Reading Matters: Action!

Young adult literature continually stretches the boundaries of genre but what about medium?  In bringing a writer, a poet and a graphic novelist together, the notion of stories for young adults can be explored across mediums to the heart of the matter – the truth.

Panellists:   Gayle Forman (If I Stay, Just One Day); Tim Sinclair (Run); Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Drama)

Moderated:  Adele Walsh, Centre for Youth Literature


Is young adult literature a genre or readership?

Sinclair: “It’s just awesome.”

Truth and daring were two phrases that arose time and again during the Action! panel.  Whether prose, poetry or picture form, the authors felt that their stories needed to be believable and true to their core audience.  In the end, their responsibility is to write true stories about the teen experience.

PT Action Tim Sinclair

Action Brendon

The wants and needs of the adults that impact teens’ reading weren’t the goal.  This was further tackled with the discussion on use of objectionable language – Sinclair responded to objections from adults about his use of swearing“…poetry is about playing with language, and if swearing isn’t language then I don’t know what is.”  Forman summarised what she and her peers do in exacting terms: “I write for young people, but not young stories.”  What was clear – it’s not about the age of the reader, it’s about the story.

The inclusion of characters who are from the LGBTQI community, sometimes viewed as problematic by some gatekeepers, was addressed. Telgemeier stated her belief that gay characters depicted in pictures seems to be more confronting for people than just in writing. Adults need to remember “…kids are the same, not matter where they are from. They worry about the same things across any boundaries.”

Action Danielle

Courage in the face of adolescence was a strong theme with the panel’s protagonists but when has this transposed to real life?  Sinclair dismissed the idea of bravery but concentrating on writing what the book needs.  Forman initially believed ‘If I Stay’ to be unpublishable and pushed on regardless.  Telgemeier was told that comics for young girls would never sell.  Each of the panel, like their characters, demonstrated perseverance and a strong belief in themselves to achieve success.

There was a constant theme of belief.  We need to hold strong to stories about all kinds of teens, not what we want for them.  Find the books that speak to them, not you.  “… getting new books in about more recent issues we’re faced with now.  Because the things we’re dealing with now aren’t the things people were dealing with 50, 20 years ago.” 




Recommended Reads

Catch up with the top titles our panellists recommended during this event >





  1. Sue Osborne says:

    The best part of hearing this awesome panel for me was the validation of my skills as a YA librarian – I already had many of the panel’s recommendations in our collection. I was very chuffed. Tim’s point about writing a good story was a good one – doesn’t matter who you re writing for, if there is no decent story you are dead in the water.

Leave a comment

Comments may be reviewed before being published.

Please read our blog guidelines before you reply.

Will not be published