen Brooks-Reese
Chair, PPYA 2009

Each year, the Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Committee develops themed lists of popular and relevant paperback books for teens. In January, we will release the four lists we’ve spent the last year slaving over, and begin the cycle over again.

We have some ideas percolating of what themes we should focus on next year, but we’d like your input. What topics are your teens crazy about? What booklists would you like to see? What kind of books do you find yourself wracking your brain for, to no avail? What lists are so outdated that they’re in desperate need of updating? You can see our past lists here — and don’t forget, it’s all about the popular!

Our lists are developed for your use, so make sure we know what you need!

Karen Brooks-Reese, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
2009 PPYA Chair

As you’re finalizing your booklists and displays of humorous titles for this year’s Teen Read Week, don’t forget that Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults has a list for you! The 2007 list “What’s So Funny?” is a list of 20 titles that encompass a wide range of genres, formats (including six graphic works) and types of humor. Some selections your teens might enjoy are Douglas Rees’s Vampire High, about a slacker who ends up at a school full of genius vampires or Girl, 15, Charming but Insane by Sue Limb, a look at the trials and tribulations of a British girl who thinks that minestrone soup makes a great bra stuffing.

You can see the entire “What’s So Funny?” list here:

One of the great things about PPYA is that it gives you a chance to finally read some of those titles that you never quite got to when they first came out, even though they were always in the back of your mind. I’ve recently (finally!) read and enjoyed Keeper by Mal Peet, and Black and White by Paul Volponi for our sports related sub-committee “Get Your Game On”. Here’s the link to the list of currently nominated titles:
Finding Miracles Alvarez, and Zigzag by Ellen Wittlinger were standouts for our “What Makes A Family?” list, which can be found here: One that I really liked that might not have crossed my desk otherwise is Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen Headley.

PPYA also provides an opportunity to read outside of your comfort and interest zone. In the past year I’ve read more manga than I ever imagined, several books on NASCAR, and way too many fiction books on wrestling. I’ve slogged through Seabiscuit by listening to it as I painted the guest bedroom in our new house. On the flip side, I got to reread Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees and Sonya Sones’ One of those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies and savor them all over again.

I came home from my first ALA as a PPYA member completely jazzed about this committee. I raved to my husband about how great it had been to sit around a table with a bunch of other librarians and just talk about books for hours and hours. For some strange reason, he didn’t see anything particularly exciting about this. Go figure!…

Susan Person
PPYA committee member

The recent release of the last Harry Potter book created quite an uproar. It’s rare when a book release causes as much excitement in the world at large as it does in the library world. What is it about Harry Potter that makes it such an international phenomenon? One reason might be that people really want to believe in magic, and the characters feel real enough that readers can imagine themselves as part of the wizarding world.

Since it has been a few years since Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults created a list of fantasy titles, and we’d never done a list that focused on urban or contemporary fantasy, this year the committee decided to tackle that genre. The Magic in the Real World list will consist of books where the characters could be real people and, if one suspends disbelief just a little bit, one can imagine that the magic is real too. Every book I read for this list has made me a little more willing to believe that there really could be fairies living in the park, that the shimmer I saw out of the corner of my eye might be a portal into another world and if I put a little effort into it, I’ll be able to make friends with the elves who live next door.

Determining what exactly fits into this list is a little tricky. For example: are books about vampires fantasy? How about werewolves? Are books that take place in Victorian England urban fantasy, or a different type of fantasy? What about books that take a normal, mundane human and transplant them in a fantasy world? These are just some of the questions we discussed at ALA Annual. What we ended up deciding was that we’re looking for contemporary (not historical) fantasy that is broader than just urban, while omitting titles with elements that are traditionally considered horror (no vampires, ghosts or werewolves). We had an interesting discussion about humans performing magic with intent vs. creatures that are part human vs. wholly magical creatures – but that’s a whole other blog post.

The list of books we’ve nominated so far can be seen here. PPYA happily accepts field nominations, so if you know of a great contemporary fantasy written for teens or with teen appeal, please let us know! The nomination form can be found here. We’d also love to hear your thoughts about what you think “contemporary fantasy” means.

It’s the week of the conference and I am doing my typical last minute reading for Popular Paperbacks – I can never snicker at the student who comes in the day before an assignment is due because I am the most organized procrastinator around! So, I’ll keep this short because I really should be reading.

There is so much to look forward to as Annual approaches – there are the parties, connecting with list-serve friends, pre-pubs to pick-up, books to discuss, authors to fawn over, the list goes on and on. My favorite thing about ALA Conferences other than the fab Popular Paperbacks committee: How energized I feel after attending conference sessions and networking with other librarians across the country who also serve the best patrons around, teens. It never fails, after every conference I am filled with a renewed sense of purpose and am full of ideas, a complete joy to experience after 10 years in the profession. I find out what is working for other librarians and how they are connecting to this most dynamic population. There is something addictive about this shot of inspiration that makes it all worth it.

Hope everyone has a great conference and if you’re not able to attend, look for conference reports in the blogosphere and ask co-workers who are fortunate enough to attend to pass along their scribbled notes.

Marin Younker
2008 PPYA Chair

Sometimes when I tell people that I’m the administrative assistant for Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, I imagine that they’re thinking, “What in the world does that mean?” Simply enough, admin assistants help a committee do its work. For PPYA, my primary job is to keep track of nominations, making sure that we have the correct information for each nominated title. I also contact publishers, to inform them about their nominated books and ask for review copies for the committee’s members. Finally, I help the members and the chair with any questions or problems they have.

As the admin assistant, I don’t have the reading tasks that the rest of the committee has (although I’m certainly trying to read as much as I can, so I can offer my own thoughts during PPYA discussions at Annual!). But as a past member of the committee, I’m very excited to be part of the program that PPYA will be presenting at Annual. “How to be Popular AND Smart: YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks List” will tell you all about how to use PPYA lists to connect teens to literature that’s both fun and fulfilling. Hope to see you there, on Monday, June 25 at 10:30!

Melissa Rabey

Administrative Assistant, PPYA

Welcome to Popular Paperbacks 2008 style! This year, you can “Get Your Game On,” find “Magic in the Real World,” define “What Makes a Family,” and bring up the taboo “Sex is a Touchy Subject.” We’re looking for teens and adults to nominate their favorite paperbacks that they think fit these topics. See what’s on the list for this year for consideration or nominate a title at the Popular Paperback’s site.

What I love about Popular Paperbacks is the opportunity to read books I may have missed when they first arrived in their shiny hardback form, the creativity to choose timely topics, and the melding of Best Books and Quick Picks where we examine both popularity and literary quality! Look for more posts from PPYA members who are furiously reading for D.C. Happy reading!

Marin Younker
2008 PPYA Chair