Sunday, April 18, 2010

Who's afraid of Wuthering Heights and Frankenstein?

Monica S of the Bibliophilic Book Blog gave Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising a "4-Crow" review. Thanks, Monica!

Monica brings up an interesting point that I wanted to try to answer.
I like this new thing among authors, whether intentional or not, to include references to some of the world's classics. I think that if teens see some of these books in their modern favorites it will inspire them to give them a try outside the classroom. I just read an article about the impact from the mentioning of Wuthering Heights in Twilight has had on sales of Wuthering Heights. It makes me want to clap and cheer. I hope the trend continues. 

I have a couple of thoughts on author's including references to classic books. For my part I have to say I never gave it much deliberate thought. For those who don't know-- and I have to reckon that's everybody, since Alex Van Helsing #1 isn't out-- the book is an action adventure, but the characters are concerned with the young people who hung out with author Mary Shelley during the writing of Frankenstein. Now, you don't have to have read Frankenstein-- or indeed know who Mary Shelley even is-- to follow the story, because the characters themselves are reading the book in school, and anyway they tend to explain to us whatever's important.

I think of this as being the same phenomenon as soccer in Bend it Like Beckham.  You don't actually have to know a lot about soccer to follow the movie-- you get that the character knows and cares about soccer.

Anyway, in Alex Van Helsing, Alex and his friends tend to find their clues hidden in books-- and generally not in made up books, either, but real books. If it were to happen that a reader decided to go read Frankenstein or Dracula, that sure couldn't hurt anyone. But it's not necessary. (Actually, Alex isn't even that careful a reader, either. He relies a lot on friends.) In these books, books really matter, which is a defensible position for a writer to hold.

So: I am not afraid of making references to anything as long as I make some explanation for those who don't know the subject. All that matters is that the character care. There are always subjects that some of us know a lot about and others are just coming to: classic books? Sure. Nuclear physics? Why not? Expensive shoes? That too.Young adult readers today are far more sophisticated than they were in past generations, with far more ways to look up anything that comes along. I'm pretty sure that there's nothing that should throw these readers for a loop, so I'm not surprised that no editor took a red pen to Bella's Wuthering Heights.

Books really matter in my books because books really matter to the characters-- and because they really matter to me. The alternative would be sort of sad, wouldn't it?

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