A new report in the New York Daily News is sure to disturb many parents. Apparently, more and more authors are giving new meaning to the phrase “high school fantasy books” by including explicit content in their novels. We know that teenagers today read far less than the generations before them, but perhaps there are other ways to entice young people to start reading again.
While 53% of nine year old children read almost every day, just 17% of them will still be reading that much by age 17. And even those nine year olds are likely reading less. In 1999, children ages two to seven read 45 minutes a day, but that number had dropped to less than 30 by 2013. Not only that, but we also know that boys are reading less than their female peers, no matter what their age is.
As if that wasn’t enough bad news, one literary agent shamelessly admitted why she prefers racier content:
“I frequently tell my clients to sex it up,” said Brianne Johnson, a Young Adult fiction agent. “It helps sales.”
Not only that, but experts say that young adult books aimed at 14 to 17 year old teens are increasingly featuring explicit scenes with multiple partners. For better or worse, the tactic might be working. Sales of young adult fiction is rising more than 22%, and not because they’re teaching valuable leadership development training skills. Popular teen fantasy franchises like Twilight and The Hunger Games famously featured a female protagonist who was forced to choose between two male suitors. Ever since, such love triangles have dominated the genre. Critics say it’s a trashy, cynical attempt to boost sales, as if young readers are too stupid to enjoy a book that doesn’t feature a forced love triangle.
Parents concerned about the content of high school fantasy books in 2015 should take care to watch the titles on their teens’ bookshelves. But that may be getting harder; about 40.2% of teens have bought a book online, most commonly through Amazon.com. Fortunately, sex isn’t the only thing that sells. Three out of four teens say that a parent, teacher, church leader, or another trusted adult has suggested self-improvement or inspirational books for students to read. And most required reading lists for schools are still dominated by classics and teacher-approved material.
Just remember to pay special care to any high school fantasy books that come out in the next few years.