By Karen Sampson (SFV LitMingle Coordinator) & Jennifer S. Pitts (former SFV LitMingle Coordinator, current LitMingle Meister)
Have you ever wanted to pick the brain of today’s Young Adult reader? The Minglers at the San Fernando Valley LitMingle did, which is why we invited five voracious teen readers to our June LitMingle to share what they read and why. As to be expected, their answers were as diverse as their backgrounds, but listening to them was extremely insightful. It would be impossible to summarize all the insight given by these bright young readers, but here are a few highlights*:
Social Media and Web
- Teens have Facebook accounts but prefer Instagram, YouTube, and Snap Chat.
- Adult discussions (rants) about politics and current events are of no interest to them.
- Popular YA websites include IndieBound (Kids Next), Epic Reads, and others that cater specifically to teen readers
What Draws Them to Particular Books?
- Intriguing covers and titles
- Positive reviews on GoodReads and other sites
- New books by favorite authors
- Original/intriguing book summaries
Characters and Content
- They like reading about kids their age (relatable characters).
- They wouldn’t mind reading about characters in their 20’s if the characters are still discovering themselves/establishing their identities.
- Reading about adults is also OK. “Adults have life experiences that make them interesting.”
- In terms of the main character’s journey, the process of discovery is very important.
- The main character should exhibit growth – making mistakes, but growing as a result.
- Characters need to be diverse, have flaws (to be relatable), and layers (to be interesting).
- They’re interested in real-life situations that reflect their own experience. Examples: being an adopted child, or being raised by a single (divorced) parent. “As long as the issue isn’t made a big deal of.”
- They have no strong preference for male or female protagonists (as long as the character is interesting). “The Fault in Our Starsis a perfect romance.”
- The main thing that keeps them reading is not knowing what’s going to happen. Predictability is boring, disappointing, and frustrating.
Reading and Buying Habits
- They don’t buy books unless they like them and want to add them to their collection.
- They prefer real, bound books. They love seeing beautiful covers displayed on their bookshelves. Some have never read a book on an e-reader.
- For school reading assignments (which feel like work), they prefer audiobooks.
- They make book recommendations to friends based on subject, but also to have a shared reading experience.
- A book is a “serious time commitment” so they generally prefer to read the book before watching the movie. (Spoilers take away some of the enjoyment and undermine the commitment.)
*Special thank you to Minglers Kendra Kurosawa and Karol Silverstein for sharing their Teen Panel notes.
Our YA Teen Panel was only one of the many exciting LitMingles of our 2016-2017 season. Others included:
- An Evening with Andrea Brown Senior Agent, Jennifer Rofé
- Critique Night
- Ditch the Elevator Pitch — Tell Your Story Instead.
- Wired for Story Book Discussion
- Our Annual Jingle Mingle
- And more!
If you’re interested in joining us for our monthly Monday Mingles, we meet the third Monday of each month at the Sherman Oaks Los Angeles Public Library. As we are at the mercy of the library, be sure to check the SCBWI LitMingle calendar for any last-minute changes. Or, better yet, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and request to join our mailing list so you will never miss another San Fernando Valley LitMingle.
Sherman Oaks Branch Library
14245 Moorpark Street
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.
Karen and Jennifer are SCBWI members who are both working on their first novels and would love to meet you at their next Mingle.
Images provided by the SFV LitMingle.