What Teens are Reading and Why

Any major bookworm knows that thrift store bookshelves can be an excellent resource for rare tomes. Yet the real stunners are often hidden like buried treasure beneath piles of bestsellers and Teen Young Adult (YA) novels from the last decade. As sub-genres such as dystopian fiction begin to trend or go out of style, the cycle of shoddy second-hand books continues.

I use the term ‘cycle of shoddy second-hand books’ to describe the system in which one series rises to bestseller fame, gets turned into a moderate-to-poorly produced movie (looking at you, Allegiant), and opens up a fanbase for similarly constructed novels.

Yet eventually, frenzied admiration subsides into a nostalgia simmering in the back of one’s mind. Many students might remember the dark ages when the Twilight Saga spawned a plethora of angsty supernatural romance-dramas, with love triangles galore (extra points for the involvement of a vampire or werewolf.) Presently, the paranormal genre is essentially dead in book form. Only from diehard fans do I still hear of book series like the Hush, Hush Saga or Vampire Academy.

The nature of YA fiction is for a style to ascend to the height of mass popularity, and then gradually fade away, replaced by another genre. (This goes without saying, but Harry Potter is immune to the cycle of shoddy second-hand books. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them are both bestsellers at Books Inc. on Burlingame Ave, as stated by employee and sophomore student Jada Ganim.)

“Teens want an escape,” said Library Media Technician Brittney Otero. “That’s why fantasy and realistic fiction are so popular.”

Furthermore, this seems to be the golden age of fantasy TV shows. From Vampire Diaries to Teen Wolf, to Supernatural, people have their pick of witches, werewolves, and demons. Numerous sources have named Game of Thrones as the most pirated TV show worldwide.

Nevertheless, the major dystopian science-fiction-romance-y novels such as The Hunger Games or Divergent still reign supreme in Teen YA circles.

“There are always those romance ones that make it big. Those are everlasting themes throughout history. Everyone wants to find their sweetheart,” said junior and Library TA Mari Pietro. “They take overarching themes, and relate them back to the present.”

On the other hand, student interest in books that deal with social issues like racism casts a positive light on the current generation. It speaks of an empathetic outlook on life.

Teen and Children’s Services Librarian Kim Day spoke of the push for novels that open up students’ world-views. Specifically, she described the We Need Diverse Books movement dedicated to fighting whitewashing in YA fiction.

Senior Hanna Rashidi recounted how, during her junior year, students were diligent in attempting to comprehend the emotional weight of Beloved, Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel about the experiences of an escaped slave.

On the importance of reading empathetically, Rashidi said, “I know that my life experience is very limited because I’ve lived here my entire life, and I try to expand my understanding and perception of other people by reading their own words.”

Posted on March 23, 2017 .