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Literature for Today's Young Adults (8th Edition) Hardcover – April 17, 2008

17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0205593231 ISBN-10: 0205593232 Edition: 8th

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Why is Literature for Today’s Young Adults the number one book in Young Adult Literature?


Now in its eighth edition, Literature for Today’s Young Adults offers a comprehensive, reader-friendly introduction to young adult literature framed within a literary, historical, and social context. Renowned authors Alleen Nilsen and Kenneth Donelson provide teachers with practical criteria for evaluating books of all genres, from poetry and nonfiction to mysteries and graphic novels. The authors also include timely issues, such as pop culture and mass media, in order to help teachers connect with students’ lives beyond the classroom.


What is new to this edition?

  • A brand new Chapter 3, “New Technologies, New Attitudes, and New Literacies,” examines both the challenges and the excitement today’s educators face on a daily basis.
  • The 20 Young Adult authors honored with the Margaret A. Edwards Award over the past two decades each receive a one-page write-up documenting their long-lasting contributions.
  • Eight outstanding Young Adult Authors “Speak Out” on issues close to their hearts; for example, Pat Mora on “Linguistic Wealth,” Cynthia Leitich Smith on “Hosting One-Point-Six Million Visitors in Cyberspace,” and Laurie Halse Anderson on “Censorship.”
  • Names and naming is discussed as a literary technique that teachers can use to introduce students to literary criticism that goes beyond just liking and disliking a book.

What do professors say about this top-selling book?

“The Donelson and Nilsen text is a virtual compendium of essential information for educators, librarians, and those who use literature in their work with young adults.”

-Beverly Hearn, University of Tennessee at Martin

 “The censorship chapter is really interesting and well-researched.”

          -Dr. Joy Wiggins, University of Texas at Arlington


About the Author


Ken Donelson and Alleen Nilsen, professors of English at Arizona State University, became friends and colleagues before they met each other. They both earned their Ph.D. degrees at the University of Iowa from G. Robert Carlsen, a pioneer in the field of young adult literature. Ken was Carlsen’s first Ph.D. student, with Alleen coming along a decade later. When Alleen and her husband moved to Arizona State in 1973, one of the first people she visited was Ken because Professor Carlsen had talked about him in class and had recruited Alleen as a writer for the Arizona English Bulletin, which Ken was editing.

Nevertheless, Professor Carlsen was surprised when his two former students, who happened to find themselves in the same part of the country, started working together because he thought they were so different.  Ken writes like a historian, focusing on what’s old, while Alleen writes like a journalist, focusing on what’s new. And while Ken was a leader in fighting censorship, Alleen was a leader in fighting sexist language, which some people interpret as a form of censorship. She is the one who suggested they take turns with whose name goes first on each edition.  In spite of their differences, what they learned from Professor Carlsen brought them together in support of the academic study of young adult literature.  In 1973, they helped found ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE); both have received ALAN’s Award for “Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Young Adult Literature,” and both served as presidents of ALAN. In 1974, they were the founding editors of The ALAN Newsletter, the forerunner of what is now The ALAN Review.  After proving that they respected each other and could work together, they applied to be coeditors of the English Journal, a job they held from 1980 to 1987 when they wrote the first edition of Literature for Today’s Young Adults.

Thanks to Ken’s knowledge of history and his interest in censorship, the book was more complete than other textbooks of the time which mostly focused on realistic problem novels–books sometimes identified as bildungsroman or

apprenticeship novels–which are still the books most obviously identified as YA. But what Ken and Alleen demonstrated was that every genre, from adventure and biography to mysteries, fantasy, poetry, and the supernatural, were being written for teenagers and deserved a place in schools and libraries. And because Alleen’s first job at Arizona State University was teaching in the Department of Library Science in the College of Education, it seemed natural for them to bring in the work of librarians and reading teachers as well as of English teachers.

What has kept Literature for Today’s Young Adults the leading textbook in the field is the authors’ continuing love and enthusiasm for their chosen field of study. For each edition they have highlighted new and interesting trends and illustrated them with lively discussions of well-written books. It has helped that they are well-rounded scholars and have remained active in education as a whole.

Ken has published over five hundred articles, mostly on censorship, YA books, and problems in teaching secondary English reflecting his thirteen years of teaching high school English in Iowa. His articles, as well as others related to college teaching, have appeared in such journals as Clearing House, English Journal, High School Journal, and School Library Journal. Ken collected YA books published from 1850 through 1950 and when he retired from ASU he donated some eight hundred historical YA books and a nearly complete run of The Dime Novel Round-Up to ASU’s Hayden Library. The collection is strong in books by Kirk Munroe, Ralph Henry Barbour, and John Tunis, and in two Stratemeyer Literary Syndicate heroes, Tom Swift and Nancy Drew.  Alleen has worked with her husband, linguistics Professor Don L. F. Nilsen, to promote a new approach to the teaching of vocabulary, as explained in Vocabulary Plus: High School and Up: A Source-Based Approach and Vocabulary Plus K—8: A Source-Based Approach (Pearson, 2004). Their Encyclopedia of 20th-Century American Humor (Oryx/Greenwood) was chosen by the American Library Association as one of the twenty best reference books published in 2000. In 2007, they published Names and Naming in Young Adult Literature as part of the Scarecrow Series in Young Adult Literature, edited by Patty Campbell. Alleen is also the author of Joan Bauer, the first book in Greenwood Press’s series Teen Reads: Student Companions to Young Adult Literature (2007), edited by James Blasingame.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Pearson; 8 edition (April 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0205593232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0205593231
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 1.1 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #419,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie on June 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Nilsen and Donelson have created an outstanding textbook that not only gives valuable information, but is a wonderful reference source. The text includes the history of adolescent literature, the various genres, and suggestions on incorporating young adult literature into the classroom. I personally enjoyed reading excerpts on authors and their opinions on a plethora of issues. Also, within the chapters there are focus boxes that categorize books and movies into genres, with a review on each, so it is extremely easy to locate a book that you might want to use in your classoom. Young adult books are oftentimes very controversial and Nilsen and Donelson deal with this head on. Nilsen and Donelson interviewed several authors who gave their opinions on censorship and the text includes reference sources to censorship and an extensive list of books. Overall, this is a text that I will certainly not sell back. It is well crafted and easy to use!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By paul nelson on July 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Having graduated from high school in 1979, I found my insights into teen literature to be prehistoric at best. As a "utility classroom teacher," I have to keep up with a variety of subjects. This book is a great help to anyone who needs to get a grasp of Young Adult literature, an important topic.
In an age when teens face, more than ever, the difficult issues the world places at their door, (drug and alcohol usage, sexuality, health and family conflict)any teacher entering the reading classroom should be familiar with literature that is current, educational and helpful. This volume provides insight into current authors and trends in Young Adult literature, as well as reviewing "old standards" and interviewing authors. It is an extremely helpful book for anyone who must not only educate but also provide guidance.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Bonomo on June 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
A review of "Literature for Today's Young Adults" Nilson/Donelson 6/6/01
Because I am not an avid reader, I needed a good guide to the different genres and adolescent novels that are available to and for young adults. I found the Nilson/Donelson text to be a great source of knowledge for me. It was very informative as to what each different novel offered to young adults and the controversy surrounding it. The authors were very descriptive with the information of each novel and author. The text was also helpful in providing me with ideas to use in my classroom of young adults as far as discussion of the issues that each novel dealt with. For a novice like myself is was very helpful! I would recommend this text for any teacher of Young Adult Literature. Especially for the first year teacher!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kelly A. June on July 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Nilsen and Donelson's comprehensive text provides much needed insight and clarification for those who are involved with young adults and books. Focusing on such YA topics as fantasy, New Realism, and adventure, this text leads the reader through the various genres, as well as critiquing various authors and their books. This feature is especially helpful because, as a teacher, I can not read all the authors and books available. By providing these condensed lists and descriptions of current and classic books, as well as lists of Hollywood tie-ins, the authors enable classroom teachers and librarians to survey a larger range of books than they would ordinarily be able to. The authors also cover the issue of censorship, making the distinction between concerned parents and the avid censor. In discussing censors, however, the authors deal rather unfairly with the religious right, ascribing fanatical views to groups devoted to restoring traditional values to the classroom. Conversely, the left is treated in a much more favorable light, while their political biases are downplayed.
Overall, I found this text to be very useful and intend to further my reading with some of the selections highlighted by these authors.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Literature for Today's Young Adults, by Aleen Pace Nilsen and Kenneth L. Donelson, Sixth Edition. I purchased this book for a class in adolescent literature, and have found to be the book very good and very thorough. The book includes many chapters about modern adolescent literature and their various controversies. Besides being an interesting book, I found it very thorough because it includes varied points of view, and includes many articles written by the authors themselves who write novels for young adults.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By BookBabe on July 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one textbook I actually enjoy reading! If you are interested in Young Adult literature, either from an educator's or a parental perspective, this book is a great place to learn more. Of course, being a textbook, there is a section on the history of the genre, but it's actually interesting. But the best feature of this book is the the Focus Boxes which list current titles with brief summaries as examples of each format and genre. Also useful is a chronological list of award-winning books which appears near the beginning of the book. This is one text I plan to keep, then replace with newer editions as they are published.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L. Wilson on January 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This textbook type book is an easy read, full of information regarding young adult characteristics in appealing writings, the growth and development of young adult literature and excellent listings, bibliographies and related web sites. Anyone working with young adults and literature will find this book a treasure.
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