Q&A: Melissa Ferguson, Knox County Branch Library Manager and Chair of the Teen Services Committee

A Knox County branch library manager, Melissa Ferguson is chair of the Teen Services Committee, which is hosting the Teen Summer Reading "Divergent" Party for ages 11-17 on Saturday, July 26, 2-4 p.m. at the Burlington Branch Library (4614 Asheville Hwy). Divergent, by Veronica Roth, is a book set in a dystopian Chicago society divided into five factions: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. On the appointed day, 16-year-old citizens must select a faction for the rest of their lives.

What makes Divergent so appealing to teens and pre-teens?

Dystopian fiction is really big in Young Adult lit right now, so there's that, but I think also that teens identify with the characters in the book who are sort of told all along what kind of people they are expected to be—and then find that maybe that's not the people they actually want to be. And then mayhem ensues. And usually romance, too. Teen books are all about mayhem and romance!

How does it compare to, say, Harry Potter's sorting hat or the Hunger Games?

There's also this idea in those books of being sort of predestined to belong to a certain group and then the individuality of the teens in the books kind of break the mold. Except maybe for Harry. He was a perfect Gryffindor.

At the party, how will teens sort themselves into Divergent-style "factions?"

There's a quiz they can take. And we'll have different crafts and games that go along with the themes and symbols that are particular to each faction. The Amity faction, for example, is happy and creative, so we'll be doing a fun spin-art craft with bright paints to represent them.

Do you need to have read the book to come to the party?

Absolutely not! We hope tweens and teens will have a great time at the party and it will inspire them to read the book.

So this is not really an all-ages event?

No! This is a KCPL Teen Summer Reading event that is exclusively for those ages 11-17, and you don't have to have completed Teen Summer Reading to come to the party.

What are some of the other books that have been popular recently with your teen readers?

The Fault in Our Starsby John Green; We Were Liars by E. Lockhart; Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell; City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare; and the Selection series by Kiera Cass.

Are there other library events coming up for teens?

We will have our second annual Teen Read Week costume party in October. We encourage teens to dress as their favorite book characters for the party.

How did this event end up being all about Divergent?

We hold a Teen Summer Reading party every year and try to align it with a popular current theme or book, which of course this year was Divergent—it was popular when it came out a couple years ago but the popularity really spiked when the movie came out.

What did you read when you were a teen?

Pretty much everything I could get my hands on. I remember going through an Agatha Christie phase in high school and I've loved historical mysteries ever since. I should add that YA fiction has come a long way since I was a teen!

If someone 11-17 doesn't find Divergent appealing, what other books might you suggest?

Younger teens love the Warriors books by Erin Hunter. There's the first in a new adventure series by Justin Somper out called Allies & Assassins—I haven't read it yet, but it looks good. I love the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter about high school spies, and the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan remains popular, especially with guys. And romance readers may enjoy books by Sarah Dessen or Susane Colasanti.