Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Trap of Instant Gratification

Just saw this on Twitter: Netflix gives you 15 seconds between episodes to decide whether or not you're doing anything with your life today.

For those of you who stream and watch TV series on Netflix, you know how addictive it can be and how easy it is to convince yourself to watch just one more episode.

I’ve experienced something similar with young adult novel series. I read one book…then have to know what happens to the characters. I download the next book from Kindle (immediately) and read non-stop. Then I’m hooked and ready to read the next book. Then… WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE THIRD BOOK ISN’T OUT YET?!

The whole YA series phenomena puzzled me at first. Why weren’t writers writing one great book and moving on to new characters and new places?  It took reading a few series to understand that I cared about these well-written, dynamic characters and wanted to tag along for more of their journeys (just as I cared about television characters enough to watch 11 episodes of Downton Abbey one Saturday – but that’s another story).

Katniss (Hunger Games) and Tris (Divergent) and Allie (Night School) and Lyda (Pure) and Alex (Ashes) and Evie (Paranormalcy) and Lena (Beautiful Creatures) and other teen heroines have dominated my Kindle and bookshelf for some time although my reading tastes are usually darker and more literary (George Saunders, Donald Ray Pollock).

The publishing industry has found a cash cow in successful YA series and the brand loyalty they generate among readers. This is not a bad thing. After all, I’ve enjoyed these series and eagerly await the next installments in some.
But I'm left wondering where the stand-alone YA title fits in?  Will readers of young adult fiction go for well-crafted stories like The Sky is Everywhere (Jandy Nelson) and The Mockingbirds (Daisy Whitney) or have they (we) been trained to expect more? Fodder for another blog.