In 2011, I started keeping track of the YA books that made the “best of” lists across the professional publications, which include Kirkus, Horn Book, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and in instances where it’s happened, Library Journal. My methods of data collection have varied a little each year, as sometimes I’ve been more interested in one element than another or it’s a matter of time, energy, and having read or having had access to titles to verify what they do or do not include.
Since there’s now been four years of data, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at the similarities and differences as seen through these lists. This will be an imperfect post with imperfect data; it wasn’t until the last couple of years I better understood what I was looking at and how to look at it. That means some of the data might be lacking in some years and it might be inaccurate in others. That doesn’t change what’s worth thinking about, though.
All of the data comes from the following posts:
- In 2011, 8 books were primarily about or featured a main character of color. 2 featured main characters who identified as LGBTQ. I did not count authors in this year, citing that finding the information was too difficult, and I believe this — people have been identifying more in the last couple of years, making that information more public and accessible.
- In 2012, there were 89 books and 90 authors represented in the data. I collapsed representation of people of color this year, meaning the count included both the authors who identified and he books that featured a main character of color. There were 20 titles/authors that fit. A total of 6 books featured LGBTQ main characters or story lines.
- In 2013, I kept the author/character counts separate for people of color, and I found that 8 of the authors were people of color, and 10 of the books featured main characters of color, for a total of 18. There were 55 authors and 62 main characters. A total of 5 books by my count featured main characters who identified as LGBTQ, though as noted in the comments, I didn’t include The Dream Thieves, so there are actually 6.
- In 2014, there were 14 main characters/authors that I identified as people of color and a total of 6 books that featured LGBTQ main characters or story lines.
There’s not a lot else to dig into when comparing the data that’s particularly useful — I note every year that Candlewick seems to have a good number of titles on “best of” lists for a publisher as small as they are, and I also note every year that books published as hardcovers have a markedly better time of being recognized as “best of” titles than paperback originals or split run titles. Books published in April, May, September, and October have better chances of landing on lists than those published in November, December, January, July, and August.
Journals have been changing their number of titles selected each year, and that’s been interesting to see. A few years ago, Kirkus selected 100 titles; this year, they selected 50. Not all of them ended up in my count, since they included fiction and non-fiction, but Kirkus still has the largest number of titles on the list, and the titles Kirkus selects more often only end up on the Kirkus list, as opposed to showing up on numerous lists.
Another worthy element to consider, which I haven’t here but could if I were to dig up all of my original spreadsheets, is whether there are authors who are perennial favorites. I have a suspicion, for example, that Maggie Stiefvater and A. S. King are two authors who have appeared every year on these lists (in fact, I know that they have!). Anyone who is up for the challenge of ferreting that out is more than welcome to do so, and I’d be happy to include that work in a link round-up feature here.
So, with all of this data now here, what’s surprising? Is there anything worth thinking about or any conclusions worth drawing? What sort of picture does this paint about what is considered the best in any given year? What is going on in science fiction?
I’d love to hear thoughts and ideas about this, or anything else noteworthy in the “best of” lists, as there’s now a four-year look at data.