The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Teen Literature. By Angela Carstensen. Chicago: ALA, 2018. 176 p. Paper $54.99 (ISBN 978-0-8389-1726-8).

Finding the right book for the right reader at the right time is a perennial goal for librarians, particularly those who serve adolescents. Even the most seasoned teen services librarians will tell you that being a literary matchmaker is incredibly challenging. Teens can be a fickle bunch, and they are not always great at communicating their needs. Furthermore, young adult (YA) literature is a booming field, and keeping up with it can be daunting. Successful readers’ advisory for teen patrons requires knowing about teens and YA literature, as well as how to talk to teens about books. In The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Teen Literature, Angela Carstensen aims to teach librarians—both those who work directly with teens or teen materials and those who do not—the necessary knowledge to become teen readers’ advisory masters.

The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Teen Literature, part of the ALA’s Readers’ Advisory Series, is divided into two parts. In the first half of the book, Carstensen defines YA literature, discusses teen reading habits, and outlines best practices for marketing teen books and conducting readers’ advisory interviews with teens. She takes care to distinguish how teen book seeking differs from that of adults and offers concrete strategies to help librarians determine exactly the types of materials a teen may want or need.

In the second half, Carstensen (along with a few guest writers) offers an incredibly thorough, practical guide to teen literature. Each chapter focuses on one genre of YA literature (realistic fiction, science fiction, historical fiction, etc.), offering a definition of the genre and an explanation of its appeal for teen fans. Carstensen breaks each genre down by subgenre, capturing all the different types of stories that one genre may contain. For example, subgenres of science fiction that Carstensen includes are space opera, virtual reality, military sci-fi, steampunk, time travel, humor, dystopian works, and apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction. Next, within each subgenre, Carstensen offers a core title and three “next step” titles. These recommendations exemplify how and why the subgenre appeals to teens. Helpfully, one adult title with crossover appeal is included in each section to help librarians serving older teens or adults interested in YA literature.

Notably, Carstensen takes what she calls a “whole collection” advisory approach, including suggestions for movies and television shows that will also appeal to a genre’s fans. While this is a fantastic concept for offering readers’ advisory to teens, unfortunately, often the movies and TV shows are simply adaptations of novels suggested previously. However, Carstensen counteracts this small misstep by providing a list of additional resources at the end of each chapter (including journals, websites, blogs, and award lists) that readers can use to keep up with current and upcoming titles in the field.

Overall, The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Teen Literature is an invaluable resource for librarians looking to expand their knowledge of young adult literature and better serve their teen patrons. Full of concrete tips for booktalking and interacting with teens alongside a wealth of specific materials suggestions, there is something to offer for both novices and experienced youth librarians alike. This is a highly recommended purchase for both public and academic libraries serving teens.—Jessica Hilbun Schwartz, Teen Services and Reference Librarian, Newburyport Public Library, Newburyport, Massachusetts


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