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Reading outside the lines


By Kathy Pillatzki
Assistant Director
Henry County Library System

  In my last column I mentioned the crossover appeal of author John Green. While teens are his target audience, the quality of his writing makes his novels appealing to adults as well. Green isnít the only one, though. In recent years weíve seen more adult interest in books for teens and even children.

  Once upon a time, books were marketed for children, teens or adults, and the distinctions were pretty clear. I think the blurring of those lines can be traced to the success of the Harry Potter series, for two reasons. First, people bought the books for kids, and were drawn into them by reading them aloud to their children, or by reading them on their own to see what the hype was about. Second, the original audience for the series grew up with the characters. Those who fell in love with book one at the tender age of 10 or 12 were the young adults standing in line at midnight for the release of book seven.

  The crossover trend has been a boon to publishers, authors, and readers alike. Iíve always said the hallmark of a good story is that it appeals to all ages. The presentation may change for the intended audience, but its core appeal should be ageless. Here are some other young adult authors who have successfully defied age limits.

  Suzanne Collins almost goes without saying. 

  With tight plotting, complex characterization and vivid settings, her dystopian Hunger Games trilogy won fans of all ages.

  Though the wooden dialog and soap-opera quality of Stephenie Meyerís plotting in the Twilight series have been soundly thrashed by critics, thereís no denying the appeal of vampire fiction. Throw in a werewolf and an innocent girl, and youíve got a love triangle that appeals to everyone from young teens to those of us who first saw this storyline unfold on Dark Shadows in the 1970s. Maggie Stiefvaterís wolf love story Shiver has had similar success.

  A few years ago I served on the Georgia Peach Book Award committee, which selects finalists for the award, and the winner is chosen by teen voters. The award that year went to Acceleration by Graham McNamee. One committee member described it as so suspenseful that she read the last few chapters while pacing her living room. I felt the same way about another finalist, Code Orange by Caroline B. Cooney.

  Sci-Fi and fantasy are genres where there is a huge amount of reading across boundaries. Rick Riordanís Percy Jackson series and Heroes of Olympus series have fans of all ages, as do works by Garth Nix, Tamora Pierce, and Robin McKinley. James Pattersonís Maximum Ride series is targeted to teens but has naturally drawn fans of his adult novels. Other adult novelists who are branching out to a younger audience include Terry Pratchett and Carl Hiassen.

  Even historical fiction has transcended boundaries. Marcus Zusakís The Book Thief, a blend of history and fantasy set in Nazi Germany, spent 230 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. His next book, I Am the Messenger, is a blend of contemporary mystery and magical realism.

  If your reading has stalled and youíre looking for something new, each Henry County public library has a dedicated Young Adult Specialist who can recommend even more titles and authors for you to explore. Try out a young adult novel; itís the literary equivalent of coloring outside the lines.



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