Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 19, 2008

An Evening of Literature for Teens

Our class began by gathering around Ellen Wittlinger in the Odyssey Bookshop, listening to her read from Love and Lies: Marisol’s Story. Ellen answered students’ questions about writing with honesty, good humor, and encouragement. We were happy as we bundled up to walk a short way through the night to our classroom.

There, Andrew gave a Powerpoint overview of teen literature starting with Goethe’s adolescents. How can you not be fond of a young man who can put Little Women, Gossip Girls, and Paradise Lost in a single sentence? (Or for that matter, compare the hierarchies of friendships in Winnie-the-Pooh with those in Clueless?)

Jack spoke about graphic novels as somewhat evolving from picture books, and gave a close look at Scott Mill’s Big Clay Pot. Alex gave us a taste of the work of Francesca Lia Block, raising the issue of the difficulties of marking lines between literature for teens and that for adults, and bringing us back to fairy tales and a different way to approach the genre through Block’s long winding sentences bristling with the tangible.

One student spoke of the awkwardness of looking at the teen years when really they weren’t so far away, and hadn’t been that great. And might just as soon be forgotten. Many felt more comfortable looking at work that’s more clearly across the divide, on the side of childhood. But everyone did their best at looking back and I think we all grew a little from the challenge.



  1. “bristling with tangibles.” Perfect. One of my pet peeves is fantasy (which I love as a genre) that takes unknowns and newness and magic and delivers them vaguely and with grayness. You just described the exact opposite–which the best of the genre does!

  2. Yes, you can get me to read almost anything if it has enough good common nouns in it!

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