Friday, November 16, 2012

Where Was Twilight When I Was a Kid?

 A couple days ago, I read this article on It's called 9 Reasons to be Grateful for Twilight, and it's a pretty good article. (The site's awesome, too. Seriously, check it out if you love sci-fi or anything geekish. It's great.) I'm gonna zero in on one point, though.

Twilight made young adult books cool.

Growing up in the early 2000s, you'd think that publishers just assumed that teenagers didn't read. It's not like the entire young adult genre was non-existant; it just didn't get a lot of attention. Back then I didn't read the Harry Potter books, and even if I had, that was only a few books, because not all of them had come out yet. My local library was pretty disappointing anyway, but even big chain bookstores like Books-a-Million and Barnes & Noble didn't have much to offer beyond those horrible coming of age novels about puberty and survival or some junk. 

I did have the Lord of the Rings books, and I did read them five times. I have The Hobbit, which has been consumed three or four times. I also read a few of the Princess Diaries series. I actually have the first five of those. They're pretty beaten.

And folks, if you're counting, that's a grand total of nine books. Add the Christy Miller series, and that makes twelve, but they were extremely short novels, between 150 and 200 pages each.

So beyond an epic, much imitated fantasy and a blip of teen chick lit, I didn't read all that much of any variety. I was ecstatic when I discovered the first book in the Inheritance Cycle, Eragon, hiding at Books-A-Million one afternoon. But I needed more. I wanted adventure books, with swords and fighting and action and maybe a little romance and possibly some sarcasm. I couldn't find anything I liked at stores because there wasn't anything to find, or at least anything I liked. I mean, I'm picky, but come on. I wanted something more. When I started writing my book, I took it as my mission to provide some sort of epic fantasy to my overlooked generation.

I kept writing my book and looking for stuff to read and chatting on internet forums (though most of that had been LOTR, and didn't last to long after the last movie came out. I'd also probably be more excited about The Hobbit if this year was 2005.) I graduated from high school and headed off to college, met a lot of friends who loved to read as much as I did (and who also enjoyed LOTR) and my angsty, whiny self calmed down and took a backseat and went shopping a whole lot. At some point in 2005, Twilight made its PG-rated debut on bookshelves and became a bestseller. I guess that's when publishers and booksellers began to notice an entire demographic.

When I finished my junior year of college, I decided I needed a break from Bob Jones University. I wanted to take some time off, work, and finish up a correspondence course on the Protestant Reformation. I applied, and finally, late in the summer, got a job at Books-A-Million.

I've talked before about the business effects of the first Twilight film, which came out in 2008, at the same time I was working in the bookstore, and how it led to more people purchasing books (and us running out of New Moon right as Christmas shopping picked up.) By that time, the fourth book was out, and selling crazy. At some point that year, Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games came out. I remember seeing it at B&N in Greenville SC.

Suddenly, what I wished for in high school has come true. Yeah, it took a minute, but the YA section at B&N is much bigger than I ever remember it being when I was a teenager. I still browse every so often, checking out cover design (because I straight nerd over stuff like that.) I like to see where the trend is going. Looks like vampires and werewolves are still pretty solid, but the really cool kids are post-apocalypse survivors

I still read YA, and I'm not alone. No, I'm not trying to reclaim my youth. I'm 26 and I don't feel that age anyway. A lot of YA is just plain good, quick fiction, which is what I've looked for. Something I can curl up with at night, under a blanket. Something that will give my brain a break because I'm working on my own stuff.

I admit, I'm a little jealous. I wish there had been more books for teens when I was a teenager, more of the adventurous stuff that I craved. But I'm glad that demographic is no longer ignored. And hey, if I get some good entertainment out of the deal, all the better.

Because let's be honest. At the end of the day, there is nothing quite like a good book, a warm puppy, and a nice cup of coffee for curling up with on a lovely rainy day.

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