Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Buying Books For Teens?

Shopping for teens is darn near impossible. Their tastes follow trends that strike adults as incomprehensible, and the fleeting nature of their interest makes the job all that much more difficult.

If you like to buy books, as I do, here's a couple of thoughts to keep in mind:

1. Their world is different from the world we inhabited at that age.

Kids today, like it or not, have different ideas about intimacy, relationships, and sex. It's reflected in the books they like, particularly those with a romance at the core. Now you can rail against and find fault and place blame for what seems at first like a devaluation of a traditional relationship, or you can consider that it is a complicated departure from past ways of thinking, with benefits and challenges.

And it's reflected in what is selling now. Consider:

Saint Martin's Press has a new line out that will target older teens and twenty-somthings. Agent Kristin Nelson has this to say: "...a line for publishing smart, upmarket fiction for this target audience where sex and relationships are simply part of the question. In other words, it’s not so much about the happily-ever-after, which is the focus for a romance, nor is it about the sex—explicit or otherwise. It’s more about the story that will speak to older teens and twenty-somethings."

2. Kids want to read about what troubles them - whether it affects them, their friends, or kids they barely know.

Carrie Ryan, author of the wonderful Young Adult Novel THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, says it far more eloquently than I could here. We do our kids no favors by trying to shield them from the darker side of growing up. There are many wonderful "issue" books for kids that explore problems with sensitivity and insight.

Remember that buying a book for a teen is NOT the same as buying a book for yourself. Heck, odds are they wouldn't like what you're reading, either....


DebraLSchubert said...

I was just having this conversation w/a writer friend of mine. She prefers sweet teen stories with no bad words or bad outcomes. My YA novel (agented, but not on submission yet) includes bulimia, loss of virginity, a gay relationship, teen domestic abuse, and teen pregnancy. These are not the main plot lines, but they're there in the mix. To me, it's what makes the story real.

A world where all is happy thoughts and butterflies is so 1950.

Sophie Littlefield said...

Debra, you're writing my kind of book, which isn't important - but it's a book that might help some kid grow up, which *is* important. Yay! Keep doing what you do...and I wish you the best in placing that book.

And I'm not saying that all books have to have these themes. There's plenty of room in the marketplace for all kinds of books - just like there's all kinds of kids...

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