Young Adult – Genre Meeting

Young Adult Mysteries

April 12, 2012

Reader’s advisory guru Barry Trott is coming to Forbes on the morning of April 26, (10 am) and everyone is invited and encouraged to participate. Sign up with Lisa.

We are having a public program on the evening of May 7 called The Modern Heroine. It is a panel discussion with three mystery authors from the New England Sisters in Crime speaker’s bureau, Jim Ciullo, Vicki Doudera, and Julie Spencer-Fleming. Everyone is invited.

Benchmark Discussion

Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Just a little bit of a mystery, easy to determine the ending, historical coming of age story, on every single list of mysteries for teens. YA may be defined as a mystery even if not all the classic characteristics of a mystery but maybe a paranormal or simply “mysterious element”. Teacher was the mysterious element for one reader. Not a deliberate untangling of facts. Based on true story. American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser written in 1925 about this same incident in much greater length or detail. YA mysteries seem to cross genres more and are generally not focused on “who-done-it”.  Setting was well done and engaging storyline. Strong female characters. Fried Green Tomatoes might be one to recommend to someone who liked this. Hard for young people to relate to this time period and it might be difficult to get young adults to read it. Great period to read about because it is a transition period for our country. Ending was disappointing or seemed out of place with rest of book especially accurate historical details. Suspenseful part was whether or not main character would go to college. Worked well as a discussion with adults unsure how it would be received by young adults.

Summaries of second books:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

May or may not be a mystery. No final reveal. Grandfather tells tales of a school in Wales he was sent to escape the Holocaust and because he was a peculiar child (supernatural powers). Whole mystery is whether or not this is true. Grandson convinces his dad to go back to school and he finds it in ruins. Kids from past show up through a time loop and verifies his grandfather’s stories are true. Concept seemed unoriginal and morals were presented in black and white. Maybe more of a classic fantasy. Presentation is different because there is a sprinkling of photos throughout. There will be a sequel. Mysterious, exciting, disappointed (in ending). (Stephanie and Ben)

Falconer’s Knot by Mary Hoffman

15th century Italy. Two 16 year olds are sent to live a monastery. The boy is sent there because he is accused of murder and the girl is sent by her brother because he doesn’t want to feed her. There is a romantic sub-plot. Characters were wooden. Lots of details about murals painted and religious life. More traditional mystery. (Paula)

Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman

1872 London, first in trilogy. Main character is orphan, her father dies under mysterious circumstances. Good versus evil. Corruption. Dark. Details of trade with China. More of a classic mystery. Some historical details were incorrect. Had a hard time finishing. Transgression of today. Main character is strong and independent and not typical. Well-written. Historical, moral tale, suspensful. Dickensonion, feminist. (Julie and Faith)

Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

First in series. Set in 1850’s London. Main character is an orphan making a living on the streets, caught in crime and is about to be hung when she is taken to a reform school. Becomes a teacher and finds out that the teachers also run a spy agency. She becomes a companion and gets involves in solving a crime. Fun and engaging relationship develops with a young man working on the same case. Race, class, gender discussed. Historical details. Strong female character. Not complex but enjoyable. (Molly)

Me the Missing and the Dead by Jenny Valentine

Short read. Set in London. Centered around teenager whose father has gone missing whom he romanticizes. He finds an urn left behind in a taxi-cab. He tries to figure out whose body this is and along the way he learns more about his father. Family drama. Well-drawn, bitter-sweet, character-centric (Jason)

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Set in England in a small village in 1950’s. Family has money but has seen better days. Main character is obsessed with chemistry, she is precocious and likeable. She finds a body in the garden and does a better job solving it than the detective. Learns family secrets, family gets closer. Stamp collecting. Funny, clever and appealing. (Dylan)

The Road Of The Dead by Kevin Brooks

Very violent, set in present day England. 14 year old boy protagonist who can receive thoughts by those that want to share. Older sister is raped and murder. Body won’t be released until murder is solved. Main character and his brother end up getting in trouble trying to solve murder. Satisfying end. Violent, suspenseful, good main character. (Susana)

Halfmoon Investigations by Artemis Fowl

Lots of books in the Artemis Fowl series. True mystery about an 11-12 year old boy that is short. He is funny and a gumshoe. A girl asks him to find a lost lock of hair. Tough kid in town is framed. They ended up teaming up in future mysteries. Feels modern with the inclusion of texting and hacking. Modern, funny, good story. (Sarah K.)

Every You Every Me by David Levithan

Best friend is not at school. What happened to her? Main character teams up with missing students boyfriend. Characters know but not revealed to reader at the end. Main character is stalked by someone leaving photos of him and his life, the missing girl, and expands from there. Lots of mysterious elements, and author makes reader question assumptions. Psychological thriller, mysterious, modern, compassionate. (Stephanie)

The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer

First in the Enola Holmes Series. Enola is the much younger sister of famous detective Sherlock Holmes. When her mother goes missing on her 14th birthday Sherlock is called in to investigate. Upon arrival at their homestead after many years away he is shocked at the beleaguered state of things. Enola takes matters into her own hands and heads off to London to find her mother and in the process solves a case, makes a friend and has quite an adventure. Historical, quirky, and engaging. (Lisa)

What makes something a young adult mystery?

Age of the protagonist but not sole factor.  Allows you to revel in your teen anst.

Boys tend to only want to read boy protagonists. Reader wants to identify with protagonist and girls are more open to reading either. Gender roles.

Lots of dystopia, edgy, dark stuff coming out now.

YA reader’s advisory often involves parents and parental restrictions.

Kids want to read stuff like the “forbidden fruit” and shock parents.


We reviewed a Novelist tutorial: How do you find books based on appeal in NoveList? We also looked at several acquisitions in the Reader’s Advisory section of reference.

Homework Assignment:

Create a reader’s profile. 2 handouts were distributed (Molly has extra printed)

Saricks, Joyce. “Writing a reader profile; or, what I like and why.” Booklist 1 Oct. 2005: 35.

Saricks, Joyce. “My reading profile.” Booklist 1 Nov. 2005: 25.

Email Molly 3 books that you have read and liked, and why and , 3 you dislike, and why, as well as a brief summary about your reading in general by May 4. Molly will send this on anonymously to another participant to develop reading suggestions. Readers advisory in action!


2 Responses to Young Adult – Genre Meeting

  1. Ben says:

    I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. It tells the story of Jacob, a young boy from a wealthy family who is determined to escape the life his parents have planned for him. When his grandfather dies under mysterious and bloody circumstances he gets his first hint that the strange stories his grandfather once told him were true. It turns out that his grandfather was a mutant, or “peculiar”, with amazing powers, and once lived on an island with many other peculiars. It turns our there is a conflict between the good peculiars and the evil pecuiliars, and Jacob finds himself with an important role to play in the struggle.

    The premise bears more than a passing resemblance to the X-Men, and I found the plotting disappointing. The book was exciting at times, and offers a strong sense of place, and will engage some readers with its unusual photographic illustrations. The male protagonist seems designed to appeal to preteen and younger teen boys.

  2. Paula says:

    I read Falconer’s Knot by Mary Hoffman. Silvano da Montacuto is sent to live in a friary for sanctuary after he is accused of murdering the husband of the woman he has been flirting with. at the same time 16 year old Chiara has been forced to join the Poor Clares nunnery as a novice by her brother, who doesn’t want the expense of feeding her. Silvano & Chiara manage to meet and work together to try to solve the murder he is accused of as well as others that occur.

    The characters are one dimensional, but there is a lot of information about religious life in 15th century Italy, as well as information about grinding pigments for mural painting.

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