Teen-adult crossover appeal at your Summit County Library | SummitDaily.com
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Teen-adult crossover appeal at your Summit County Library

JANET GOOD
special to the daily

As Teen Read Week approaches, it’s time to encourage teens to read for the fun of it, and to make adults aware of the variety of exceptional teen literature available. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series may be credited with creating this crossover appeal – books that adults enjoy as much as teens do. In the United Kingdom, in fact, each Harry Potter volume is published with two different covers: one for children, and one with a more grown-up look for adult fans of the young wizard.

The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer is another with a large adult following. Meyer’s stories feature a well-behaved vampire family who wouldn’t dream of hurting a human, or at least won’t let themselves do so. Romance blooms between high school student Bella and teen vampire Edward but is complicated by Native American Jacob’s mad crush on Bella.

In March of this year, Susan Carpenter of the Los Angeles Times reported that while adult hardcover sales dropped 17.8 percent in the first half of 2009 versus the same time period the previous year, hardcover sales of children’s and young adult (teen) titles rose by 30.7 percent. In spite of computer games and other high-tech distractions enjoyed by today’s young people, reading has not gone out of fashion. The addition of adult readers boosts young adult book sales even higher.

Many popular teen books with crossover appeal have made it to the big screen. In addition to the Harry Potter and Twilight volumes, you can pick up “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” by Ann Brashares, “The City of Ember” by Jeanne DuPrau, “The Golden Compass” by Philip Pullman, or Carl Hiaasen’s “Hoot” in either DVD or print form at your local library. All genres are represented, including science fiction, fantasy, humor, romance, realistic fiction, mystery, suspense and historical fiction.

Several adult authors have crossed over into writing for teens recently. Carl Hiaasen, Joyce Carol Oates, Jack Higgins, John Grisham, Robert B. Parker and Terry Pratchett have one or more young adult titles on our shelves. James Patterson now has three series aimed at teen readers. My favorite is the Daniel X series about a high school student who finds himself in charge of ridding the Earth of evil space aliens after his parents are done in by a six-and-a-half-foot-tall praying mantis. Patterson’s other two series are “Maximum Ride,” a spin-off based on themes in a couple of his adult novels, and “Witch and Wizard.”

What makes a book young adult literature? It’s that the story features a teen-aged protagonist. Written to attract a teen audience, these books get right to the meat of the story on the first page and propel readers through to the end with plot twists, humor and odd goings-on.

Adult book clubs have recognized the value of teen books as excellent discussion starters. For example, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie is a National Book Award Winner (2007) that combines humor and the hard facts of life on an Indian reservation. Junior struggles to survive life at school off the reservation where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Another outstanding discussion book is “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak. This novel takes place in Germany in 1939. Leisel’s love of reading leads her to steal books from Nazi book burnings at great peril to herself. She shares these treasures with the family’s secret boarder, a Jew. Two more discussion group recommendations are “The Giver” by Lois Lowry, which won the Newbery Medal for children’s literature, and “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson. The former describes a world where books are prohibited and clandestine Receivers of Memories pass on books they have memorized to the next generation. The latter is modern realistic fiction. High school outcast Melinda has become mute after a traumatic event she can’t bring herself to reveal.

Teen Read Week is sponsored by the American Library Association and takes place Oct. 17-23 this year. The 2010 theme is Books with Beat. Think poetry, crime beat, Beat Generation, or books that make your heart beat.

Reading is fun, and there’s no better place to celebrate the joy of reading than at your school or public library. The Summit County Libraries are hosting a special event based on “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. Middle and high school students are invited to the North Branch Library, 651 Center Circle in Silverthorne, on Thursday, Oct. 21 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. for food, a make-and-take craft, games and prizes. There is no need to read the book; we’ll introduce you to Katniss and her friends and enemies along with the dystopia that is her world of Panem.


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