Betsy Bird's post on the "Favorite Books as a Teen Meme" crystallized my thoughts on something that's been troubling me for a while now—ever since I became a professional children's book author.
Why are all children's and teens' books today required to have children and teens as the main characters?
I'm sure the better-read kidlit types out there (i.e., everyone) will immediately be able to jump in and list dozens of such titles with no youngsters at all. But let's take a look at the books I was reading as a teen:
- The Xanth series by Piers Anthony (yep, I got sucked into that, as well)
- The Split Infinity series by Piers Anthony (actually, Anthony started becoming so age-inappropriate at this point, that I really shouldn't have read this series)
- The Pern books by Anne McCaffrey
- The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
- The Space Trilogy by CS Lewis
- Everything Isaac Asimov ever wrote
I also read comic books, which had their share of teens: Robin from The Dark Knight Returns, Evey Hammond from V for Vendetta, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Peter Parker...
But let's look at the rest of the pop culture I consumed as a teen and preteen:
- GI Joe: Not a kid to be seen
- Transformers: Ditto
- Star Wars: This was the big one; and no kids, see?
- Indiana Jones: Which was the crappy movie? The one with the kid in it.
In fact, I can barely remember reading anything that might show up on the sort of list your typical teacher/librarian would think kids would read; I had How to Eat Fried Worms, Fat Men from Space, and Bridge to Teribithia read to me by teachers and librarians, but I certainly didn't seek them out.
I think this is a major failing in today's market: The Formula (your story must have a protagonist who is a year or two older than the age group you hope to have read it; no adults as protagonists, and certainly no characters younger than the reader). I wish there was a way out of it, but I don't think there is.