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Young Adult Fiction Books
The Book Muncher is the reviewing alias of a prolific teen reader. She is guilty of several overflowing bookshelves that seem to never shrink, no matter how hard she tries. Her literary diet is mostly dedicated to the young adult fiction genre but has been known to occasionally stray into middle grade or adult categories. She is a firm believer that reading and literacy are as essential to modern life as physical sustenance, that fiction is often truer than nonfiction, and that stories and words have the power to change the world.                    
1. Why do you like reading? How do young adult fiction books keep you attracted to reading?

Reading for me is more than just a pastime. It may have started out that way; I’ve been a fan of reading and stories since elementary school. Gradually, though, it has developed into almost a way of life. Through reading, I’ve lived and learned vicariously and understood what it means to be tolerant of others’ points of view. Young adult books in particular appeal to me because the main characters are my age. This more than anything keeps me attracted to reading. I love to see what interesting situations different people, real or fictional, are put in, and how they deal with those difficulties.

2. What made you start this blog?

I’ve always been an ardent book reader, and one day, while browsing through a book discussion website, I stumbled upon something I’d never encountered before: the young adult book reviewing blog. It seemed like a good idea, so a few days later, I created my own blog, The Book Muncher, and started producing book reviews.

3. Please describe how you perform a book review. How challenging is it?

I try to write book reviews immediately after I finish a book so that the story is still fresh in my mind. There are two main components of my reviews, a short summary and then the commentary. I write my own summaries because I find that sometimes book jacket summaries are misleading or inaccurate. In my review, I take into account many things, such as plot, characters, the writing itself, the nature of the content, among other things. I try to convey what worked for the novel, what didn’t, and why. I’ve never really timed how long it takes me to write a review, and the difficulty in producing the review really depends on the book. In general, though, I consider myself a rather articulate person, so writing reviews has never been a very arduous task.

4. What elements do you think are essential for a young adult fiction book to be a bestseller?

A young adult fiction bestseller needs to contain elements from the following list, the more the better: a fast paced and exciting plot, something paranormal and unique, some kind of grave danger, and a gritty or unusual topic that teens are interested in. There are definitely lots of young adult books that attempt combinations of those elements without much success. The ones that do make the cut, though, are the best of the best in each of those categories. These are the books that can resonate with readers long after they put the book down. You’ll notice that strong characters are not included on my list. I’ve found that some readers do not concentrate on this element and that they let the story be defined by something else, like the danger factor for example. I feel it is rather unfortunate that wonderful characters by themselves cannot always appeal to readers. Thankfully, many bestsellers do have strong characters anyway.

5. When should parents allow their teenage kids to read young adult books? How important is it to introduce kids to young adult fiction at the right age?

Having discovered young adult books on my own in middle school, I feel that most teens and preteens are able to judge for themselves what is appropriate for them to read. Thus, parental monitoring of reading material is not something I entirely agree with. Yes, there are definitely certain books out there with content not suitable for kids of certain ages and these books should come with a warning label of some kind (which is usually present in the book summary). However, banning children and teens from reading certain books is not a procedure I believe in. That, however, applies more to the teens who already read of their own volition and are probably capable of handling more mature topics. For the more reluctant readers, parents should probably suggest starting to read young adult literature during the transition from middle to high school. This is because the majority of young adult books have characters in the high school age range, so reluctant readers may be able to relate more.

6. Most kids don’t seem to prefer reading over an activity like playing sports or video games. What do you think parents should do differently to make their kids get attracted to reading?

The best way for someone to love reading is for them to be introduced to it early. From personal experience and accounts from friends, that definitely seems to be the trend. However, for the kids who didn’t grow up accustomed to reading and instead play video games for example in their spare time, there isn’t really a way to force them to start reading and have them like it that I am aware of. In fact, forcing books on a reluctant reader may only make them less willing to read. It seems to me that the only feasible way to make kids attracted to reading is to start young. There are lots of ways to do this. Many local libraries have summer reading programs that reward kids and teens for reading, and from my experience of volunteering in these programs, they are rather successful in motivating kids to read. Also, having a parent or older sibling reading to or with them is another way to attract kids to reading.

7. What are some of your favorite young adult fiction books? Why do you like them specifically?

My list of favorite young adult fiction books is a constantly growing one. Some of my all time favorites include:

Raider’s Ransom by Emily Diamand: This novel is a remarkable combination of imagination and adventure. The creativity put into this futuristic tale makes it so easy and fun to read and difficult to forget. This story has a universal appeal, whether to middle grade readers, fans of the classics, or teens like me. (http://thebookmuncher.blogspot.com/2009/12/raiders-ransom-by-emily-diamand.html)

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld: This steampunk novel presents an altered retelling of WWI yet with futuristic components. The effect is fascinating and undoubtedly makes for a great read. Westerfeld is really a fantastic author, and his action packed tale is one that completely enthralled me. (http://thebookmuncher.blogspot.com/2010/01/leviathan-by-scott-westerfeld.html)

Candor by Pam Bachorz: This is the fictional tale of a present day dystopia in which everyone, particularly the children and teens, are controlled by subliminal messages. This extreme depiction of a parent-child relationship takes The Stepford Wives to the next level. I found this chilling story very relevant for both teens and parents. (http://thebookmuncher.blogspot.com/2009/09/candor-by-pam-bachorz.html)

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers: This story left a lasting impression on me because of how true its portrayal of teenage stresses is. It’s an emotionally charged novel, filled with nearly everything that is associated with high school, both the good and bad, but it’s also an ultimately hopeful story. This novel will resonate with most teens. (http://thebookmuncher.blogspot.com/2009/01/cracked-up-to-be-by-courtney-summers.html)
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