In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Monday, May 17, 2010

YA: good stuff & the other stuff

Dear Annie,

Getting back to the YA question. Feed is definitely dark, although its social commentary is spot-on. Marcelo and Godless, though, are both pretty life-affirming – figuring out who you are and getting comfortable with the idea. Oh sure, you might climb a water tower and go swimming inside and worry that someone might seriously injure themselves – but hey, that’s what we do at this age, in one form or another. And in the meantime you’re rejecting your parents’ religion and figuring out what you believe.

A lot of current YA books that publishers are pushing right now are series with vampires, werewolves, and faeries (with that spelling). Yech. It’s scary how unimaginative publishing companies can be – and how ruled by marketing machines. Roger Sutton, editor of The Horn Book, has a good editorial about that in the current issue. See especially his last paragraph.

So is this the moment for us to talk about the Twilight series? I resisted carrying it at the store for a while, then caved to demand. I confess I’ve only read half of one of them, and was overwhelmed by what a romance novel it was: too many adjectives, too much heavy breathing, and a too passive leading lady. Our kid clientele goes up through high school, but I 've been struck by how many of the kids who want to get Twilight are middle-schoolers. I think the movies have driven some of that -- one day I watched an argument between a boy who came up about to my elbow and his mother: "Mo-om, everyone in the whole sixth grade is reading it!" She eventually caved and got it for him.

I have a certain amount of ambivalence about reading junk. Sometimes it's relaxing and, in the context of other (better) stuff that kids are reading too, is all part of a mix. I don't think one book is going to warp anyone permanently. Yet when something takes off as much as this series has, it makes me nervous. I don't want to say a teenager shouldn't read it, but I wish eveyone who reads it had someone to have an intelligent discussion with about it. Which I gather you've done some of with your students, n'est-ce pas?



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