Here’s another little look into YA collection development: my library doesn’t own a copy of Charm & Strange, which is especially embarrassing since I was the collector responsible for YA fiction when the book came out (I’m not right now). Taking a look at the reviews, I’m going to have to assume I was swayed by Kirkus’s ambiguous last line: “A high-powered voice rich in charismatic style and emotional intensity illuminates this ambitious debut that doesn’t quite live up to its potential.” But the reality of the situation is that I just had very little money at the end of last fiscal year, and I was looking for any reason not to buy a book. So, now you’ve caught me without a ready way of responding to your thoughtful post. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions!
First of all–I love your little statistics project, looking at the number of boarding schools in the US vs. YA lit. In addition to the reason you cited (authors are always looking for ways to get rid of the parents), I think you’ll agree that probably a huge reason behind the high number of boarding school books is the influence of a few key texts, especially The Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Peace, both of which were written when (at least from my sketchy knowledge) boarding school was a lot more common, and both of which, though published for adults, remain keystones for a large amount of YA lit.
Finally, I did take physics, and even learned about quarks, but I only remembered them being up, down, top, and bottom–I definitely would have remembered charm and strange. So apparently my teacher didn’t get very far into quarks. I guess that’s what I get for not going to one of those fancy East Coast boarding schools.