My niece is reading the last chapter of a book I read when I was her age (and loved) out loud and it is super annoying. I remember my oldest sister being somewhat annoyed when I read those books (out loud) but I didn’t understand why. I loved them… until I didn’t. A fast reader I sped through the series probably a lot faster than the author or publishers ever intended. I would be finished with a book in a day or two and move on to the next one. That one done in the next day or two, I’d be on to the next. I read so many of those damn fucking books in such quick succession that I started to hate the protagonist. She was such a pushy know it all, I couldn’t figure out why she was such the darling. Why were those other kids friends with her? Why did all those adults put so much trust in her? Why was that boy so devoted to her when she treated him like crap and flirted with other, wealthier boys?
Reading that series was like reading the soap opera of Christian tween mysteries. The series would be as if Encyclopedia Brown and Sally Kimball were dating, but Sally was seeing Bugs Meany on the side; however they all put their differences aside once a week at Sunday School. That was this book series. And if that were the premise of the Encyclopedia Brown stories, they would be just as tedious as the other (with the female protagonist – lest anyone accuse me of finding her tiresome because she was a girl).
All that aside, it’s amazing to me that I read and enjoyed over thirty of those books when I was eleven and twelve. They were my favorites, I wanted them for Christmas and birthdays; when I finished the ones I had I cried out for “More! More!” and was forced to wait until either I could buy more for myself or the next gift giving holiday rolled around. But now, seventeen years later, I listen to another eleven year old reading the stories aloud and I am amazed these books were so enjoyed. Meant for young readers, yes, sure, they are, but, come on, so was Little Women and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and those are books that can be enjoyed as much by adults as they can by children. The writing in those books and stories are interesting and funny and the writing is easy for young people, but doesn’t belittle their comprehension, like many intended for young readers.
The mystery book series about the twelve year old girl who is smarter than everyone around her in 1900 North Carolina IS written for young readers, and it, clearly, is engaging (I read over 30 of them!), and they should remain in one’s youth. Right there alongside the American Girl books, The Baby-Sitter’s Club, and, yes, Encyclopedia Brown. Some books intended for young readers transfer well into adulthood (Phillip Pullman, Suzanne Collins, Madeleine L’Engle), but some do not. This is what I have learned while visiting with my niece this week.