My son turned fourteen last month. Despite nights lost to computer games, he does still read. Christopher Paolini published Eragon aged 19. Inheritance, the final in his tetralogy, has been pre-ordered for November (bit late but worth the wait). Birth of a Killer, Irish writer Darren Shan’s first for The Saga of Larten Crepsley, will be ready in September, while Robert Muchamore’s latest in the Cherub series, People’s Republic, was another August birth. Dragons, vampires and boy agents aplently, and yes, these books are series brands. But teenage boys have much else to distract them, mostly in digital formats. And when do we need fantasy most, if not during those years of terrifying metamorphosis?
Another new Young Adult title is Hayley Long’s Lottie Biggs in (NOT) Tragic. As Hayley’s editor on her adult Kilburn Hoodoo (2006), I knew that this teacher with a touch of list-itis and a bad case of pun-orrhea would write for children. (Not) Tragic rounds off Whitchurch oddbod Lottie’s chicklit trilogy, introduces Winnie the Chinchilla and makes philosophy palatable to the GCSE generation. In the next issue of NWR, Hayley explains why kids prefer their favourite authors in multiples, ‘Teenagers like to collect things’, as well as why writing to ‘formula’ will not ever, never be a cinch.
One distinction between teenage fiction and ‘coming of age’ novels is the age of their target readerships. Another is that the moth morphs before our very eyes in the former, while it is recalled in the latter. NWR’s current issue sees ‘coming of age’ play out across the artforms. Young film-maker Tyler Keevil muses on the sound track in films such as Juno, Harold and Maude, and Persepolis. We have a preview pick from Gawain Barnard’s teenage photo portraits, Maybe We’ll be Soldiers, at Ffotogallery’s Pontcanna venue The Dairy (8-24 September). And Liz Jones reviews Richard Ayoade’s Submarine, comparing book and film. Particularly interesting is her criticism (in a positive piece) of the director for transplanting the setting from the original’s apathetic Nineties to an incongruously apolitical Eighties.
Joe Dunthorne spoke at Edinburgh this summer about his second novel, Wild Abandon, out early in August. The author has stuck with teenage voices. Kate and Albert respectively look to the suburbs and apocalypse to escape the collapse of their parents’ marriage and the Welsh commune that is their home. Elements of this may sound familiar but why strain for strange when you have warmth, insight and humour at your fingertips? Not for nothing was Submarine nominated for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prize for comic literature. Look out for NWR’s review of Wild Abandon. And in case you were wondering how to turn boys onto books? Unplug the Wifi.
A version of this was first published in Gwen's Western Mail Insider books column on Saturday 27 August 2011.
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Watch this space... upcoming editor blog, 'Academic Novelists are International Wallbreakers' reviewing Into Suez and Booker nomination The Last Hundred Days