- Looking for Canada:Places and Cultural Spaces in Recent Fiction for Adolescents
In writing this review, a group of graduate students and I set out to map the terrain of the most interesting recent Canadian adolescent literature written in or translated into English. We were interested in how a sense of place intersects with the cultural landscapes of contemporary Canada as produced or represented spaces in Canadian literature for young people.
I work in a master's program with an interdisciplinary focus on children's and young adult literature at the University of British Columbia. Students take courses in English, Creative Writing, Library, and Education departments. When I was asked to review recent Canadian young adult fiction, I invited students from the program who were also taking my courses (Teaching Adolescent Literature and/or Introduction to Research in the Teaching of Literature) to collaborate with me. Both courses introduce a variety of theoretical perspectives on young adult literature. Some of the students have previous experience writing reviews for journals and magazines, and others don't, but all are sophisticated and avid readers of young adult literature. The process of writing collaboratively, however, is often a challenge, and this project was not without its trials. My sense is that some of the co-authors were simply happy to complete the "assignment" and move on to other projects, while others continued to work on several drafts and contribute to conversations about the works and the perspectives taken. My position of power as professor allowed me a certain freedom to shape and reshape the reviews as my own interest in the topic developed.
We began our exploration with a box of books sent for us to review by the editors of Jeunesse, formerly CCL/LCJ. From that box, we began by choosing those works that were published most recently (between 2007 and 2009) and were addressed to older adolescent readers, but might also appeal to a broader audience. Members of the group also suggested other novels that might qualify, several of which are included.
While many of us had the opportunity to read several books, I asked the group to review books that might be considered "edgy." By "edgy," I meant works that resist discourses of adolescence as a "stage" or notions, such as those critiqued in the work of educational theorist Nancy Lesko, of adolescents themselves as dangerous and endangered beings. I asked the group to consider books that disrupt boundaries between adolescence and adulthood, use alternative narratives or formats, or challenge notions of appropriate content; in other words, literary works that assume their audience to be sophisticated readers and open to new literary forms. In one of several group conversations, this notion of "edginess" became more fine-tuned.
There was a clear consensus in the group...