OK, Who dunnit??

Yesterday, I went to the Boucheron Mystery Conference in downtown Indianapolis. I went because mystery is not one of my favorite genres. Well, I used to read Valerie Wilson Wesley. And, I just bought Deadly Charm by Claudia Mair Burney for my sister. Her son told me that “she likes mysteries with a lot of drama”. One thing I found out at the convention is that more women that men read mysteries. A few other observations

  • More mysteries are written for middle grade readers than for young adult.
  • Few, very very few mysteries are written for youngsters of color.
  • There are a lot of authors in and around Indianapolis

I’ve had several boys ask me for mysteries at school and I’ve got to tell you it has been difficult to find mysteries for YA boys, particularly African American boys. I’m in an unusual situation in my media center as the boys are more avid readers than the girls. They’re more likely to explore a variety of genres, but they’re also quite likely to want something that relates specifically and directly to them, like the young man who is about to finish Dr. Trulove and really thinks I’ll be able to find something else like that for him to read.

I did pick up one of the books in the Five Ancestors series by Jeff Stone. His stories use kung fu action/adventure and are based in ancient China. They are not mysteries, but they are books for middle grade boys. I stopped at Circle Center Mall to pick up a pair of shoes after the session. When I saw an Asian couple giving massages in the mall, I felt the pain in my neck and uneveness of my shoulders as I also had flashbacks to Taiwan. I submitted to the chair, had a wonderful massage session and having forgotten all about the conference and books and mysteries was surprised when the gentleman pointed at the Chinese characters on my book and told me how to say the words in Chinese. I haven’t read it yet, but I hope what’s inside is accurate in its portrayal if Chinese culture.

Missing from the signing session afterwards was Naomi Hirahara. Her recent book The Mystery of the Folded Crane: Origami both past and present received an Honorable Mention from the Youth Literature Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association.

When Gary Bush discussed a book about Apollo 13 with his editors, they suggested he include a teenager in the book. Bush creatively decided to include a 14 year old Latino in his book. The young boy gets into trouble at school and is suspended. Not knowing what else to do, his mother, who works in the cafeteria at NASA, decides to take her son to work with her. The young boy is able to meet famous astronauts and is there when the tragedy takes place with Apollo 13. I asked Bush why a Latino character and he said that given the population of Houston at that time in history, it was the right thing to do. Cultural elements were not an issue for him.

So, why so few mysteries for teens? Of color? One author seemed to think that middle schoolers enjoyed the age appropriate genre but teens were more likely to read adult mysteries. That to me is as lame as discounting YA books in general. Perhaps teens are just so introspective that mysteries just don’t work for this age group. Perhaps they just haven’t been written yet.

6 thoughts on “Mysteriously

  1. I would love to read more YA mysteries with poc. I just haven’t found any. I would love to see more mysteries being written for teens in general (especially a girl detective of color, a la Nancy Drew and what Colleen was discussing in What a Girl Wants).
    I’m going to check out the 5 Ancestors series 🙂


  2. It’s hard to find YA mysteries period. They are few and far between featuring White female protagonist, so you can pretty much forget finding mysteries featuring people of color, especially boys.

    As much as I love mysteries I wish more could be find in MG/YA.

    I want to read City of Fire. Its has four main protagonists, and I do beleive it is a mystery.


  3. Edi, great find. Did my best to match it but alas I came up empty though I did find

    The Perfect Shot by Elaine Marie Alphin-
    Looks like it could be a solid YA mystery

    Its crazy how we have to turn into detectives to find MG/YA featuring people of color.

    I want a badge.


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