The Ultimate Teen Book Guide
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The Ultimate Teen Book Guide
Guides to reading are notoriously difficult: guides to reading for teenagers are yet more so. They carry the inherent danger of hierarchies and give the impression of confirming a canon of literature which can seem to rule out many of the titles that teenagers actually want to read with a will. And, to make matters worse, people tend to think that the information should be for free.
But, none of this applies to The Ultimate Teen Book Guide. A sequel to The Ultimate Book Guide, this has the same virtues of being a selection based solely on personal recommendation which frees it from all sense of ‘instruction and improvement’ as well as charges of creating a hierarchy of literature. This is reinforced by the layout which is based simply on an alphabetical listing of titles. Thus Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is followed by Journey to the River Sea; Ethel and Ernest by An Evil Cradling. There are no genre-based categories, no age-guidance, no sense of progression from an easy to a more ‘challenging’ book. The only guidance comes from the individual who has recommended each title. The spread is eclectic and timeless, a useful device as old books sit comfortably alongside recent publications without either carrying the usual baggage of ‘classic’ versus ‘contemporary and edgy’. There is no upper age limit either. While Pride and Prejudice and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie are familiar and obviously choices for teenagers, Silas Marner is not as much so. As Eleanor Updale who chose it points out, Middlemarch is the usual teen introduction to George Eliot though it has far less to recommend it to that age group not least because of its length.
Most of the recommendations are from authors and they are certainly the ones of most interest because of the added value that is inherent within them. One author writing about the work of another is often a reflection of the way in which writers are influenced by each other. That in itself creates a connection which should send readers back to the recommenders’ work as well as forward to what is recommended.
The addition of a ‘Next?’ box for each title opens out a range of further reading linking in other books by the same author and suggestions of other books by authors writing the same sort of thing.
The very simplicity of the idea behind this and the unpretentious nature of the entries are what make this so successful. Teen readers can look up a book they’ve already heard of from another source or, they can leaf through and happen on a book that sounds good to them. Where they already know and like an author, they can flick through and find out what he or she recommends.
One minor improvement: an index of who has recommended what would be of more use than the standard biographies section which has been included. JE