Thursday, August 6, 2009

Two Teens on Reading - An Interview

What are teenagers reading and what makes a good book? I talked to my niece and her best friend, two sophisticated 13 year-olds, about what they've read recently. It turns out they have fascinating insights on YA fiction. I started with Nicole:

What were your three favorite books this year? 

Nicole: "Gossip Girl," (by Cecily Von Ziegesar) and... what was that book with the yellow cover I read?

Rachel: She only reads books with yellow covers...

Nicole: Did any Harry Potter books come out this year? (laughter) I know - "The View from Saturday," (E.L. Konigsburg), and "The Mediator Series," by Meg Cabot. It's about a ghost busting person. 

Which of those stands out?

Nicole: I think "Gossip Girl" stands out.


Nicole: It's really chick litty and light and easy. They just have good characters.

Rachel: They're intriguing plots - scandalous - and the characters are very good, well-written.

Nicole: The characters relate well to teens.

Rachel: Except they're not relatable. We don't live in New York and meander around in parties and (do the things they do).

What kind of books do you like most, Nicole?

Nicole: I like sad books where people die - with yellow covers - I do judge by the cover - because in happy books they always have everything and you're all bummed out 'cause they're happier than you are.

That's very interesting. How do you judge a book by its cover?

Nicole: If a book is one solid cover I don't like that. If they have really annoying shiny covers that change in the light, I don't like that. I don't like hardcover books at all - they're too heavy - they don't bend... and I don't like really cartoony (covers). 
(Then,  Nicole remembered another book she read recently) "Before I Die," (by Jenny Downham) - not a kid's book though, but the character is 16. It's sad, but it's got short chapters. I like short chapters because you feel like you accomplished something.

Tell me more about why Gossip Girl is your favorite recent book, Rachel? 

Rachel: The plot is very intriguing, and the end of each chapter makes you want to read the next chapter. You don't stop reading... I also love the covers of these books, 'cause you can't see the characters' eyes. So you want to read the book and imagine what they look like.

What other books have you read recently? 

Rachel: "Forever Rose," (Hilary McCay), "Once Upon a Marigold," (Jean Ferris), and "Mrs. Piggle Wiggle," (Betty MacDonald).

Tell me about "Mrs. Piggle Wiggle." 

Rachel: It was one of my mom's books (first published in 1947). Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's funny, it's so drole.

Why funny?

Rachel: (quoting a passage from the text) Because, "She said, she fell off the banister and hit her head, and they thought she said, she fell in the toaster and burned up dead."

Nicole: It's not what you see in kid's books anymore. It's an old book. It's morbid. 


Marci Hersel said...

This is so great! Thanks!

Beverley BevenFlorez said...

Fantastic interview! Thanks for sharing.

Caroline Hatton said...

Wow! When you said "sophisticated" teens, you were not kidding. Both kids made me sit up and pay close attention to what they had to say. I wonder whether Nicole is somewhat French, like her name, because she likes sad books (like many French kids books even for the very young). I will try to remember her comment forever that "in happy books [characters] always have everything and you're all bummed out 'cause they're happier than you are." because it sheds a fresh light on a crucial element: whether a novel leaves readers feeling good or bad, great or lousy. Writers get to engineer and manipulate that!

Samantha Clark said...

How great. These girls really know what they like. Thanks for the interview. What a great idea.

Rita said...

This was highly entertaining and insightful! Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is one of my childhood favorites, so I'm delighted to hear a line quoted. Forever Rose is a personal (newer) favorite, too. And all the stuff about judging book covers--I love it.

Thanks to all three of you for sharing!

Megan Frances Abrahams said...

Yes these are sophisticated teens. Very perceptive of you, Caroline. Nicole's family is Swiss actually. I remember from talking with you last year at the conference - when you signed my copy of Vero and Philippe - that you lived in Paris as a young girl.
Thanks so much for your comments, everyone!

Unknown said...

Yellow covers? I've still got a lot to learn.

Megan Frances Abrahams said...

to Spencer Quinn
Ha ha!