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The YA Publishing Freak Show

Some of our most cherished childhood memories involve YA novels, from the wholesome Baby-Sitters Club to the trashy Sweet Valley High to Lurlene McDaniel’s oddly alluring books about teenagers with terminal illnesses. But back in our day, young-adult books weren’t written by reality-TV celebrities like Lauren Conrad. And while we realize that many YA authors are still primarily authors, we find ourselves overwhelmed by the recent spate of random celebrities, from politicians to musicians to talk-show hosts, penning books for tween audiences.

After the jump, we wade through the hordes of famous people who have remade themselves as young-adult authors. Use the comments to let us know whether you’re for or against this bizarre trend.

Tyra Banks

Well, Tyra can check off another item on her “Becoming the Next Oprah” to-do list. The model/ANTM mastermind/business mogul/talk-show host is about to be a YA author. Today, she announced that she’s writing a book called Modelland, about “a fantastical place you’ve never seen, or heard about, or read about before … Where dreams come true and life can change in the blink of a smoky eye.” (We wonder if the book will also talk about the not-so-magical parts of modeling, from drug addiction to anorexia.) The novel will be the first installment of Tyra’s three-book Random House deal.

Colin Meloy

The Decemberists frontman has always been a literary type, so we’re neither surprised nor skeptical about the trilogy of YA novels he’s been contracted to write for HarperCollins. He and his wife, illustrator Carson Ellis, already have a kids’ book, The Unfortunate Demise of Whitley Rackham, in the works. Meloy is also the author of a 33 1/3 book on The Replacements’ Let It Be. And if what we hear about the series, that they’re fantasy books set in Portland that take cues from Dahl, Tolkien, and Lloyd Alexander, then they’re certainly something to look forward to.

James Frey

What do you do when your memoir of drug addiction, violence, and jail time is exposed as a partial fabrication? We may have expected James Frey to just go away after the A Million Little Pieces/Oprah debacle, but instead of doing us that courtesy, he’s now… writing kids’ books? Last year, he and co-writer Jobie Hughes inked a deal with HarperCollins for the publication of the YA novel I Am Number Four, which the New York Times describes as the first installment of a series “about a group of alien teenagers who hide on earth after their planet is attacked by hostile invaders.” Now, the book doesn’t even come out until August, but that hasn’t stopped Michael Bay from getting started on a film version.

Hilary Duff

Ever since she appeared in a Gossip Girl threesome, Disney-approved Duff has been in the midst of a major I’m-all-grown-up-now image makeover. But Hilary is set to throw her tween audience a bone with a YA series for Simon & Schuster that follows a photojournalist on a mission to solve the mystery of her dad’s disappearance. The first book, Elixir, comes out in October and, according the the publisher, “combines the overpowering allure of a dangerous love triangle with thrilling international adventure.” So perhaps it’s not so different from the ménage-á-GG, after all.

Glenn Beck

Say it ain’t so, Simon & Schuster! About a year ago, the publishers signed Beck for  “a global multi-book, multi-imprint co-publishing agreement.” The conservative talk-show crazy will be poisoning the minds of adults and children alike in a series of books that will include YA titles that we can only imagine will include My Mom the Communist Baby-Killer and Why Social Justice Is Evil.

Condoleezza Rice

It turns out Beck isn’t the only Republican dipping a toe in the young-adult waters. Last year, Condi closed a three-book deal with Crown that will include both an adult and YA memoir about her family, both due out in 2012. Crown says the books will recount her “upbringing in the context of the extraordinary efforts made by her parents and other people in the community to raise children against a backdrop of fading Jim Crow laws and emergent civil rights initiatives.” We can only imagine how she’ll manage to put a conservative spin on that story…

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