Sometimes I read an article so relentlessly stupid that the only thing I can do is rant.
- What this unfortunately driven young woman’s rather sad little story suggests is that one of the major reasons other young people don’t read books is that most of the stuff published for children and adolescents is abysmal, self-regarding trash. Part of the fault rests with the packagers such as Alloy and in the way they do business. A larger part of the problem stems from publishers’ misguided belief that kids want to read about people just like themselves, living lives just like their lives. Dead wrong.
If these publishers looked to their own childhood memories rather than a spreadsheet, they’d recall that young readers, more than any others, want to be transported and shown not just other lives but whole worlds utterly different from their own. Witness the wild popularity of fantasy and science fiction among the very same kids who display the very same sensibility in their choice of video games. What could be more dispiriting than going into your room in search of escape, solace or pleasure, opening a book and reading a story about someone just like you hemmed in by the same four walls?
The conditions that have alienated so many young people from reading are hardly unique to publishing. They’re common to other forms of entertainment and news media, where the creativity and idealism of the founding personalities have been subsumed by corporate ownership. It happened long ago in the film industry, and the tormented director or abused screenwriter is now virtually a cultural archetype. It has happened to all but a handful of the country’s broadcasters and newspapers.
I call bullshit. Lots of teenagers want to read about people like them, lots don’t, and some of them want to be transported as well as read about teenagers like them. It”s not an either/or. Very few things are. Some of those transporting books also happen to be about teenagers like them. And for your information, Mr LA Times know-nothing-about-YA reporter man, many of the bestselling books (and manga and graphic novels) for teens are fantasy or science fiction. The very genres whose reason for existing is to impart that good ole sense of wonder.
There are many, many, many wonderful books of all sorts being published for, and read by, teenagers. Cassandra, who sent me the article, writes some of it, so does Margaret Mahy, Ursula K. Le Guin,, Diana Wynne Jones, Holly Black, Scott Westerfeld, Elizabeth Knox, John Green, Libba Bray, Cecil Castellucci, Jonathan Stroud, Sonya Hartnett, E. Lockhart, Audrey Couloumbis, Laura Whitcomb and too many more to name. I cannot keep up with all the amazing YA being published each year.
And this may surprise you, Mr LA Times reporter man, but some of the books published through packaging houses are really good. Scott Westerfeld’s Midnighters series is a good example, as is pretty much anything written by Maureen Johnson, not to mention the very amusing Raisin Rodriquez books by Judy Goldschmidt.
When I compare the quality of the adult bestselling fiction to the kids and teen bestselling fiction it’s the adult fiction that loses out. I feel sorry for the adults who are still reading some of the dreck on that list when they could be reading bestselling books by Libba Bray or Jonathan Stroud.
Okay, I’m going to go read a Jaclyn Moriarty book to remove the stain on my eyeballs from that stupid article.
P.S. Yes, I have conflated YA and children’s, but so did Mr Smelly Reporter Man.
Update: Of course, Cassandra said it all more succinctly and way more wittily here. If only I’d noticed that first I coulda just directed you there. And somehow I managed to miss Cecil’s post as well. Gah.