I went to B&N for the first time in months today so that the future-wife could find a daily planner for 2012. And while she perused every clearance rack, I moseyed through the aisles seeing what was considered “popular” by the good ol’ brick and mortar. Did I see any of my favorite bloggers, podcasters, or writers I’ve edited for? Of course not. Plenty of James Patterson though. Good god…the amount of Patterson.
And as the misses was taking her third trip around the store, clutching two planners in her hands to see which she’d be able to handle for the next 362 days, I noticed the terrible truth: There was an entire row of Teen Paranormal Romance. Really, people? Really?
As someone who has always enjoyed reading, I’ve never understood the “Well, it gets them to read” explanation. A line has to be drawn somewhere. Maybe blame lies in the fault of the educators. Thankfully, the love of novels was already ingrained in me by the time we spent two months analyzing, line by line, the symbolism of “The Scarlet Letter.” Did it push me to look for the underlying themes and imagery in novels? A little. Did it make me want to read any more Hawthorne? Hell no. And how many in my class (who weren’t already book lovers) were pushed farther from the art form?
The good news is that this is a trend. The teenage paranormal romance novel will eventually be replaced by steampunk zombies, graphic novels inspired by Chick tracts, or whatever else the print industry deems the next metaphorically phallic object it can cram down YA readers’ throats. The bad news is that these are the same people most writers are trying to pander to. It’s easy, relatively speaking, to write genre fiction and be beloved by that genre’s readers, but most authors are trying to (and need to, if they want any money) tap into the popular fiction territory.
Maybe, if the current trend is inspired by “Mormon anti-abortion sexuality,” the next big hit will be the Amish. “He had an automobile. She never went to high school. Theirs was a love beyond social or religion confines. Also, he was a mummy. When Mennonite meets Amish, only one choice remains: The Wrap Shun, available at bookstores this Spring.”
“She’s my favorite piece of plastic held to my ear” – Filter’s “It’s Gonna Kill Me”