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trust your kid who reads

The Wall Street Journal notices that many YA books deal with "adult" subject matter in a sophisticated way. Gasp! Teach Me gets mentioned, as does How I Live Now. (And, uh, yeah, OF COURSE, The Rainbow Party, which I am sick sick sick of hearing about.)

It's the summer book season: Do you know what your child is reading? To appeal to teens brought up on suggestive music videos and cable-TV shows, publishers are releasing more books full of mature themes and unflinching portrayals of sexual activity, with young protagonists the same age as their target readers. One publisher is venturing beyond its titles on dragons and bunnies with "Claiming Georgia Tate," about a 12-year-old girl whose father pressures her into a sexual relationship and makes her dress like a prostitute. In "Looking for Alaska," prep-school students watch pornography and pass the time binge-drinking. Coming this fall is "Teach Me," in which a male high-school teacher has sex with a student.

And kids seem to be responding: Young-adult fiction -- which has come to be associated with the edgy titles -- is one of the book industry's healthiest segments. Targeting the 12-and-up age group, the segment's sales are up 23% since 1999, according to estimates by industry analyst Albert Greco, a Fordham University marketing professor. (Adult sales in the same period were down slightly more than 1%, according to the Book Industry Study Group.) The young-adult category's top seller by far is the "Harry Potter" franchise, and when the series' last book came out in 2003, Mr. Greco estimates it accounted for almost half of the segment's $406 million in sales. But for children who've outgrown young wizards or just want something else to read, publishers are releasing more risqué titles in the young-adult segment, many of them aimed at teen girls. Last year, even without a new "Potter" book, overall revenue in the young-adult segment increased to $410 million, estimates Mr. Greco. In all, there were more than 21,000 new kids' titles released in 2004 -- double the number in 2002, according to R.R. Bowker in New Providence, N.J., which collects publishing data.

They also sifted through 100 of the season's top YA titles and make some recommendations on whether parents should read first and for propriety of material.


  • At 4:16 PM , Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

    I can't imagine there's anything world-shattering about any of those novels. In contrast, our school library had Golding's Lord of the Flies, which I read at age 9 -- and loved, although by the end I felt as though my world had been sledgehammered.

    Back then, I think a novel that featured sex between a student and teacher would have made me run shrieking from the library ;o)

  • At 9:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    You might be surprised.


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