I've just finished re-reading the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer. It was my second time through the series, so I took my time on it. (For me, this means it took me about a week to get through all four books.) I'm still not exactly sure how I feel about the series as a whole. While I enjoyed the overall story, there's a lot of underlying content that gave me a lot to think about. (For more on this subject, see the article at www.pluggedinonline.com.)
I was shopping with my mom yesterday at Barnes and Noble-- a rare treat-- and while browsing, I ended up in the teen section. I figured maybe I could get some ideas for something lighthearted to read in between book series. However, 'lighthearted' was NOT what I would call the selection I found. Of course, most of the books for teens are almost guaranteed to be angsty hormone-driven things, but that wasn't what caught my attention. The vast majority of teen novels were either vampire/occult books or shallow-teen-girl-clique ones. Don't teens get anything better to read? I wondered.
Not surprisingly, the Twilight Saga dominated the space, taking up most of two entire bookshelves with all the copies of the four books. Meyer has been hailed as "the world's most popular vampire novelist since Anne Rice" (Entertainment Weekly) and her novel Twilight is an Amazon "Best Book of the Decade... So Far." The kind of craze surrounding these books and the upcoming Twilight movie (set for release November 21, 2008) is nearly as epidemic as that of the Harry Potter books. Twilight Saga by-products, including paperweights and even Godiva chocolate, were also EVERYWHERE.
Stephenie Meyer wasn't the only vampire novelist in attendance. Also adding to the black, red, and white-colored covers were authors such as Rachel Caine, Ellen Schreiber, and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. Most of these books also hinted at teen drama and romance, but definitely not in a way that I would want my teenage sister to be reading about.
Feeling rather disgusted, I turned to the shelf behind me. The vast majority of the books here were book series such as Clique Novels and Gossip Girl-- again, not something I want my sister reading, and nothing I was interested in at that age, either. How can books about girls being mean to one another be better than steamy vampire novels? (They can't.)
I also noticed that there were precious few books aimed at boys. True, statistically speaking, boys don't read as much as girls, but why would they when their only options are Eragon by Christopher Paolini and Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz? (Note: From a boy's perspective-- which I don't have-- these books might not be too bad. Personally, I didn't like them enough to get beyond the first 20 pages.)
So where on earth am I going with this? What do teen books have to do with me, anyways? "You're an adult, Marian, what do you expect?" No, don't give me that. I read kids' books like crazy, and I know for a fact that there has to be better than this. After much searching through the teen section, I finally found C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia-- in a tiny, cramped, almost nonexistent space-- but my point of all of this is that teens deserve better than the crud these publishers and authors are giving them. Middle school is one of the rockiest times in a teen's life, and they should be getting better help and entertainment options than these books are offering them. Reading about social cliques is not going to help my sister or any other teen girls. These books are sending the message, "If you want to be gorgeous and have a boyfriend and be popular, you should do what these fictional girls are doing." How does it help ANYBODY if the message is, "Be mean to all your friends"?
If I can't find any good teen books, I guess I'm just going to have to write one.