Tuesday, March 27, 2007

in the young readers' section

One of the places to find me browsing at a big bookstore is the section for young adult readers (as well as the children's section). There are a lot of great reads that are marketed as juvenilia, a great number of which are better written than books you'd find in the general fiction shelves. It was Nikki, who reads a lot more than I do, who familiarized me with authors like Garth Nix and Tamora Pierce, plus a boatload of others whose underage protagonists undergo incredible adventures or experience quiet epiphanies - just like their adult counterparts. I find it amusing that so many people turn up their noses at what they consider "kiddie" books. I don't feel bad that their ignorance condemns them - I'm happy to be part of the smaller number who know where treasure can be found.

Of course, in the past years, that number has grown (thankfully, with more younger readers than adults - because, after all, in the context of reader attrition, it is these young readers who will grow up and buy books themselves). The Harry Potter series and its copycats drive sales (though obviously everyone tends to overorder as evidenced by the continuous downward spiral of cover prices for unpurchased inventory). Regardless of how we feel about the quality of the Potter books, they did great good in terms of encouraging young people to read (I loved the earlier books in the series myself; I remember picking up the first hardcover in the US for Nikki way before the marketing furor began). Already, book publishers are looking hard and casting their nets for the next phenomenon. HarperCollins hopes it'll be the work of 32 year-old Irish farmer and college dropout Derek Landy, who has already signed a three-book deal (the first book alone is reported to be valued at US $1.9M).

The sad thing about these kinds of books and their accompanying marketing circuses is that they tend to drown out the smaller, less marketed books (which is just a truism when it comes to marketing - he who makes noise attracts attention). I just hope that these readers, after they're done with their megapopular flavor of the month or year, will hunger for more and browse the stacks and encounter all the other wonderful fiction.

I wish also that the Philippine publishers would be more supportive of longer works, like novels or series of novels that cater to a younger audience (like the work of Carla Pacis). How cool would a multi-part fantasy series by Joel Toledo be? I could be wrong but from what I see their focus is on short standalones for much younger readers, beautifully illustrated by talented artists (among my favorites: "The Greediest of Rajahs and the Whitest of the Clouds" by Hai Ibardolaza). It would be wonderful to find a large section of Filipino juvenilia over at Powerbooks, Fully Booked, Booktopia and the other bookstores. And of course some of these would be speculative fiction - tales of the fantastic and science fiction and well-written horror.

I'll probably get into trouble again for digressing and saying this, but the local horror anthologies are poorly written in general. The authors should know that there is a difference between stating a series of events - not matter how 'true' or 'ghostly' - and telling a story. I do appreciate the publisher and editor's initiative but the end product is mostly unreadable (of course, they could argue that sales are the best indicator of success which ultimately renders all I've said as irrelevant to them).

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