Sunday, December 19, 2010

A place for everything.

On my way to meet Leopold I stopped by one of the big brick and mortars that I rarely visit.

While I continue to do my very best to shop local, books are where I unquestionably fall down. I'm just that much of a junkie (1). To be fair, however, I will say that I went in with a very specific item in mind. This was not a casual browse. Volume 3 of John Layman and Rob Guillory's amazing comic series Chew has just come out and I'm anxious to track down a copy.

For the unfamiliar, Chew is the story of Tony Chu, a cibopathic detective working in a world where the avian flu epidemic has turned chicken into contraband. Cibopaths, we are told, are individuals who get psychic readings from the things that they eat. I'll note here that Chew is not for the light of stomach. While the artwork is fantastic and the storytelling brilliant, Chu does eat a thing or two that is best not considered for too very long.

But I, as I sometimes do, digress.

So, I stop in long enough to give the shelves an unrewarded scan and then, as I turned to head back outside, it caught me square in the eye.

"Teen Paranormal Romance".

This is not a book. This is not a satirical movie. This is not the name of a great indie band (2) or a great indie album.

It's the name of an entire section in this behemoth bookstore. An. Entire. Section.

I have to think that I'm not alone in finding utterly and completely depressing. I mean, I understand that success breeds copycats. Look at what was spawned by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Or by the Harry Potter books. Or, hell, the vast majority of what fills those shelves marked Science Fiction, Fantasy and Mystery.

But, those sections...and the copycats housed within them...are marked "Science Fiction", "Fantasy", "Romance" and "Mystery". Not "Adult Female Pirate Romance". "Adult Dystopian Future Fantasy". "Not Particularly Deep Gay Fiction" (3).

So why then devote an entire shelf to "Teen Paranormal Romance"?

The argument could and probably would be made that it is intended to make life easier for parents and aunts and uncles and all the rest doing a similar dash into the bookstore for something, anything, that will bring a smile to the face of that otherwise sullen teenager enduring her way through the holidays at Grandma's house...with only her iPhone and Facebook friends to keep her warm.

But I also think this is further proof of that thing that I have opined on before, that most teen literature is not intended to inspire a love of reading, but brand devotion. The industry is not developing a next generation of book lovers, but a class of genre junkies who eventually lose interest in choosing between Team Necrophilia and Team Bestiality and wander away altogether.

And that's a prospect scarier than all the glittery teenage vampires put together.

1. Though circumstances may soon have me trading in my hard cover addiction for more frequent trips to that Miss Kitty of the book world...the library.
2. Though it should be.
3. I'm just saying.