Written by Duana

I had the great fortune last weekend of attending the Teen Read Awards here in Toronto. Great fortune except inasmuch as I had to rein in my envy that there were no Teen Read Awards when I was a teenager. Not that I’m bitter about hiding in the library in grade 8 with my Ellen Confords and Lois Duncans.

The nominees were in categories like “Best Canadian Read” and “Best All-Time Favourite” – but also ‘Best Liplock’, ‘Best Hottie’ and other completely and totally absorbing categories. I’m not being facetious. The YA phenomenon, well loved by Lainey, me, and tons of you (and ‘TEEN Read Awards’ aside, I saw a number of 20- and 30-somethings masquerading as chaperones but loving it every bit as much), means that readers can get as involved with our book characters as we do with the TV and movie characters we love. It’s fantastic. These are not the days of secretly passing around the Christopher Pike books and not knowing if you should be embarrassed at the neon covers or not. (My 26 year old brother-in-law, in a mainly-female masters class, admits to this secret-passing technique where the “Twilight” series is concerned – but that’s another topic for another time.)

And can I also point out that Indigo rewarded their teen readers in a way I’ve never seen before? The events were held at a venue that’s frequently a club. Hors d’oeuvres were passed. Maybe things have changed since I was young but I would have been utterly charmed to be passed a mini grilled cheese or a brownie-on-a-skewer – as though I was a grown up. There were swag bags – more on that later.

The attendees, who, I’m told, came from hours and hours away after lining up to get tickets, also got to see Dan Levy and Jessi Cruickshank host what was essentially a teen-book-themed Aftershow – and that was after Emily Osment came to perform two tunes from her new album. She’s cute and age appropriate in her snood-and-miniskirt combo, even if I’m not totally sure all the readers in the audience would be inclined to pull off the same fashion combination. Comparisons to La Cyrus are going to be inevitable for her but as far as I could hear, girl can sing.

And naturally, due to the already Rock-and-Roll event, when Kelley Armstrong won ‘Best Canadian Read’ for ‘The Reckoning’ and went up to accept the award (not all the authors were able to be there), well – I kid you not – the kids cheered her as she left the stage all ‘Kel-ley! Kel-ley! Kel-ley!’

So what does this all mean? Why has reading come out of the closet in such a way? And do I get to be bitter about it or not? It’s easy to wonder if the vampire-drenched offerings are the lowest common denominator but first, lots of them are well written, second, there are plenty of books teens love that aren’t supernaturally-themed, and finally – and most importantly – I know a whole lot of smart, intelligent women, myself included, who were not unduly tarnished by the unapologetic melodramatic incest that was V.C. Andrews.

It’s easy to go from here to ‘Well, if only Lindsay Lohan read. If only someone slipped her a copy of Harry Potter’. I’m not saying that’s going to fix anything. But kids, teens – even grownups – with a love of reading have always been considered kind of fringe, and to bring them happily and brightly and swag-baggedly out of the closet? This is what we need more of.

Did I mention that when J.K. Rowling won ‘Best All Time Fave’ for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” (She lost “Best Read” to ‘Catching Fire’, which I’m not sure I agreed with) she sent a personal statement that Dan Levy got to read himself? I’m not exaggerating when I say I pretty much snatched it out of his hands…read below.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you, to everybody who voted. I'm thrilled, honoured and humbled to receive the awards, especially from Canada, where I have spent many happy hours with some of Harry's most devoted and knowledgeable fans. … (I) send my love and gratitude to the Canadian branch of Dumbledore's Army."

I’m deep in the middle of “Cracked Up To Be”. What should be next on my Teen Read List?

(From Lainey: I’m reading Words That Start With B, the debut novel by Vikki Vansickle, my YA guru.)

For more on Teen Read click here.