Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Book trends and why I read what I do

My husband sometimes gets annoyed by books or, more particularly, book trends. He and I are supposedly writers by profession (with completely different jobs from our college degrees), and we learned all about writing for the market. Publishers look for what's hot, but you have to be careful because if you write about what's hot now, by the time you get that baby to an editor, the heat wave could be over. You have to catch the wave at the beginning, or by the time you try to publish vampires, angels have hit the market. (What IS the big deal with angels anyway? I don't get it. But more on that later.)

So, why does my husband hate book trends? As a writer, it's terribly inconvenient to write for a market saturated with one tedious thing when you have a brand new story to tell. The problem is, once Stephanie Meyer is top of the trends list, every female between 12 and 60, is devouring only vampire novels, and publishers are bound by the trends more than writers. What sells is what makes money. Obviously. I can't fault the publishers as much as the readers although as a writer, sometimes you just wish the editors would take that chance of a lifetime on you. It's just hard to get a reader to switch tracks and read about bumbling, extremely introverted squires when she's craving fallen angels. (Still shaking my head over that one.)

Now, switching gears from writer to reader, let me go into the current young adult book trends. I'm very familiar with them. Young adult is my genre of choice, and I'll explain why in a moment. Supernatural young adult is highly popular right now. It started with Stephanie Meyer's vampires, took a short detour into werewolves, and is now obsessing over fallen angels. In the past few boxes of advanced reader's copies Summer and I have drooled over at her bookstore, I was surprised by how many of them dealt with young fallen angels falling (all over again) in love. Summer has read one or two of those, but I haven't wanted to touch them yet. Perhaps I'd be pleasantly surprised, but I haven't been willing to make the jump from the completely fictional vampire, or even werewolf, to a being who, while fictionalized and completely made-over, actually exists in my theological worldview.

Another top young adult trend is the post-apocalyptic/end-of-the-world plot. Off the top of the my head, I can think of at least four of those that I've read recently. They all have to do with kids and teenagers fending for themselves in a world without adults (adults have gone crazy or died from a disease that affects people over a certain age, or kids are living on a spaceship in search of a new world because Earth and the adult population were destroyed). Seriously, sometimes I wonder if there's a memo list you can subscribe to: "What's hot in young adult fiction today: children killing other children. Ready, set, write! First ten manuscripts get published!" It's uncanny how quickly similar novels come out. Either there are some fast writers out there with easy access to editors, or writers just think alike.

Not too far behind these trends comes teenage gladiators. I saw a spurt of those books, but it seems to be dying out, aside from the Hunger Games trilogy, which I love.

So, what books are on my to-read-soon shelf now? At least two werewolf novels and an angel one to try (have to try at least one, don't I?). One virtual reality. At least six about teenagers with powers or special magic abilities (these are pretty much part of the supernatural trend, though they come under different guises). A few miscellaneous nonfiction titles. One or two about boarding school, another trend that is lower on the list but constantly resurfacing. Oh, and I might even have some adult titles!

If it hasn't become obvious by now from the books I've reviewed and the ones I talk about here, I read mostly young adult. If you love plain old good stories, that's the way I suggest you go. Young adult isn't concerned with what sounds good, literature, and all that...trying to be the next classic. Young adult is to be enjoyed at the moment. I love stories, and that's why I read young adult, trends and all. Call it a guilty pleasure, or call it relaxation. I'm not trying to escape the world (I like my life very much), but I do visit other worlds...and that's nice.

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