(Belated) What A Girl Wants #5 repost

I’ve fallen a little behind in reposting my responses in Chasing Ray‘s What A Girl Wants series, but maybe the delay will help spur more conversation! Here’s Colleen’s fifth question:

“How about the real girls? We all know that teen nonfiction is not a popular genre for publishers. The assumption seems to be that teens can jump right into adult NF for information they might need for reports, etc. To me though the adult titles are often densely written and more importantly do not address subjects teens would be interested in – or don’t present them in a manner that would be more appealing to teens (more pictures, etc.) What subjects do you think should be addressed in YA NF that teen girls would want to read about and just as important – should read about? Who are the real girls and real issues we are missing and how would learning about them help the girls of today?”

This is another question I can’t answer without thinking about my own reading choices as a teen. Here are three nonfiction titles I remember:

1. Our Bodies, Ourselves. It was put into my hands by an older friend who’d intuited that I would soon benefit from some of the information inside. I would never have taken it off a library shelf, but in the safety of her apartment, it was okay to read.

2. Color Me Beautiful. I wish I didn’t have such vivid recollections of this title, but I was fascinated by the premise that if you just knew what season you were, everything else in your life would fall into place.

3. Medieval People, by Eileen Edna Power. I was also fascinated by the Middle Ages, and I appreciated that the book was actually about people from the past, as opposed to Important Historical Events.

None of these titles were written for a teen audience, but they were all about subjects in which I had a compelling interest. If I were a teen today, I’d be looking online for equivalents of the first two, since despite my fascination, I found health information and fashion equally embarrassing to contemplate.

The problem I have when I try to think about teen-girl-specific nonfiction is that so many of the subjects that come to mind are exactly the kind of things I wouldn’t have wanted to admit I was interested in. And if the topic was innocuous, as with Medieval People, I’d have found a “For Teens!” treatment condescending.

So maybe teen-girl-specific nonfiction is more for parents, librarians, teachers, and the rare but vital Other Trusted Adults to buy, and simply leave somewhere the girls might stumble across it.

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