Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Junior High Reader

I've been returning to books I loved in junior high as an escape from middling adult fiction, and they've been thrilling enough to make me wonder if I should even consider myself an adult reader.

It seems that in all popular "mature" fiction, the format is usually pages upon pages of middling setup and tension building with only a few pages of payoff, and I'm tired of it. Is it worth slogging through 700 pages of blah in anticipation of 10 pages of holy-hell-yes? It reminds me of Sixth Sense, which upon first viewing was like 1.5 hours of moderate scares followed by a couple minutes of thrill, and everyone walked away happy while I complained about the 1.5 hours. (I actually enjoyed the movie more knowing its secret. The premise of a ghost not knowing about his death, and watching how he acts with that in mind, was more fun to watch.) It also reminds me of why I stopped playing JRPGs. I asked myself whether it was worth sitting through 60 hours of bad story and a gameplay system that I "got" within the first couple of hours when I could replace the entire experience with 5 novels worth of excellent storytelling (irony!).

I contrast this with young adult fiction like, say, Harry Potter, which is more or less exciting from page to page, and still builds up to a thrilling conclusion. The first few books, at least, were real page-turners. Maybe all I want is a "page turner," and I'm giving false credit to the things that seem "meant" for a junior high audience.

Maybe that's the problem. Does everyone regard page turners as immature, or is that a personal bias? I just want to be entertained through the entire read, not strung along for a wow ending, no matter the wow.

Lately, I've been going back to books I loved in junior high to see how they hold up, and so far, so good. I borrowed the Dark Elf Trilogy from the library, and it was entertaining as hell, particularly book one. I'll gladly accept the label of "immature reader" if I get to enjoy myself this much.

I'm not an avid reader, so my opinion isn't serious. I probably just need better recommendations, or need to read more to mature my tastes.


  1. I generally don't read novels that are a slog; I guess the most sloggish one I've read in a long while was Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (written in a very similar style to Jane Austen novels, which I also find to be a slog until the end). I don't think you're in the minority, as page-turners are bestsellers.

    For some page-turning fun books which aren't considered "young adult fiction," I think maybe my best recommendation would be the Dresden Files. Quite enjoyable and they go by so fast... I have all of them except the latest (I'm waiting for Penguin and Amazon to get over themselves so I can buy it on the Kindle).

  2. I'm on a cross-discipline relations kick lately and I think this can apply to all artforms - visual art and interactive art included.

    I think though ... you do need the quick and gratifying but you perhaps also need the exacting and edifying. I suppose there must be some holy middleground ...

  3. I agree with the comment above about the Dresden Files books. Those are great. I got my wife and half her family hooked on those too.

    Jon Warner pointed me at a series I've really enjoyed, by Joe Abercrombie. The Blade Itself is the first book of the series. I highly recommend them.

    I admit, I enjoyed the Dark Elf trilogy too, but I lost interest after book 5 or so. (I guess that's the problem when a trilogy drags on past 3 books...)

  4. Thanks for the comments and book suggestions, guys. I'll need to look into the Dresden Files.