First off, I'd like to thank Sean for covering for me last week, and also for the both the character assassination and an image I can't get out of my head. When he described dancing ideas, I think he had in mind some sort of Dance of the Seven Veils thing, but what I'm seeing is the dancing popcorn and soda singing, "Let's go out to the movies!"
Which tells you a little about my brainstorming process. Apparently my imagination would rather catch a matinée.
Anyway, onto the real stuff. Recently, I had two separate people whose opinion I respect recommend the same book. When that happens I get me to a bookstore. The novel is called THE BOOK THIEF, and it's classified as young adult, although having since read it--it's wonderful, pick up a copy--I'm not sure why. Yes, the language was simple and approachable, but shelving it as YA is like shelving Vonnegut as YA. Accessibility shouldn't be the only criteria.
The reason I bring it up, though, is that this marked my first visit to the YA section of a bookstore in recent years. Things have changed since I was shopping there:
Gulp. When I was a young adult reader, I had to settle for looking up the word "vagina" in the encyclopedia. Lucky kids today.
Besides the sexual intimations, everything was so slick, so tightly packaged. There used to be authors--now there are brands. Whole shelves devoted to series playing at Sex & The City for teenagers.
Does this seem odd to anybody else?
I'm not laying a the-world-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket trip on you. I think today's kids are smarter than my generation, and while yeah, their attention span may be shorter, that's because they can process more information than I could, and process it faster from multiple sources at once. (Total aside--my brother wrote a great piece on this last week, well worth checking out.)
Still, I find the whole thing odd. And it got odder when I came on a Newsweek article on a recent study of three major series, "Gossip Girl," "A-List," and "Clique," which posits, among other things, that:
- Brand names (Jimmy Choo, Marc Jacobs, Chanel) appear an average of once a page
- There were 65 references to brand-name alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription drugs
- Brand names were used to define character--each of the 22 references to Keds were used to label the girl wearing them a loser
But what do I know? I don't have kids. What do you all think? Is this a bad thing? And what does it mean not only for today, but for the future? What will those kids be expecting in literature--and life--when they get older?