Learning to read
January 24, 2012
There are days when you feel like you can do nothing right, like you're shoveling a deep hole in the sand with a cruel taskmaster glaring at you, withholding relief.
That's not just an adult workday reality, that was the storyline of a best-selling young adult book and later a critically acclaimed movie, Holes, by Louis Sachar. It was written in 1998, right about when the genre of young adult literature was taking off in terms of popularity and sales.
Perhaps it's because the books for the age group take on more grown-up themes or because even adults can't get enough of them, but the young adult segment of the book sales market is soaring. According to this article, best-selling adult author Michael Franzen's latest book showed strong sales of 600,000 in its first year, but the third book in young adult author Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series sold 1.3 million in the same time period.
While it's tough to drill down to hard numbers, there are something like 30,000 young adult titles in print, with sales around $500 million.
A local author is one of the best-selling young adult writers who employs complex, often dark, themes.
A good guess is that the genre's boom is attributable to the quality of writing – as well as pulling no punches in themes. Holes was about a young man who had no control over his own life, and was sentenced to dig holes in the desert under the watchful eye of some nasty guards. While there was a fantasy element to it, some criticize young adult literature for being too dark: a preoccupation with occult themes like vampires, dark stuff like suicide and murder … but don't those themes elicit some of the same emotions that adults seek out when choosing what to read?
This week, Marshfield resident and author Susan Cooper was recognized for her contributions to the genre, which include The Dark is Rising fantasy tales that harken to the most basic theme: good vs. evil.