Thinking about Great Young Adult Nonfiction


Hey all,

I’ve been out and about the last few weeks talking to writers, teachers, librarians and students. Almost all of you have asked what makes good young adult nonfiction. I think it’s the narrative thread or the passion and voice of the narrator as s/he tells a STORY that just happens to be real. I’ll be speaking more about that this coming weekend when I talk with Minnesota teachers and librarians. (I love the part where I get to tell my audiences that I wrote about Janis Joplin in Janis Joplin Rise Up Singing from the perspective of a teen with a fan crush. She was my flawed hero and my cautionary tale.) But I also wrote about Amy Tan from the perspective of connecting mothers and daughters and I wrote about the great YA novelist and one of the most censored authors, Robert Cormier, from the perspective of what it’s like to grow up with a gentle dad who tells earthshattering stories. Each narrative perspective is different and it drives the story arc. If you want to learn more about this, you might be interested in The Children’s Literature Network website.  

But I imagine you’re all going to want to know about more great nonfiction books than I could possibly provide in a short session so I’m listing a few links here for them and for you. Happy reading!

Popular Teen Nonfiction from Goodreads: 

And don’t forget to look up books that carry the YALSA Excellence in nonfiction award. (I humbly admit the cover of Janis Joplin, Rise Up Singing wears a good sticker.)

YALSA Award-winning Nonfiction 2012: (You can also be re-directed to previous award winners)

Of course you can browse bookstore lists. But these are two places that provide a thoroughly great start on nonfiction titles for your shelves. Happy reading!!

Just thinking….

I’ve got just a moment and so I’m using this blog to list updates and random thoughts for fellow writers and readers

A thought: I’m thinking a lot about writers and self-censorship because I’m currently working on a novel that wants to be about sex. I learned at a novel revision retreat that I blush when I say this. I SO didn’t want the novel to go in this direction but it is. So each day I sit at my computer and wonder if I’m blushing as I write.

An update: I’m part of a great social justice blog focused on children’s and young adult writing. This means I’ll be posting about books that cross the boundary of mannerly to talk about reality. I love that concept because it’s what shakes up the world and makes people think about what they can do, how they can live, to make the world a better place. Although I’ll cross-post my own blog entries on this site, you’ll probably want to take a gander. So go to and enjoy the dialogue!

An update: If I’m counting accurately, I have only four more weeks of classes and then a week of celebrating all things graduation before I can focus completely on my own writing. Don’t get me wrong, I love to see my students’ writing grow and mature. But I need that intensely focused world of the imagination too.

A thought: I can either continue with this or I can get back to working on that novel that wants to be about sex. So back to it!