“Teen” is a Bad Word

After the insanity of the Kerrion Empire, I needed a nice, easy reread.  Something that I’d been thinking about rereading anyway from my favorite author fit the bill, and I picked up Hunter again.  If you’ve been following along, you may recall that I last reread this book back in August, as seen here.

Now, Hunter fits into two trending categories: that of dystopia and teen fiction.  I think I’ve made my thoughts on dystopias fairly clear in the past – I’m generally not a fan.  I don’t enjoy stories whose underlying message is that we are all screwed and there is no real hope left for our species.  But that’s a point I’ve hammered before.  Let’s talk “teen.”

What is it that defines literature for teens?  I was wandering through Barnes and Noble tonight, having gone to pick up a new book in another series, and noticed all the teen sections.  “Teen Fiction,” “Teen Adventure,” “Teen Fantasy,” etc.  It seems a bit redundant and, frankly, makes it a pain in the ass to find books in that section.  What happened to just putting everything alphabetical by author without dividing it up beyond basic genre?  When I was young, I remember that the book sections for kids were generally divided by reading level; starting with picture books, going into illustrated chapter books, then more advanced chapter books, and so on until you got into the young adult stuff which then ran into the normal adult sections.  But I don’t think people placed as much emphasis on young adult (there were no “teen” books back then) literature as they do now.

The first Dragonriders of Pern books that I actually wanted to read were the Harper Hall trilogy of DragonsongDragonsinger, and Dragon Drums.  If those books were released today, I think they could very well be marketed to teens, given the ages of the main characters, the settings, and the stories.  But the trilogy preceeding it?  DragonflightDragonquest and The White Dragon are a wee bit more…explicit.  Then again, teen books today seem to be a lot more explicit and have a lot more sex than I would have thought, so maybe it would be fine.  I do know that when I first read those and realized they did contain incredibly unsubtle sex, I was no little surprised, and maybe thirteen at the time.  Of course, my experience may not be common, as an asexual is hardly likely to be seeking out books with sexual content.

My point is that those books could very well be marketed to a completely different group if they were published today, because people believe there’s a lot of money to be made off of teens.  So much so that they glut the market and I, standing in the store tonight, was mentally translating the word “teen” in all the section markers to “bad.”  “Bad Fiction,” “Bad Adventures,” “Bad Paranormal Romance,” etc.  In fact, it’s somewhat infuriating.  Here’s all these poorly-written stories by unskilled authors being professionally published by the major companies, while truly talented people have to self-publish and constantly promote their work just to pay their bills.

These borefests are so formulaic too.  You have your teen protagonist, who is probably a Chosen One with special powers.  They are most certainly moody, possibly to the point where a normal person considers them unlikable.  For girls, you’ll get to fantasize about being a sexy goddess who gets the hottest guy.  For guys, it’s about power and being able to sleep with the gorgeous girls.  It’s so pat and rote and boring.  I long ago figured out how to weed these pathetic excuses for novels out of my potential reading, though now and then I screw up because the synopsis makes them sound actually interesting.  That really goes back to the fact that I can be easily intrigued by a concept, and will suffer through the book in the hopes that that concept is fleshed out.  And then I end up disappointed because it could have been so good…!

Which brings me back to rereading books I know I can trust to be worth my time and effort, such as most things by Mercedes Lackey.  In her own words, she is “a competent hack.”  Now, I don’t usually see proof of her as a “hack” (though I have seen it in more than one case) I would definitely agree that she is “competent” and beyond.  The woman knows how to tell an engaging story and I fully appreciate it.  Just like I appreciate that Elite follows Hunter and thus I have another reliable book to read next, before I have to start considering what to follow up with.

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