Saturday, July 9, 2011

Teen Writers Summer Blogfest--Ask the Teens

I'm really sorry to have missed the first page critique. Vacation, you know. We just got back home at 11 last night, so bear with me.

Today the other participants and I will be answering questions submitted by readers about YA lit, what teens prefer, how teens read, etc. I am grateful for a chance to answer these kinds of questions. Often, when I read the blogs of agents and editors, they'll make broad, assumptive, and/or high-and-mighty statements about young adults and young adult literature--to which my indignant reaction is, "That's not true!" Or at least, not as true as they seem to believe.

So, we have four questions from Jess, which I will endeavor to answer. :)

1.) Middle grade novels are defined as books for the 8-12 age range. Do teens still read middle grade fiction as they get older (for example, Harry Potter is an example of middle grade that's read by teens and adults) or are they naturally attracted to books with older themes and characters? Is it uncool to still read middle grade as you enter your teens?

"Middle grade novels are defined as books for the 8-12 age range." The first thing I'd like to say is that these "rules," like the Pirate Code, are more like guidelines anyway. ;) I was reading MG younger than 8; so were most of my friends. I know most 13-year-olds still read MG, as do many 14-year-olds and some 15-year-olds. This might be to finish the end of a series they liked in middle school, or because of personal preference. The Percy Jackson books are MG, yet my high school library still stocked them and most of my friends read and liked them, even if I didn't. The Graveyard Book is an example of a novel on the mature end of the MG spectrum that I read just last year, and I'm 18.

As for Harry Potter, the first few books may have been MG, but the rest definitely aren't. One of the reasons I think the series was and is so successful is because it matured as its readership did--and I'm not just talking about the characters getting older; I mean the plot complexity, writing style, and themes as well. To the question of whether it's "cool" or not to read MG fiction as you age, the best answer I can give is that it just depends on the reader's maturity, interests, and personality.

2. This is arguable, but it's been said that the teen years see a decrease in boy readership. Can you mention some books that you know male teenagers seem to be attracted to? Obviously, this depends on the reader, but are there books/themes that male teens connect to more than others?

Eh, again, it depends on the people. I think guys read as much as ever, but it's less cool to be seen reading. Anyway, the boy who doesn't read for fun in high school was the same boy who thought reading was uncool in middle school and who struggled in reading in elementary school. Personality again, and the inadequacies of the school system. Also, reading is seen as inactive--and boys are, for some reason, perceived as and expected to be more active than girls. Obviously this is a prejudiced view. In my own experience, I knew just as many girls as boys who didn't read for fun in high school, and just as many boys as girls who did.

I would also like to point out that perhaps the reason people think guys don't read YA is because the YA market kind of excludes them. Sexy men, female pov, and swooning vampires don't exactly attract straight guys. Hence, reading = either for girls or gays. No wonder it's not cool for guys to admit they like reading. Harsh, but that's the perception encouraged by the market.

Books I've heard my guy friends talk about:
- Eragon and the rest of the Inheritance Cycle
- Pendragon series (<3)
- Harry Potter
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (that's why I picked it up myself)
- Eon
- Ender's Game
- Alex Rider books

3.) So many books and book series are being turned into films for the teen audience. Are you satisfied with the movie versions that you've seen recently? Can you comment on a few, both good and bad?

Movies are never the same as books, and I usually don't mind the adaptations. However, Eragon the movie was terrible compared to the book, one of the worst adaptations I've ever seen. I liked all the characters, but they kinda threw the plot out the window. 

4.) I would like to know how you go about choosing a book to read. Is it the cover? The title? Word of mouth?

Usually, if someone I know has good/similar taste, I'll check out a book they recommend. Word gets around about what books are good or popular, and often I'll read them either to know what the fuss is about or if the premise sounds interesting. However, the title has a big influence on whether I read the book. If someone asks me what I'm reading, I don't want to be embarrassed by answering with a cliche or otherwise embarrassing title. Childish, perhaps, but important. Also, if the title is uninspired, I have no reason to believe the rest of the book will be any different. It has to impress me, intrigue me, and draw me in. A great example of a title, though not YA, is The Other Boleyn Girl. You're like, "Boleyn girl as in Anne Boleyn? But not her, so what other Boleyn girl? Did she have a sister? No way, I had no idea..." *reads back cover* "Yikes, incest...Hmm, I might have to read this just to find out!"

As for cover art, I find it usually tells nothing important about the book except whether or not there is likely to be sex.


  1. Great responses! Love the Pirates of the Caribbean reference. I heard Elizabeth's voice in my head when I got to that part. :D

    I mentioned Eragon in my response as well. I feel kind of bad because that movie could have been so much more than it was.

  2. Awesome answers! Thanks for being so thorough and thanks for participating in this blogfest. It's been wonderful to read the posts!

  3. I'm the same about titles, though they don't stop me from reading a book, I just don't like it when people ask me what I'm reading and then give me a strange look when I respond. My favorite reaction is when I'm reading a fantasy or dystopian book and someone asks me what I'm reading and what it's about, and when I tell them, they respond with, "That's... weird."

    But usually those are the same girls who adore Twilight. Go figure.

    And I hate the whole "boys need to play sports and be active" thing, and I agree with you, that's probably part of why boys read less.

  4. Pirates got it right. Why are people so obsessed with rules??? :P lol...

    The thing that annoyed me most about the Eragon movie was how they made it virtually impossible to do a sequel. No Eldest = no cool red dragon or anything... :(

    I wouldn't say boys read less; it's just less acceptable for them to be seen reading because of the whole "active" thing. Which is silly. And sexist. Most of the titles I mentioned were series--Pendragon has 10 books! And my ADHD brother read all of them! Maybe guys just have troulbe finding books, but once they find something they love they stick with it.

    Glad to have answered your questions, Jess :)

  5. Ugh, I agree, Eragon was terrible compared to the book. I also think that you are right about covers -there are very few books with covers that actually sum up the entire book perfectly in one picture.

  6. Yeah, covers are supposed to intrigue you/entice you. They don't actually give much information about the book, or if they do (like the Harry Potter covers), you won't understand the significance of the cover until you actually read the book.

  7. I'm way behind in catching up with the teen blogfest posts, but this is a good one. Great to know your opinion on all these topics!


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