Get Your Generations On! (Older characters in YA lit – and my grandma)
It seems a truism in YA lit that adults often seem far and few between. Even when they are there, they don’t often play a significant role. And older adults? Forget about it. I have really been thinking about this since our discussion earlier this week about siblings in YA lit: Siblings? We don’t need no stinkin’ siblings. I guess I have been thinking about family dynamics and multi-generational characters in the lives of teens.
My favorite memories are of those moments spent at my grandparents house. My grandma knew all my favorite foods and would make them every time I cam to visit. As a young child, I would go to the grocery store with her and she would buy me and 8 pack of crayons and a coloring books. Even when I visited during college, she would take me to the grocery store and buy me and 8 pack of crayons and a coloring book, for memory sake. When I had children of my own, she began taking them and buying them an 8 pack of crayons and – yep – a coloring book.
|Two of my favorite people|
In the last few months of my grandfather’s life he developed dementia. Sometimes, while we were sitting at the dinner table, his mind would slip back into the past and he would talk about things as if he was in another time and place. I got a glimpse of life in the past, and to be honest, it wasn’t always pretty. In those moments I learned that my grandfather was not always the man I thought he was, but I also learned that over the space of a lifetime people grow and change.
In high school, we had an assignment where we had to interview a World War II survivor to learn first hand what the world was like then. I will never forget sitting knee to knee with this older gentleman and learning about the hunger that sat constantly in the pit of his belly, the long lines at the gas stations as you waited to get just the few gallons of gas your ration coupons would buy, the feeling of knowing that a loved one was never coming home.
My experiences with my own grandparents always makes me think, it is too bad we don’t show more multi-generational relationships in ya lit. So today, I want to spotlight a few titles that I think show the wisdom that comes from being in relationship with the generations before us.
The Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer
Truth be told, Bauer does this really well in a lot of her titles. But Rules of the Road is my favorite. It’s kind of like Driving Miss Daisy, but with a teen doing the driving.
Going Vintage by Lindsay Leavitt
When Mallory finds a list from her grandmother’s high school years, she sets out to complete it. She swears off all modern life and dives in head first, thinking her grandma’s life was so much simpler than her angsty life today. Along the way she learns that the teenage years are always the same, the various tools are simply different. Mallory’s grandma shows tremendous compassion and wisdom while being a genuine person, warts and all.
Sheridan is known as “Cake Girl” in the town that she has lived all of her life, where she can just walk a hop, skip and a jump away to see her grandmother. When her father gets offered a chance to have his own cooking show in New York, her life may change forever.
Wake (Dream Catcher #!) by Lisa McCann
Janie gets sucked into other people’s dreams, and some of them put her in terrifying risk. Miss Stubin is also a dream catcher, and she helps Janie understand her gift. Wake is a suspenseful read.
A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck
While not technically YA, this is one of those classic books that everyone can – and should – read. Told in a series of story vignette, Long Way chronicles the summers spent by siblings Joey and Mary Alice at their grandmas house which is, as you might guess, a long way from Chicago. Funny, heart felt, this is a book families can sit around and read out loud together.
Please share your favorite titles that show teens interacting in positive ways with older generations.
(PS – I cried typing up this post. I miss you grandma.)
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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