Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The influence of Twilight, aka Confessions of a library nerd

Twilight is the first in a series of books involving an older-than-dirt Vampire named Edward Cullen, and a teenage human named Bella Swan. The two of them, despite Edward wanting to drink Bella's blood, fall in love, and don't "do it" until they get married. Add in a werewolf best friend, Bellathirsty Italian Vampires, a life-sucking baby and a few other characters, and you have the series phenomenon that swept the world. For a little while, anyway.

I believe that the Harry Potter phenomenon truly made reading among teenagers popular again. It forced non-readers to realize that we bookish types *waves hand* are not crazy due to our literary habit. Harry Potter is certainly not for everyone, but I believe it opened the eyes of my generation (and older generations, certainly) to the power of the written word; allowing a person to travel to new worlds, through words on a page.

Twilight has also captured another branch of that audience, and continued on with the fine tradition of exciting non-readers. I have friends on both sides of the fence, some believing that Twilight is fantastic, others believing that it is somewhere down there next to heroine and... ear infections? Twilight is criticized for it's lack of fancy-pants language, lack of hanky panky, too much hanky panky in the last book, Edward's controlling personality, Bella's lack of spine, a relationship between a 17 year old and an undead guy who's 112 (however old- I really don't care, nor remember) and a wide variety of other issues. This all goes to say, that Twilight opened up a new market not only for readers, but for authors. My demographic is small and rather selective, but the wide and vast majority of books that appeared on the shelves of our YA section for 2009 were vampire books. Yesterday, while I was shelving, I noticed that there are FOUR copies of Twilight in our system, sitting on the shelf. This was completely shocking, in that for the past several YEARS, there has been MAYBE one copy on the shelf at a time.

So, you may be asking... what’s the next big trend? I think it's going over to the Paranormal genre. Paranormal still encompasses some vampirism, but it's expanded. Paranormal mostly deals with ghosts, spirits, and things that should have stayed dead. Ghost hunting, encounters with ghosts, falling in love with ghosts, being haunted by a ghost wanting revenge, you name it. Why does this matter? Like the surge in YA literature sparked by Harry Potter, Twilight has sparked a new generation of readers. People finish the Twilight trilogy wanting more, so they go to their library, go to their book store, and pick up a new book or a series. Paranormal is an expansion of the vampire market, allowing readers to expand their horizons a bit, and a bit more... These new readers then explore other genres and authors, and are transformed. They’re reading books because they realize something that I found out a long time ago. Books are interesting. Books are not just black letters printed in succession on a page, books are moving and powerful, and exciting. "Books are a uniquely portable magic."


A couple of things to mention/clarify. First off, Paranormal is not the ONLY growing trend in YA literature. I've seen a lot of real-life fiction books pop up, (and now my brain is thinking that I just wrote about pop-up books. ugh.) and know of several more to debut in the coming year. Secondly, people might comment that the next growing trend is fantasy (as in unicorns, and fairies, or faeries, or elves and... dragons). Fantasy is ALWAYS growing. Fantasy has always been there, somebody is always coming up with a new spin on how a person stumbles onto a leprechaun or a colony of elves. That's how it is. Thirdly, the cover image is copyright Stephenie Meyer, (who I am NOT) and the quote in the last paragraph, "Books are a uniquely portable magic." is "property" (can we own words? really?) of Stephen King. That is all!

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