Allison's Book Bag

The Best Teen Writing of 2011, Compiled by Alliance for Young Artists and Writers

Posted on: July 6, 2013

“The writing in this collection represents a few of the strongest voices from 2011’s writing winner awards,” writes editor Alexander Franklin, 1989 Scholastic Award Winner, in the preface to The Best Teen Writing of 2011. The authors selected for publication join the ranks of luminaries such as Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates, and Andy Warhol, all who won Scholastic Awards when they were teenagers. The collection was published by The Alliance of Young Artists and Writers, distributed free to educational organizations throughout the United States, and makes the fourth and final of the Best Teen Writings which I’ll review this summer.

The Best Teen Writing of 2011 was dedicated to The National Writing Project who first introduced me to the anthologies and provided me with my free copies. The Alliance of Young Artists and Writers and The National Writing Project formed an alliance in 2008 with the “shared vision that talented young writers should receive attention and publication opportunities”. As a teacher, publication is something which I’ve discovered valuable for motivating and encouraging students to write, even when the publication is only at a classroom or school level. What an honor for the students featured in the Best Teen Writings to be featured on a national level!

In previous years, a certain focus seemed to dominant when it came to the quantity represented. In 2008 my favorite selections were multicultural, in 2009 several were about or written by those with special needs, and in 2010 authors emphasized social issues. As for 2011, what most stood out to me was the prevalence of experimental writing. As I read this experimental works, I felt a stronger sense of these being written for a limited literary audience instead of for the general populace. For example, several selections were written from the non-standard second person (you) point of view. Although I didn’t care for this style, I did appreciate Memoir in Full Color. Written from the family dog’s point of view, it’s one of the most poignant loss of pet essays which I’ve read, and the perspective fits.

Otherwise, the most experimental writing lay with the poems. For example, a memoir combined poetry with prose. This structure can work. As can the combination of prose with script. Novels by Walter Dean Myers helped me realize this. Yet anything which doesn’t follow a familiar structure will push readers out of their comfort zone and can ultimately lessen the pleasure. So it’s a risky but also brave choice, a wonderful combination for aspiring writers who are still discovering their voice. The poetry and prose selection in this anthology is about a romantic relationship and it held my attention until the author reverted strictly to free verse poetry and befuddled me. Other authors played with the poetry format too, one writing hers as one long paragraph and another writing his without capitalization and without stanzas. Alas, I didn’t care for either. Others might revel in this departure from traditional writing.

Despite these criticisms, I did over all enjoy The Best Teen Writing of 2011. In one experimental writing called Six Things I Don’t Know, the author wrote about a series of events connected with her parents’ divorce and her reflections upon them. How did she choose the particular six moments to highlight? With great care, I presume. Many times these types of memoirs seem to contain random moments; these all show a progression in her reaction to her parents’ divorce. One of my favorite short stories is also about divorce, but with the twist of the main character trying to arrange a United Nations party to deal with his father’s absence: “Maybe I figured two opposite people could never really understand one another, but it was worth it to at least make the effort.”

Even when I found the quality of content mixed, I appreciated reading these literary endeavors by the best of our student writers. They reassure me that in this digital generation, there are still those youth who “while others are playing outside or hanging out with their friends … somebody you know can be found holed up somewhere writing.” Moreover, in all likelihood, these youth grew up playing imaginary games, taking writing classes, and making up stories which they are writing down. Thanks to The Best Teen Writing of 2011, these youth can feel a little less lonely and a little less weird. After all, their words were valued enough to be published. For a complete listing of National Award winners and examples of winning works, visit the website of The Alliance of Young Artists and Writers.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

2 Responses to "The Best Teen Writing of 2011, Compiled by Alliance for Young Artists and Writers"

This book sounds very interesting. I’ve read a few books by teen authors and was surprised at how good they were. This is a book that should be required reading in school. I think the teens in my life would enjoy it.

Of the four anthologies which I read, I preferred the 2008 and 2009. I agree that the selections would make good examples for teachers to show of student talent.

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