Boom in Teen Readers?
I was ecstatic when I read at Newsweek that the teen reading phenomenon is not limited to just the Harry Potter books, but I have reservations about their findings.
Levithan and others cite several reasons for this perfect storm for teen lit, the most obvious two being the increasing sophistication and emotional maturity of teenagers and the accompanying new freedom for writers in the genre to explore virtually any subject. Another is that bookstores and libraries are finally recognizing this niche and separating teen books from children's books (Newsweek).
I am sure this is all true, but the article never answered by core question: Is the rise in sales of Teen lit a result of teens buying more books or because more adults are buying Teen lit?
I hate to say this, especially as a writer, but I have not bought as many books lately as I used to. The majority of the books I have read in the past year have either been classics (at least in my eyes), franchise fiction, teen lit, or something I found on Podiobooks.com. And I know I am not alone. Most of my friends have also become turned off by the "gritty," hyper-sexualized, overly violent, and amoral books that have come out recently.
Just last month I put down a "bestseller" half-read because I couldn't take all of the unnecessary sex obsession that all of the characters suffered. I am not a prude, but I was interested in the political intrigue and was put off my the constant references to every character's sexual prowess and fantasies. Sometimes these accent a story line, but when they are overdone they just turn me off.
I also like imaginative stories that transport me into a world or life that is very different from my own. I feel like adult fiction is too often defined by its lack of imaginative settings and characters. Teen fantasy often builds imaginative settings and characters without feeling the need to coddle the reader by constantly winking at them to show that the author agrees that the setting is beyond the limits of the real world.
Hopefully, more young readers have discovered the alchemy of a good book, but I am afraid that their is not going to be anything available to carry them into adult reading.
More writers need to remember that the art of writing is not about the words, or even the story, it is the experience of the characters, setting, and the story shared with the characters. We cheer, we cry, we hope there is nothing lurking around the corner and for those glorious hours enter another world to live with or even sometimes as another person, sharing their triumphs and sorrows. This experience is essential to Teen lit, but is often secondary to the dulling sophistication and adroitness of the characters and the too oft tragic nature of the setting in an adult novel.
I hope more are reading, but we writers need to get beyond our cleverness and create characters and settings people will want to visit.
There is hope for those like me that have been disaffected by modern literati, Booklamp, is trying to build a "Pandora for books," that should make it easier to find books that more closely match up to our individual tastes. I just hope that new teen readers will keep their love affair lifelong and not loose the faith as so many do.