I had occasion to go to the book store yesterday. The local Barnes & Noble was having a clearance sale on children’s books, and being the clever shopper, I thought it might be an opportunity to pick up a few early holiday presents. That didn’t pan out, I’m sorry to say (the selection of deep sale books was beneath contempt) but while I was there I decided to look around in the section for teens readers to see what was being featured for young readers.
The answer: fantasy-adventure. Yep, that’s pretty much it. Not a mystery and darned little SF.
Let me clarify a couple of things. I don’t consider books with a vampire, werewolf, zombie or similar creature to be science fiction. No way. Don’t even try to tell me otherwise, to talk sense into me on this one, because that is sense.
What I saw was a few adventure books in the nature of Harry Potter-alikes such as Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books. Near the top of the push at the book store – a separate table of his books – was The Lightning Thief (there’s gonna be a movie) and the rest of the Olympians series, which is not to be confused with the new Heros of Olympus series coming this Fall. Then there is the new Kane (Egyptian) series the first book of which has been published in hardcover. There was a huge display of those.
Yet still dominating the shelves were monster-romance novels: the Twilight series and all its clones, and there are a LOT of them. Then there was quite a lot of pretty straight fantasy: magic, elves-and-dwarves battle the bad wizard type of stuff.
What there was not was anything that might lead a reader into the mystery genre. For that matter there wasn’t much, if anything, that would make a reader want to pick up some SF, by which I mean hard SF, with science and space and that kind of stuff the kind of thing written by John Scalzi, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Charles Sheffield, Larry Niven and David Webber. I didn’t see a single SF-for-teens in the large featured for teens area.
Yes, it’s good that any teens are reading at all. But if teens of both sexes are reading romantic monster fiction, mythological adventure and fantasy, will they somehow take up science fiction or mystery? Maybe for SF, but it’s hard to see what might prompt them to read a mystery, whether it be cozy, hard-boiled, noir or thriller. Let’s hope I’m wrong.