Writing Young Adult lit before there *was* Young Adult lit


It’s been a tough week for book lovers.

With the death of J.D. Salinger, my Twitter and Facebook feeds have been overflowing with references to the author and memories of his works. And while I was trying to sort through my own reactions, Scholastic editorial director David Levithan (co-author of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and author of Love is the Higher Law) was writing his down for The Wall Street Journal.

In particular, for those of us with a special love for YA lit, Salinger is to be thanked for more than just the mere fact that he wrote excellent books: Salinger was essentially writing YA lit before the terminology existed. As David says in his essay, “Holden Caulfield is the embodiment of what we mean by the phrase ‘young adult’ – too young to be a grown-up, but too wise to the world to be completely innocent. He’s caught in the in-between, and that in-between is what all young adult authors write about. The Catcher in the Rye was one of the first books on the shelf of our young adult literature, and for almost sixty years we’ve written plenty more in an attempt to keep it company.”

So as a fan, as a writer, as a YA lover, I tip my nonexistent hat to Mr. Salinger and prepare to tuck in to my collection this weekend as a means of tribute. Meanwhile, though, David’s words in the WSJ can offer me, and hopefully other Salinger fans, some comfort:

“If a story is true enough, if it is real enough, the author can simply disappear. Which makes it easier for the characters to live on, and for young adult literature to live on.”


Previously On Our Minds:

* “Hello Miep, and what is the news today?”
* Who decides what kids should read?
* The Big Week: selecting books for Scholastic Book Fairs

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