>Liz Burns and Marc Aronson have been keeping an eye on the Best Books for Young Adults drama. That list is going to become strictly YA fiction; the Alex Awards (adult books of potential interest and value to teens) and) list will get bigger, thus picking up the adult book slack; and the new YALSA nonfiction award will publicize its list of nominations, thus theoretically increasing the visibility of nonfiction.
The reason given for the change is that too many books get nominated for BBYA and committee members feel overburdened by the reading. But if I have this right, only one committee member (or YALSA member) needs to nominate a book to get it onto that big list. When I was on BBYA back in dinosaur times, this nomination process produced some true stinkers, books that were only nominated because someone felt bad about not doing something for a book he or she got free in the mail. (Let’s hope the nonfiction award contenders are going to be nominated with a bit more rigor if they are going to be publicized as recommended books.) Why not simply increase the number of nominations needed to, say, three? A book that has only one nomination for a choice made by a committee of fifteen is not going to make the list, so why waste everyone’s time?
I also worry that the decision is shortsighted. The money in children’s publishing right now is in YA fiction, aided by a now-passing boom in the teen population and an adult crossover readership, which will also pass once adult publishing figures out how to make even more money from these readers. At its best, the BBYA list displays the intersection at which YA librarianship is supposed to live: fiction and nonfiction, adult and juvenile, words and pictures (graphic novels are also banished from the new list and relegated to their own.) I think what the new system gives us is a bunch of bitty lists whose individual and collective power will be considerably diminished. It’s similar to what happens when you have give out too many awards–whoops, that’s another post.