17 November 2008

“The Cardinal Rule of Writing for Young Adults”

Last week Publishers Weekly ran a guest column by thirteen-year-old Max Leone on what teen-aged boys want to read. Young Mr. Leone actually has less experience as a teenager than Sarah Palin has as a governor, but he confidently tells us:

  • “To all writers of books aimed at teenage boys, I beg you: please use only modern language, no matter what time period or universe your book takes place in.”
  • Avoid “whatever urge compels writers to clumsily smash morals about fairness or honor or other cornball crap onto otherwise fine stories.”
  • “The vampire...as a menacing badass. That is the kind of book teenage boys want to read. Also good: books with videogame-style plots involving zombie attacks, alien attacks, robot attacks or any excuse to shoot something.”
  • “Finally, here is what I consider the cardinal rule of writing for young adults: Do Not Underestimate Your Audience.”
Except, it appears, if you’re asking that audience to read period or futuristic language, or plots much different from videogames. Got it.

Yeah, I'm being snarky. It's actually an interesting essay written with energy and fervor. And adolescence is large. It contains multitudes. Does it contradict itself? Very well then it contradicts itself.

(The picture above, from the New York Times, shows the young reader/gamer discussed here.)

4 comments:

Libby said...

I felt snarky about this one, too. Yes, he had verve and wit, but...

AliceB said...

I had to laugh. He sounds like my 13-year old daughter. I wonder what he'll be reading in two years.

Anonymous said...

Who are we kidding? The kid sounded like a prick. And, yes, as he might say, I meant to write that.

AliceB said...

I don't know. "Prick" is a strong word. He sounds like he has very definite tastes and has used this insufficient data to extrapolate what every teenager wants -- not realizing that teenagers at 13 are different at 15, and even more so at 17, and that what he enjoys isn't what every other kid enjoys. Most kids (and a significant segment of the adult population) think this way.

However, I do think he represents a segment of 13-year old boys who like to play video games and believe books should replicate the games' frenetic pace. And given that there are a lot of boys like that, it's worth noting what he says -- for that segment of the population.