So You Think You Know Young Adult Literature: Memorable Adults
Jim Brewbaker, Columbus State University
Until the late sixties, fiction for teenagers-called junior novels at the time by many librarians and English teachers-frequently involved a formulaic plot in which adolescent protagonists relied on a wise adult, a stock character, to help them see the error of their ways, solve their problem, and the like. In such novels wise adults could be parents or grandparents, teachers, or others. Today, much of adolescent fiction still features significant adult characters, but the part they play is far more representative of real life, with good guys and bad, adults with insight, and adults who border on being clueless.
This issue's quiz asks you to recall important adult characters (other than family members) in contemporary YA novels. To play, match the fourteen character descriptions, A-N, with the alphabetized list of authors and titles, 1-14. Answers on page 52.
A. Mr. Cassidy, whom the kids call Hopalong, an overweight frustrated teacher who thinks up a zany school assignment that teaches the basics of parenting.
B. A demanding English teacher (and title character) whose high standards coupled with a heart condition lead to tragedy.
C. Sensual Felina, Toy's mother, who seduces Mick, the Irish-American blue-eyed son.
D. Lemry, a teacher who hides the disfigured title character from her abusive father.
E. Mr. Levine, a Holocaust survivor who builds a replica of the Polish village he lived in before World War II.
F. Mr. Loomis, a survivor of a nuclear explosion who makes life difficult for Ann Burden.
G. Mrs. Narwin, an English teacher victimized by circumstances, the education bureaucracy, and the press in this 1990s Newbery honoree.
H. Ruth, the family maid who gives Patty Bergen the human warmth she lacks from her unfeeling mother and abusive father.
I. A senior citizen (and title character) with a collection of porcelain farm animals who is taken advantage of by John and Lorraine.
J. Mrs. Sims, who comes to love Georgie, an abused little boy, sometime after the drowning of her own son.
K. A slave (and title character) who returns to the plantation to teach Sarny and others how to read.
L. Timothy, the Caribbean islander who saves Philip Enright's life when a German sub sinks the ship on which he is a passenger.
M. Trotter, a foster mother who helps a rebellious twelve-year-old title character find stability after her flower-child mother, whom the girl idolizes from afar, all but abandons her.
N. Mr. Zavodsky, in whom the ten year-old girl and title character sees a striking resemblance to Adolf Hitler.
Authors and Titles
1. Avi, Nothing But the Truth
2. Judy Blume, Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself
3. Robert Cormier, Tunes for Bears to Dance To
4. Chris Crutcher, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes
5. Lois Duncan, Killing Mr. Griffin
6. Anne Fine, Flour Babies
7. Betty Greene, The Summer of My German Soldier
8. Irene Hunt, The Lottery Rose
9. Chris Lynch, Blood Relations and Dog Eat Dog
10. Robert O'Brien, Z for Zachariah
11. Katherine Paterson, The Great Gilly Hopkins
12. Gary Paulsen, Nightjohn
13. Theodore Taylor, The Cay
14. Paul Zindel, The Pigman