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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Series that stick

Dear Aunt Debbie,

When I asked my ninth-graders what attracted them to the Percy Jackson series, in particular, their responses mirrored the comment on your last post (written by one of my students, I assume -- hi!).  They cited fast-paced action, humor, relation to normal teenage life, and the pleasure of reading something where fantasy and reality clash.  They also characterized the books as quick, easy, fun reads, attractive at any age.

What's the line between action/adventure series that stay with you and those that fade?  Does it have to do with the amount of time you give them to sink in, as you say played a part in the initial popularity of Harry Potter?  With the depth of complexity of the plot?  With the cultural resonance a particular series has at the moment you read it?

It's not exactly YA, but the series Jeff and I have recently found ourselves being pulled into is George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire (yes, we came to it via HBO's Game of Thrones). I feel justified in mentioning it here by the fact that a number of my older students have devoured the series.  The extent of their interest was confirmed for me when I ran across three major plot spoilers while reading my students' English Regents exams last spring.  That's right, Game of Thrones right up there next to The Great Gatsby as a text for the "critical lens" essay.

Is there something in the cultural and political air that makes Martin's plot twists particularly appealing right now -- the descent into civil war, perhaps?  Or are strong characters the driving force, the thing that makes a series last?

Which books that you're selling now do you think will have staying power?

Love, Annie

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