Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Something’s wrong with the kids!!!

I did an interview recently where the interviewer expressed concern about the types of books that were popular with children and teens today. Why are they so obsessed with dark topics? Why don't they read light and funny books? What is wrong with our kids???

So I took a look at the recent New York Times bestsellers list for children’s chapter books. Very interesting! Here are some excerpts from the one-sentence descriptions given to each book:
  • To avoid a killer...
  • Vampire love…
  • Before committing suicide… (This particular book is amazing!!!)
  • …fights for survival…
  • …anorexia.
  • …a dismal swamp…
  • Nightmares…
In order to be fair to children and teen readers, I also took a look at the adult list. And guess what I found!
  • …a young woman’s death.
  • …a dangerous birth defect…
  • …a missing secretary of state whose plane has been shot down.
  • …stop a killer.
  • …a suspicious car crash that killed the first lady.
  • …Nazis.
  • …a floating brothel.
  • …a colleague’s murder.
  • …a voyeur who forces women to strip at gunpoint.
  • …a kidnapped boy.
Yikes! Something is wrong with the adults!!!

15 comments:

Steve Brezenoff said...

Ha! I love it. Well done.

Jessica Kennedy said...

Awesome comparison!
Thanks!

secret conffessions said...

Hey You made my day yesterday just for commenting on my friends blog! thank you!!!!

Danette said...

Ha! Love that.

Danette

SRH said...

What kind of response did the interviewer have or were you able to pass the facts on to him?

Jay Asher said...

Yes, the moment I did a quick scan of the adult list, I couldn't help smiling. No matter what our age, we're all fascinated by the same stuff. We're all weird!

Unfortunately, I didn't have this list handy while being interviewed. But the interviewer went on to assume that young readers are drawn to this stuff to make themselves feel better about their own lives, which I don't agree with at all.

I haven't had one reader tell me they picked up my book to remind themselves of how lucky they are. The reasons are much more complex than that...and sometimes much simpler. Sometimes it just sounds like a unique reading experience!

tamma13 said...

I bet this is also historically true. Most books are about high drama right (To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, name a book we were forced to read in high school that wasn't tragic -- except maybe a Shakespeare comedy)? I would think award-winning books (Pulitzer, Booker, etc.) are not very happy-go-lucky. People want to be transported out of their boring lives or out of their troubles and into someone else's. Just my 2 cents.

Jeffery E Doherty said...

It's nothing new. Look at all the old fairy tales. They weren't called the Brothers Grimm for nothing. Plus most of those dark subjects are written with a positive message.

Jeff

K. M. Walton said...

Teens are humans too (at least they were in 1985, when I was a teen) and humans are simply fascinated with interesting stories, stories that captivate, make us yell, scream, cry...make us FEEL something.

That's what good writing does!!

Brenna Golden said...

I'm 14 and, sorry to say it, but I conform to that "teenagers read dark literature" sterotype. I mean, it's not that I don't enjoy an occasional feelgood story, they're just so incredibly hard to find. People just don't want to write happy endings for some reason. Maybe sad, tragic endings seem more final. Like the quote, "There are no happy endings, just stories that haven't finished yet." Or maybe it's the fact that pessimism is the largest epidemic this planet have faced. But I digress.
The point of all of this rambling is teenagers can't help but read dark books because it's what they're exposed to. And maybe I'm wrong. And teenagers read those books because they have low self esteem and are trying to feel better about themselves or they're comforted by the fact that the books they read are fiction and they they know that the horrors they read about aren't really happening and they can choose to simply shut the book and stop being exposed to further unjustices.
And now I'm starting a lot of things with "and" and using run-on sentences.
My English teacher woiuld die. So before I give dear Mrs. Hiott a coronary, goodbye.

Jay Asher said...

Thanks for chiming in, Brenna. You made some great points!

And just so ya know, I start a lot of my sentences with "and". And I mean a lot!!!

Brenna said...

Well thanks for listening, just wanted to be heard.

And by the way, Thirteen Reasons Why is an amazing book.
My friend and I loved it so much we told our English teacher about it and now we even have our own paper bags with compliments in them.

[tess] said...

It's sooo true. I think the real reason people are more interested in dark things is to see how these things are resolved in the end.

When I read your book (and most books, now I think about it), I wasn't thinking about dark things or about how lucky I am or anything like that. I was thinking about Hannah and how else she could've dealt with the situations rather than committing suicide.

It'd be really great if you could drop by my blog, Jay. You're one of my favorite authors. :)

Alexandra said...

Wow, I love reading books on weird topics like these, and whenever I tells someone about it, they seem freaked out that I'm into books on those subjects! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one!!

Penny said...

In case you ever meet the interviewer again, tell him/her to read Dan Wells' "I Am Not A Serial Killer." It's extremely dark... and it's funny! Yay! *rolls eyes*

Oh, and nice self-promotion. I actually clicked on the link XD