Annual Read Across Lawrence series expands to include teenagers; adult pick is Atwood’s ‘Handmaid’s Tale’

The Lawrence Public Library will now offer a teenage book selection — John Corey Whaley’s “Where Things Come Back” — for its annual Read Across Lawrence series, officials said. 

In addition the library selected Margaret Atwood’s ‘”The Handmaid’s Tale” and Blue Balliett’s “Chasing Vermeer” as its adult and children’s selections, respectively.

Karen Allen, the library’s youth services coordinator, said as the young adult genre increases in popularity it is important to recognize the literary value the genre offers readers.

“We’ve been wanting to do a teen selection for a couple of years,” she said. “Mostly because teen books are very popular and not just for teenage readers, but adults also love reading them as well.”

For the past 13 years the library has selected an adult book with mass appeal, said Jeni Daley, the library’s marketing coordinator. The library then buys hundreds of copies of the book and distributes them around town, she said.

“We try to get as many people as possible to read the same book at the same time and then we have a whole month of programs to discuss it,” Daley said. “It creates community conversations surrounding the selected piece of literature.”

Three years ago the library expanded its program by offering a children’s book selection, she said. This year will be the first time the library offers a teenage book selection.

“We really want to engage all different age groups,” she said.

Although Allen said the library is eager to begin its program for teenagers, it’s often difficult to hold that demographic’s attention.

“We get less numbers for teenage things,” she said. “They’re harder to engage. They’re on their own more, and reaching them is harder. We’re competing against so many things that they’re already interested in.” 

Regardless of the challenge, Allen said she’s confident the inaugural teenage selection, Whaley’s ‘Where Things Come Back,” will appeal to teenage readers. She described the book as “a great read” for adults and teenagers alike.

In total, the library purchased 2,200 books to hand out, Daley said. They will be distributed at select events in late January and early February, she said, and books may also be picked up at the library.

  • Adult books will be distributed on Jan. 30 during Final Friday.
  • Children’s books will be distributed on Jan. 31 at the 2 p.m. Read Across Lawrence for Kids Kickoff in the library’s auditorium.
  • Teen books will be distributed on Feb. 1 at the 2 p.m. Read Across Lawrence for Teens Kickoff, which will also be held in the library’s auditorium.

The library will also host different activities throughout February to complement its book selections, Daley said. These activities include group book discussions, a scavenger hunt, an online video chat with Whaley and an in-person visit by Atwood on Feb. 2.

Daley said since its creation Read Across Lawrence has been positively received.

“Regardless of the popularity of the author, these events are always very well-attended,” she said. “It just shows how literate and involved this community is in things that involve art and culture.”