Young readers of historical romance.

Jo here, again, thanks to Gina. Many blessings be upon you!

And thanks to Susan Kind for allowing me part of Thursday to repeat this.

I said I’d blog about this, and here I go in true blog style, because I’m not sure I have anything coherent to say, but the subject does interest me for many reasons.

I was a young reader of historical romance. I began with The Scarlet Pimpernel when I was about 10, I think. The thinking is about the age, not the book, though I had been reading some historical novels, mostly about real people before that, and Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, which of course contain a lot of romances and they were the ones I read and reread.

I was in England, of course, where romances flourished back then, including historical romance. I soon discovered Heyer, definitely historical romance. Let’s forget the distinction between trad regency and historical romance that sprang up. I had no concept of such a thing then, or when I wrote my first complete romance novel in 1977, which is why what became An Arranged Marriage was and is a bit unusual (!) for a regency romance.

An addition, as I found it. The ’60s cover of one of Heyer’s books.
Regencybuck_1

Someone should research when the division occurred between regency and historical romance, because by the mid eighties it was firm in North America, with the idea that “regency” meant no sex and
historicals meant sex, graphic or not.

Anyway, I outread the children’s library at a young age and was given an adult library card, which admitted me to many delights, including a whole wall of Mills and Boon romances. Not historical, but very enjoyable, thank you, much to my mother’s dismay. Yup, to her they weren’t “real books.”

I digress, as always.

But I’m trying to think about my attitude to historical romance — always my favorite reading — and what appealed to me as a young person at school, at university, and afterward.

I think mate-choosing has to appeal to young people strongly. We are animals beneath the sophistication, so as soon as we enter puberty, a large part of our mind is occupied with the important business of
finding a mate and reproducing our genes. We may not do it, as many haven’t through the ages — very wise of so many women to enter convents in the middle ages, in my opinion, though it’s equally
interesting that more men did than women. I’m not quite sure how that works out — but biologically it’s the only thing of true importance.
P0669_m4_jo_and_her_painting_in_my_room__1

Perhaps, if there is a decline in interest in romance novels in young women across the board these days, it reflects the fact that they’re more busily engaged in the activity, after a manner of speaking, than my generation were. Except that the swinging sixties didn’t do much to change my interest in historical romance. That’s a picture of me as a romance reader at university, complete with phallic images. That’s my art work BTW, but not an example I’m proud of. I never was into abstract.

I think this is getting too long, and I may add to it later. But what do you think?

Are young people really reading less. I was an avid reader but most of my friends weren’t even then. Are there really fewer avid readers?

Is historical romance less appealing to today’s young readers? I get quite a bit of e-mail from young readers.

Is it perhaps because the protagonists, especially the heroines, in historical romance are often older? I still write quite young ones. Imogen in Dark Champion was 16. Claire in Lord of Midnight, 18. Jancy in The Rogue’s Return is 18, and Mara in To Rescue A Rogue is 19. Thea, in my MIP, is the advanced age of 20.

Apart from a couple of older women younger men stories, I don’t think I’ve written a heroine older than 24 and most of my heroes aren’t much older than that.

Or is it that the stories have become a bit internal, with not enough action and derring-do. And I include most sex scenes as internal (no puns, please. I’m British!) as despite the many delights being experienced, it is not action in the plot sense.

Many thoughts, no coherence.

Jo
PS. Adding as I repost this, I might not have enjoyed romances so much as a young teen if I hadn’t been able to find plenty of adult romances, by which I mean they weren’t written for young readers, with subtle sexuality. Where are those books now? I don’t think YA books hit the spot.

66 thoughts on “Young readers of historical romance.”

  1. I am 32 and was an avid, adult level reader at an early age. I don’t know anyone outside of my family who reads as much as I do. Everyone is always floored by my 4 bookcases so I don’t generally mention the books stashed in boxes and under my bed.
    I read contemporary romance only if it’s written by a select few authors; I don’t even pick up contemporaries written by authors I don’t know. Contemporary romance is bound by contemporary societal rules. I’m living that and want something different in my fiction. (I hate reality TV.) Historical romance has centuries of different societies to choose from, and I’m much more interested in those.
    Younger protagonists turn me off if their youth is translated as stupidity or naivete. Generally, age doesn’t seem to matter as much in historicals since people matured faster. I must say the ages of your protagonists have never bothered me. I’m surprised at the ages you quoted; I don’t remember noticing them.
    As for “internal” stories versus the action-packed variety, I’ll take a good “internal” over action-packed any day. The characters themselves make or break a book for me. My fiction reading career began with mysteries, but I read few of them these days. I’m always more interested in the detective, and most mysteries highlight the plot. I don’t watch Law & Order:CI unless D’Onofrio is on it.
    I’ve found that I’m reading less these days because of a shorter attention span and problems concentrating. Reading a dense historical has become too much like work. When I realized this recently, I was appalled by my brain laziness no doubt caused by electronic addiction. Since then, I’ve been trying to get away from mindless entertainment and revive my reading skills.

    Reply
  2. I am 32 and was an avid, adult level reader at an early age. I don’t know anyone outside of my family who reads as much as I do. Everyone is always floored by my 4 bookcases so I don’t generally mention the books stashed in boxes and under my bed.
    I read contemporary romance only if it’s written by a select few authors; I don’t even pick up contemporaries written by authors I don’t know. Contemporary romance is bound by contemporary societal rules. I’m living that and want something different in my fiction. (I hate reality TV.) Historical romance has centuries of different societies to choose from, and I’m much more interested in those.
    Younger protagonists turn me off if their youth is translated as stupidity or naivete. Generally, age doesn’t seem to matter as much in historicals since people matured faster. I must say the ages of your protagonists have never bothered me. I’m surprised at the ages you quoted; I don’t remember noticing them.
    As for “internal” stories versus the action-packed variety, I’ll take a good “internal” over action-packed any day. The characters themselves make or break a book for me. My fiction reading career began with mysteries, but I read few of them these days. I’m always more interested in the detective, and most mysteries highlight the plot. I don’t watch Law & Order:CI unless D’Onofrio is on it.
    I’ve found that I’m reading less these days because of a shorter attention span and problems concentrating. Reading a dense historical has become too much like work. When I realized this recently, I was appalled by my brain laziness no doubt caused by electronic addiction. Since then, I’ve been trying to get away from mindless entertainment and revive my reading skills.

    Reply
  3. I am 32 and was an avid, adult level reader at an early age. I don’t know anyone outside of my family who reads as much as I do. Everyone is always floored by my 4 bookcases so I don’t generally mention the books stashed in boxes and under my bed.
    I read contemporary romance only if it’s written by a select few authors; I don’t even pick up contemporaries written by authors I don’t know. Contemporary romance is bound by contemporary societal rules. I’m living that and want something different in my fiction. (I hate reality TV.) Historical romance has centuries of different societies to choose from, and I’m much more interested in those.
    Younger protagonists turn me off if their youth is translated as stupidity or naivete. Generally, age doesn’t seem to matter as much in historicals since people matured faster. I must say the ages of your protagonists have never bothered me. I’m surprised at the ages you quoted; I don’t remember noticing them.
    As for “internal” stories versus the action-packed variety, I’ll take a good “internal” over action-packed any day. The characters themselves make or break a book for me. My fiction reading career began with mysteries, but I read few of them these days. I’m always more interested in the detective, and most mysteries highlight the plot. I don’t watch Law & Order:CI unless D’Onofrio is on it.
    I’ve found that I’m reading less these days because of a shorter attention span and problems concentrating. Reading a dense historical has become too much like work. When I realized this recently, I was appalled by my brain laziness no doubt caused by electronic addiction. Since then, I’ve been trying to get away from mindless entertainment and revive my reading skills.

    Reply
  4. From Sherrie:
    Jo, great post, and I’m so glad Gina was able to resurrect it for you!
    You asked if young people are reading less. My unscientific observation tells me it’s true. I don’t have much exposure to young people, but the ones I do come in contact with are so wrapped up in e-mail, computer games, iPods, and cell phones that it leaves little or no time for reading.
    When they do read, it’s comic books. Being a huge comic book fan, this is not meant as a slam. But it *is* an indication of the level of reading I see in the younger generation.
    Are young people reading less due to short attention spans and an ever increasing need for stimulation? If that’s the case, how do you explain the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter books? The media made a big deal about the HP books, making it sound like suddenly youngsters all over the world were reading again because of these books. And now that Harry is growing up, we’re getting a little romance interspersed with all the magic. I wonder where that will lead?
    But in my limited exposure to the whippersnappers, I never saw an HP book–or any other book–in their hands. Just computer games.
    My sister’s son was raised in a reading household–both his mother and father were avid readers. But my nephew isn’t, despite constant exposure to the joys of reading.
    Sherrie

    Reply
  5. From Sherrie:
    Jo, great post, and I’m so glad Gina was able to resurrect it for you!
    You asked if young people are reading less. My unscientific observation tells me it’s true. I don’t have much exposure to young people, but the ones I do come in contact with are so wrapped up in e-mail, computer games, iPods, and cell phones that it leaves little or no time for reading.
    When they do read, it’s comic books. Being a huge comic book fan, this is not meant as a slam. But it *is* an indication of the level of reading I see in the younger generation.
    Are young people reading less due to short attention spans and an ever increasing need for stimulation? If that’s the case, how do you explain the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter books? The media made a big deal about the HP books, making it sound like suddenly youngsters all over the world were reading again because of these books. And now that Harry is growing up, we’re getting a little romance interspersed with all the magic. I wonder where that will lead?
    But in my limited exposure to the whippersnappers, I never saw an HP book–or any other book–in their hands. Just computer games.
    My sister’s son was raised in a reading household–both his mother and father were avid readers. But my nephew isn’t, despite constant exposure to the joys of reading.
    Sherrie

    Reply
  6. From Sherrie:
    Jo, great post, and I’m so glad Gina was able to resurrect it for you!
    You asked if young people are reading less. My unscientific observation tells me it’s true. I don’t have much exposure to young people, but the ones I do come in contact with are so wrapped up in e-mail, computer games, iPods, and cell phones that it leaves little or no time for reading.
    When they do read, it’s comic books. Being a huge comic book fan, this is not meant as a slam. But it *is* an indication of the level of reading I see in the younger generation.
    Are young people reading less due to short attention spans and an ever increasing need for stimulation? If that’s the case, how do you explain the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter books? The media made a big deal about the HP books, making it sound like suddenly youngsters all over the world were reading again because of these books. And now that Harry is growing up, we’re getting a little romance interspersed with all the magic. I wonder where that will lead?
    But in my limited exposure to the whippersnappers, I never saw an HP book–or any other book–in their hands. Just computer games.
    My sister’s son was raised in a reading household–both his mother and father were avid readers. But my nephew isn’t, despite constant exposure to the joys of reading.
    Sherrie

    Reply
  7. Not all my friends were readers growing up, but many of them were. My best friend and I have been talking books together since we were reading Betsy and Tacy Go Up the Big Hill. I also come from a family of readers–immediate and extended; most loved to talk about what they read. The book exchange is a routine part of our family reunions, and a common question when family members meet is “What are you reading?” At a smaller family gathering the week-end of the 4th, book conversation ranged from Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Gilgamesh to Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink to Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian to Harry Potter to Yellow Elephant, the current favorite of the pre-school brigade.
    When my students write literacy narratives, the true readers among them tell stories that have much in common with mine, although four decades separate us. But the rest write of being read to as children, earning pizza for books in elementary school, and after that they write of “required reading.” I teach at a large land-grant institution; the experience of someone teaching at a more elite institution may well be different. I dare say that my students are more typical of the general population however.
    Even among the readers, their leisure reading tends to be largely fantasy and/or thrillers. The slim minority who admit to reading romance always do so apologetically. I see this same attitude reflected in the comments of several young women college students who are regular posters on a couple of boards I frequent. They are avid readers of romance, largely historical romance, and yet they are not comfortable sharing their reading tastes within the academic community, not even with their peers. On the other hand, those who teach courses on romance fiction have classes that fill up quickly. Perhaps there are more close readers of romance among the young than we know.

    Reply
  8. Not all my friends were readers growing up, but many of them were. My best friend and I have been talking books together since we were reading Betsy and Tacy Go Up the Big Hill. I also come from a family of readers–immediate and extended; most loved to talk about what they read. The book exchange is a routine part of our family reunions, and a common question when family members meet is “What are you reading?” At a smaller family gathering the week-end of the 4th, book conversation ranged from Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Gilgamesh to Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink to Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian to Harry Potter to Yellow Elephant, the current favorite of the pre-school brigade.
    When my students write literacy narratives, the true readers among them tell stories that have much in common with mine, although four decades separate us. But the rest write of being read to as children, earning pizza for books in elementary school, and after that they write of “required reading.” I teach at a large land-grant institution; the experience of someone teaching at a more elite institution may well be different. I dare say that my students are more typical of the general population however.
    Even among the readers, their leisure reading tends to be largely fantasy and/or thrillers. The slim minority who admit to reading romance always do so apologetically. I see this same attitude reflected in the comments of several young women college students who are regular posters on a couple of boards I frequent. They are avid readers of romance, largely historical romance, and yet they are not comfortable sharing their reading tastes within the academic community, not even with their peers. On the other hand, those who teach courses on romance fiction have classes that fill up quickly. Perhaps there are more close readers of romance among the young than we know.

    Reply
  9. Not all my friends were readers growing up, but many of them were. My best friend and I have been talking books together since we were reading Betsy and Tacy Go Up the Big Hill. I also come from a family of readers–immediate and extended; most loved to talk about what they read. The book exchange is a routine part of our family reunions, and a common question when family members meet is “What are you reading?” At a smaller family gathering the week-end of the 4th, book conversation ranged from Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Gilgamesh to Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink to Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian to Harry Potter to Yellow Elephant, the current favorite of the pre-school brigade.
    When my students write literacy narratives, the true readers among them tell stories that have much in common with mine, although four decades separate us. But the rest write of being read to as children, earning pizza for books in elementary school, and after that they write of “required reading.” I teach at a large land-grant institution; the experience of someone teaching at a more elite institution may well be different. I dare say that my students are more typical of the general population however.
    Even among the readers, their leisure reading tends to be largely fantasy and/or thrillers. The slim minority who admit to reading romance always do so apologetically. I see this same attitude reflected in the comments of several young women college students who are regular posters on a couple of boards I frequent. They are avid readers of romance, largely historical romance, and yet they are not comfortable sharing their reading tastes within the academic community, not even with their peers. On the other hand, those who teach courses on romance fiction have classes that fill up quickly. Perhaps there are more close readers of romance among the young than we know.

    Reply
  10. Hi Jo:
    I had a post all ready last night but TypePad turned up his nose. I suppose he was too full. Hope Sherrie doesn’t have any trouble changing the diaper. 🙂
    While TypePad was digesting posts, something strange happened in my house. I walked into my daughter’s room to say goodnight to her and her two dogs and I found her reading HAWKSONG, by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. To find her reading was not a surprise. Anna reads avidly. But Hawksong is a very grown up YA SF/Paranormal with a heavy dose of romance. When I left for work yesterday morning, the book was on my shelf, now it was in her hands, half read. “What do you think,” I asked quietly when she didn’t look up. Then I quickly scanned a few words on the page she was reading. Having read the book three times myself, I knew what had already happened and what was to come. “It’s good,” she finally answered, turning the page. Then her hand when back to absentmindedly massaging her JRT’s soft floppy ears as she continued to absorb the story. Anna knows the ways of a man and woman, for the most part, but the hormones have yet to fully kick in. So, ‘it’ is still a little ‘gross’ in her mind. But the sight of her nestled down in her flowery, juvenile comforter, draped by her dogs, fingers wrapped around a ‘romance’ was chilling. At 11 I was reading Trixie and Nancy Drew. I thought to run back down stairs and stow my historical romance reads in a locked box. Did I really want her the get a hold of one of them? But I didn’t. I won’t offer them to her, but if she were to pick one up (and she just might) I would rather her discover men with scruples than an the unscrupulous rakes in modern day romance (and TV). As a mom, it’s hard to guide a child through the minefield this century has made out of our sexuality. It is so much more than insert part A into part B and getting a thrill. It’s teaching and demonstrating how to find a mate, a mate worth having and holding for life. This starts with setting standards for self and the yet unknown mate, then deciding not to settle for less. A number of the WW’s books teach this which is why I like them.
    As for YA’s ‘not hitting the spot’. I can’t speak for ‘back then’ but for now… try THE RAGING QUIET or BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE. I have found a lot of less than subtle sexuality in YA reads. If young teens want to read about sex, they will find what they are looking for on both the YA and Adult Romance shelves. My hope would be that when they find it, they discover that there’s a lot more to be had than a thrill.
    All books teach, writing and molding our future with their words.
    Nina

    Reply
  11. Hi Jo:
    I had a post all ready last night but TypePad turned up his nose. I suppose he was too full. Hope Sherrie doesn’t have any trouble changing the diaper. 🙂
    While TypePad was digesting posts, something strange happened in my house. I walked into my daughter’s room to say goodnight to her and her two dogs and I found her reading HAWKSONG, by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. To find her reading was not a surprise. Anna reads avidly. But Hawksong is a very grown up YA SF/Paranormal with a heavy dose of romance. When I left for work yesterday morning, the book was on my shelf, now it was in her hands, half read. “What do you think,” I asked quietly when she didn’t look up. Then I quickly scanned a few words on the page she was reading. Having read the book three times myself, I knew what had already happened and what was to come. “It’s good,” she finally answered, turning the page. Then her hand when back to absentmindedly massaging her JRT’s soft floppy ears as she continued to absorb the story. Anna knows the ways of a man and woman, for the most part, but the hormones have yet to fully kick in. So, ‘it’ is still a little ‘gross’ in her mind. But the sight of her nestled down in her flowery, juvenile comforter, draped by her dogs, fingers wrapped around a ‘romance’ was chilling. At 11 I was reading Trixie and Nancy Drew. I thought to run back down stairs and stow my historical romance reads in a locked box. Did I really want her the get a hold of one of them? But I didn’t. I won’t offer them to her, but if she were to pick one up (and she just might) I would rather her discover men with scruples than an the unscrupulous rakes in modern day romance (and TV). As a mom, it’s hard to guide a child through the minefield this century has made out of our sexuality. It is so much more than insert part A into part B and getting a thrill. It’s teaching and demonstrating how to find a mate, a mate worth having and holding for life. This starts with setting standards for self and the yet unknown mate, then deciding not to settle for less. A number of the WW’s books teach this which is why I like them.
    As for YA’s ‘not hitting the spot’. I can’t speak for ‘back then’ but for now… try THE RAGING QUIET or BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE. I have found a lot of less than subtle sexuality in YA reads. If young teens want to read about sex, they will find what they are looking for on both the YA and Adult Romance shelves. My hope would be that when they find it, they discover that there’s a lot more to be had than a thrill.
    All books teach, writing and molding our future with their words.
    Nina

    Reply
  12. Hi Jo:
    I had a post all ready last night but TypePad turned up his nose. I suppose he was too full. Hope Sherrie doesn’t have any trouble changing the diaper. 🙂
    While TypePad was digesting posts, something strange happened in my house. I walked into my daughter’s room to say goodnight to her and her two dogs and I found her reading HAWKSONG, by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. To find her reading was not a surprise. Anna reads avidly. But Hawksong is a very grown up YA SF/Paranormal with a heavy dose of romance. When I left for work yesterday morning, the book was on my shelf, now it was in her hands, half read. “What do you think,” I asked quietly when she didn’t look up. Then I quickly scanned a few words on the page she was reading. Having read the book three times myself, I knew what had already happened and what was to come. “It’s good,” she finally answered, turning the page. Then her hand when back to absentmindedly massaging her JRT’s soft floppy ears as she continued to absorb the story. Anna knows the ways of a man and woman, for the most part, but the hormones have yet to fully kick in. So, ‘it’ is still a little ‘gross’ in her mind. But the sight of her nestled down in her flowery, juvenile comforter, draped by her dogs, fingers wrapped around a ‘romance’ was chilling. At 11 I was reading Trixie and Nancy Drew. I thought to run back down stairs and stow my historical romance reads in a locked box. Did I really want her the get a hold of one of them? But I didn’t. I won’t offer them to her, but if she were to pick one up (and she just might) I would rather her discover men with scruples than an the unscrupulous rakes in modern day romance (and TV). As a mom, it’s hard to guide a child through the minefield this century has made out of our sexuality. It is so much more than insert part A into part B and getting a thrill. It’s teaching and demonstrating how to find a mate, a mate worth having and holding for life. This starts with setting standards for self and the yet unknown mate, then deciding not to settle for less. A number of the WW’s books teach this which is why I like them.
    As for YA’s ‘not hitting the spot’. I can’t speak for ‘back then’ but for now… try THE RAGING QUIET or BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE. I have found a lot of less than subtle sexuality in YA reads. If young teens want to read about sex, they will find what they are looking for on both the YA and Adult Romance shelves. My hope would be that when they find it, they discover that there’s a lot more to be had than a thrill.
    All books teach, writing and molding our future with their words.
    Nina

    Reply
  13. I think this is one of those ‘the times haven’t changed, the view has’ things. I was an avid reader, my cousin never was. I read ‘inappropriate’ selections when I was 10. I heard people talking about kids not reading at the bookstore, while I was picking books. I don’t know if I buy the sexual revolution thing either. My grandmother used to sniff and say my mother’s generation thought they invented partying – but they just invented telling everyone about it.
    When I was young I did like younger heroines – but not as young as 13 (Aleen Malcom). That made me uncomfortable. But reading about 26 year old virgins did too, because it was hard to identify with someone who hit their late twenties without making relationship mistakes. This was the era of the rape book and I wasn’t crazy about that either. I read Regencies, which everyone told me were for old people, and Laurie McBain and the like. I imagine we have as many young readers now as then, still flying under the radar.

    Reply
  14. I think this is one of those ‘the times haven’t changed, the view has’ things. I was an avid reader, my cousin never was. I read ‘inappropriate’ selections when I was 10. I heard people talking about kids not reading at the bookstore, while I was picking books. I don’t know if I buy the sexual revolution thing either. My grandmother used to sniff and say my mother’s generation thought they invented partying – but they just invented telling everyone about it.
    When I was young I did like younger heroines – but not as young as 13 (Aleen Malcom). That made me uncomfortable. But reading about 26 year old virgins did too, because it was hard to identify with someone who hit their late twenties without making relationship mistakes. This was the era of the rape book and I wasn’t crazy about that either. I read Regencies, which everyone told me were for old people, and Laurie McBain and the like. I imagine we have as many young readers now as then, still flying under the radar.

    Reply
  15. I think this is one of those ‘the times haven’t changed, the view has’ things. I was an avid reader, my cousin never was. I read ‘inappropriate’ selections when I was 10. I heard people talking about kids not reading at the bookstore, while I was picking books. I don’t know if I buy the sexual revolution thing either. My grandmother used to sniff and say my mother’s generation thought they invented partying – but they just invented telling everyone about it.
    When I was young I did like younger heroines – but not as young as 13 (Aleen Malcom). That made me uncomfortable. But reading about 26 year old virgins did too, because it was hard to identify with someone who hit their late twenties without making relationship mistakes. This was the era of the rape book and I wasn’t crazy about that either. I read Regencies, which everyone told me were for old people, and Laurie McBain and the like. I imagine we have as many young readers now as then, still flying under the radar.

    Reply
  16. I must come from a family (a world?—I mean I am in San Francisco) of freaks. Everyone I know, in every age category, reads. From my 87 year-old grandmother to my 19 year-old brother. Even my 3 year-old god son is obsessed with books (Jack would MUCH rather be read to than watch TV). And ALL of my friends are voracious readers. Most of our TBR piles have 30+ books in them, and don’t get me started about what our Amazon Wish Lists look like; Let’s just say picking the “right” present is NEVER a problem).
    When I meet a non-reader it always startles me. It’s just so alien. So strange. So sad.

    Reply
  17. I must come from a family (a world?—I mean I am in San Francisco) of freaks. Everyone I know, in every age category, reads. From my 87 year-old grandmother to my 19 year-old brother. Even my 3 year-old god son is obsessed with books (Jack would MUCH rather be read to than watch TV). And ALL of my friends are voracious readers. Most of our TBR piles have 30+ books in them, and don’t get me started about what our Amazon Wish Lists look like; Let’s just say picking the “right” present is NEVER a problem).
    When I meet a non-reader it always startles me. It’s just so alien. So strange. So sad.

    Reply
  18. I must come from a family (a world?—I mean I am in San Francisco) of freaks. Everyone I know, in every age category, reads. From my 87 year-old grandmother to my 19 year-old brother. Even my 3 year-old god son is obsessed with books (Jack would MUCH rather be read to than watch TV). And ALL of my friends are voracious readers. Most of our TBR piles have 30+ books in them, and don’t get me started about what our Amazon Wish Lists look like; Let’s just say picking the “right” present is NEVER a problem).
    When I meet a non-reader it always startles me. It’s just so alien. So strange. So sad.

    Reply
  19. I misspelled Susan King as Susan Kind, but that fits, doesn’t it!
    I’m sure readers hang together as do any other groups. Look at some young people and you could say all of them are sports mad. Look at another group and you could say all they do is shop and talk on cell phones. So what we think is normal often depends on who we see/know.
    If young people’s other activities are cutting into reading time, it’s true for all of us, isn’t it?
    I do worry that education has done a great job of turning a large part of a generation off fiction. A lot of the approved reading for school students is disease of the month message books. I have some friends who write for young readers, and for them if the child protagonist isn’t facing a “real” challenge, like divorce, death, bullying etc, they can’t sell the book.
    IMO, learning to read fiction so that the unreal world becomes vivid in the mind is a skill, and it comes when children are given unreal worlds they want to explore. Picture books, comic books, whatever. Once they have the skill, the world is open to them. Reading to them is good, but they need to read for themselves, too.
    BTW, Sherrie, if your nephew is between 8 and 15, there’s lots of hope. Nearly all boys go through a non-reading phase then. IMO it’s because they want to be in worlds of high action and violence and there’s nothing at their reading level that has enough juice. Harry Potter has changed that a bit. But if there are warriors and orcs type fantasy books around, he’ll probably pick them up.
    “My grandmother used to sniff and say my mother’s generation thought they invented partying – but they just invented telling everyone about it.”
    LOL, Liz! How true.
    Nina, does the sort of violent YA you mentioned have a happy ending? Some that I’ve seen is still stuck in what I think of as disease of the week, only now it’s violence etc and a “life’s a bitch and then you die” philosophy.
    I’ve been a triumphant, optimistic ending requirer from the cradle. Because that’s realistic.
    IMO, as always.
    I will now hand Thursday over to Susan. Thanks again, Susan.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  20. I misspelled Susan King as Susan Kind, but that fits, doesn’t it!
    I’m sure readers hang together as do any other groups. Look at some young people and you could say all of them are sports mad. Look at another group and you could say all they do is shop and talk on cell phones. So what we think is normal often depends on who we see/know.
    If young people’s other activities are cutting into reading time, it’s true for all of us, isn’t it?
    I do worry that education has done a great job of turning a large part of a generation off fiction. A lot of the approved reading for school students is disease of the month message books. I have some friends who write for young readers, and for them if the child protagonist isn’t facing a “real” challenge, like divorce, death, bullying etc, they can’t sell the book.
    IMO, learning to read fiction so that the unreal world becomes vivid in the mind is a skill, and it comes when children are given unreal worlds they want to explore. Picture books, comic books, whatever. Once they have the skill, the world is open to them. Reading to them is good, but they need to read for themselves, too.
    BTW, Sherrie, if your nephew is between 8 and 15, there’s lots of hope. Nearly all boys go through a non-reading phase then. IMO it’s because they want to be in worlds of high action and violence and there’s nothing at their reading level that has enough juice. Harry Potter has changed that a bit. But if there are warriors and orcs type fantasy books around, he’ll probably pick them up.
    “My grandmother used to sniff and say my mother’s generation thought they invented partying – but they just invented telling everyone about it.”
    LOL, Liz! How true.
    Nina, does the sort of violent YA you mentioned have a happy ending? Some that I’ve seen is still stuck in what I think of as disease of the week, only now it’s violence etc and a “life’s a bitch and then you die” philosophy.
    I’ve been a triumphant, optimistic ending requirer from the cradle. Because that’s realistic.
    IMO, as always.
    I will now hand Thursday over to Susan. Thanks again, Susan.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  21. I misspelled Susan King as Susan Kind, but that fits, doesn’t it!
    I’m sure readers hang together as do any other groups. Look at some young people and you could say all of them are sports mad. Look at another group and you could say all they do is shop and talk on cell phones. So what we think is normal often depends on who we see/know.
    If young people’s other activities are cutting into reading time, it’s true for all of us, isn’t it?
    I do worry that education has done a great job of turning a large part of a generation off fiction. A lot of the approved reading for school students is disease of the month message books. I have some friends who write for young readers, and for them if the child protagonist isn’t facing a “real” challenge, like divorce, death, bullying etc, they can’t sell the book.
    IMO, learning to read fiction so that the unreal world becomes vivid in the mind is a skill, and it comes when children are given unreal worlds they want to explore. Picture books, comic books, whatever. Once they have the skill, the world is open to them. Reading to them is good, but they need to read for themselves, too.
    BTW, Sherrie, if your nephew is between 8 and 15, there’s lots of hope. Nearly all boys go through a non-reading phase then. IMO it’s because they want to be in worlds of high action and violence and there’s nothing at their reading level that has enough juice. Harry Potter has changed that a bit. But if there are warriors and orcs type fantasy books around, he’ll probably pick them up.
    “My grandmother used to sniff and say my mother’s generation thought they invented partying – but they just invented telling everyone about it.”
    LOL, Liz! How true.
    Nina, does the sort of violent YA you mentioned have a happy ending? Some that I’ve seen is still stuck in what I think of as disease of the week, only now it’s violence etc and a “life’s a bitch and then you die” philosophy.
    I’ve been a triumphant, optimistic ending requirer from the cradle. Because that’s realistic.
    IMO, as always.
    I will now hand Thursday over to Susan. Thanks again, Susan.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  22. Jo asked..
    “…does the sort of violent YA you mentioned have a happy ending…”
    Hi Jo:
    THE RAGING QUIET, HAWKSONG, and BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE are not violent. Each is relationship oriented and all three have a happy ending… the guy gets the girl. The Raging Quiet deals with bigotry, Hawksong with tolerance and Blood and Chocolate with accepting who you are.
    Nina

    Reply
  23. Jo asked..
    “…does the sort of violent YA you mentioned have a happy ending…”
    Hi Jo:
    THE RAGING QUIET, HAWKSONG, and BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE are not violent. Each is relationship oriented and all three have a happy ending… the guy gets the girl. The Raging Quiet deals with bigotry, Hawksong with tolerance and Blood and Chocolate with accepting who you are.
    Nina

    Reply
  24. Jo asked..
    “…does the sort of violent YA you mentioned have a happy ending…”
    Hi Jo:
    THE RAGING QUIET, HAWKSONG, and BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE are not violent. Each is relationship oriented and all three have a happy ending… the guy gets the girl. The Raging Quiet deals with bigotry, Hawksong with tolerance and Blood and Chocolate with accepting who you are.
    Nina

    Reply
  25. Jo – interesting thoughts. And great pic of you at uni!
    I do actually know some teenage girls who love to read historical romance, who
    were quite disappointed when Avon’s YA line was dropped. Though I imagine by now
    they’re ready for adult books.
    As a teenager myself, I read all kinds of books from historical romance,
    historical fiction and mysteries to First Love from Silhouette books. But my
    first love was always the historically based books. That was during the late 70s
    and early 80s – Woodiwiss, Gellis etc
    So much of it I think, does come down to personal taste as well. And maybe
    there’s also a feeling among some girls that anything to do with history is like
    schoolwork, so they don’t give it a chance. My older niece is already almost 9
    and an avid reader – needless to say, I’m hoping to get her interested in
    historically based books, but without pushing it too much.
    Maybe with more and more kids being out on the net and in the blogosphere
    they’ll start exploring for themselves and find excerpts etc. Guess that’s the
    best thing we can do – well, those of you who are pubbed, anyway *g* – is keep
    the books as front and centre as possible and hope to draw the younger set in
    and have them talk the books up to their friends.
    Don’t know if I was any more coherent than you!

    Reply
  26. Jo – interesting thoughts. And great pic of you at uni!
    I do actually know some teenage girls who love to read historical romance, who
    were quite disappointed when Avon’s YA line was dropped. Though I imagine by now
    they’re ready for adult books.
    As a teenager myself, I read all kinds of books from historical romance,
    historical fiction and mysteries to First Love from Silhouette books. But my
    first love was always the historically based books. That was during the late 70s
    and early 80s – Woodiwiss, Gellis etc
    So much of it I think, does come down to personal taste as well. And maybe
    there’s also a feeling among some girls that anything to do with history is like
    schoolwork, so they don’t give it a chance. My older niece is already almost 9
    and an avid reader – needless to say, I’m hoping to get her interested in
    historically based books, but without pushing it too much.
    Maybe with more and more kids being out on the net and in the blogosphere
    they’ll start exploring for themselves and find excerpts etc. Guess that’s the
    best thing we can do – well, those of you who are pubbed, anyway *g* – is keep
    the books as front and centre as possible and hope to draw the younger set in
    and have them talk the books up to their friends.
    Don’t know if I was any more coherent than you!

    Reply
  27. Jo – interesting thoughts. And great pic of you at uni!
    I do actually know some teenage girls who love to read historical romance, who
    were quite disappointed when Avon’s YA line was dropped. Though I imagine by now
    they’re ready for adult books.
    As a teenager myself, I read all kinds of books from historical romance,
    historical fiction and mysteries to First Love from Silhouette books. But my
    first love was always the historically based books. That was during the late 70s
    and early 80s – Woodiwiss, Gellis etc
    So much of it I think, does come down to personal taste as well. And maybe
    there’s also a feeling among some girls that anything to do with history is like
    schoolwork, so they don’t give it a chance. My older niece is already almost 9
    and an avid reader – needless to say, I’m hoping to get her interested in
    historically based books, but without pushing it too much.
    Maybe with more and more kids being out on the net and in the blogosphere
    they’ll start exploring for themselves and find excerpts etc. Guess that’s the
    best thing we can do – well, those of you who are pubbed, anyway *g* – is keep
    the books as front and centre as possible and hope to draw the younger set in
    and have them talk the books up to their friends.
    Don’t know if I was any more coherent than you!

    Reply
  28. I’m 35, so I guess I’m neither a younger reader nor an older reader. That said, here are my random thoughts on the issue:
    I think it’s possible that young people are reading less, not because of any lack of intelligence or the ability to appreciate a good book, but because there are so many competing sources of entertainment. When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, we had six channels of TV available at my house. Cable and satellite TV were still relative novelties, and I didn’t know the internet existed till I got to college in 1989. I spent a much higher percentage of my leisure time reading as an introverted, geeky 15-year-old than I do now as an equally introverted and geeky 35-year-old. It’s not that I love books any less, but the internet and TV compete for my attention now.
    That said, I know a lot of women roughly my age and younger who read historical romance. I don’t know how typical my friends are, though–I tend to gravitate toward people who share my interests, after all.
    Sometimes I think the biggest single influence on whether a person reads (and to a lesser degree on *what* they read) is whether or not they grew up around at least one parent who loves to read. My parents were both avid readers, and my mother read mostly historical fiction, though she preferred sagas (Belva Plain, Eugenia Price, etc.) and cozy mysteries to romance. All of their four children read as adults, and two of us are voracious, omnivorous, addicted readers. My brother who’s the other addict is 15 years older than me and married young, so his three children are grown–and two of them are avid readers. The daughter asked my advice on what order to read Jane Austen, and the son asked me to send books during his tour of duty in Iraq (he’s National Guard). I asked what he liked, and he said, “Anything with words.” Among other things, I sent him Neil Gaiman (my husband’s favorite) and Bernard Cornwell (one of my many favorites), both of which went over well. I’ll be seeing my niece while I’m in Atlanta for RWA, so maybe I’ll try to fix her up with some of my favorite historicals now that she’s read Austen!
    I’m rambling on here, and I’m not sure I have a point. Anyway, I was another young reader of historical romance. I started with my library’s collection of Georgette Heyer and Clare Darcy, and I also adored the Sunfire romances that came out when I was in high school–teen historicals set at various important/interesting points of American history. Girl finds love at Jamestown, girl finds love on the Oregon Trail, girl finds love surviving the Galveston hurricane, etc. I quickly moved to Regency romances, partly because Heyer had primed me to enjoy the era and partly because they were the only adult romances I could bring home as a teen without earning criticism from my mother. She’s a very strict Southern Baptist in many ways, so to keep the peace I brought home books with tame covers, and if the contents weren’t always tame, I just avoided leaving that book where she might read it too! (It’s really a good thing she didn’t know just what was in THE VALLEY OF HORSES or THE MAMMOTH HUNTERS back then.)

    Reply
  29. I’m 35, so I guess I’m neither a younger reader nor an older reader. That said, here are my random thoughts on the issue:
    I think it’s possible that young people are reading less, not because of any lack of intelligence or the ability to appreciate a good book, but because there are so many competing sources of entertainment. When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, we had six channels of TV available at my house. Cable and satellite TV were still relative novelties, and I didn’t know the internet existed till I got to college in 1989. I spent a much higher percentage of my leisure time reading as an introverted, geeky 15-year-old than I do now as an equally introverted and geeky 35-year-old. It’s not that I love books any less, but the internet and TV compete for my attention now.
    That said, I know a lot of women roughly my age and younger who read historical romance. I don’t know how typical my friends are, though–I tend to gravitate toward people who share my interests, after all.
    Sometimes I think the biggest single influence on whether a person reads (and to a lesser degree on *what* they read) is whether or not they grew up around at least one parent who loves to read. My parents were both avid readers, and my mother read mostly historical fiction, though she preferred sagas (Belva Plain, Eugenia Price, etc.) and cozy mysteries to romance. All of their four children read as adults, and two of us are voracious, omnivorous, addicted readers. My brother who’s the other addict is 15 years older than me and married young, so his three children are grown–and two of them are avid readers. The daughter asked my advice on what order to read Jane Austen, and the son asked me to send books during his tour of duty in Iraq (he’s National Guard). I asked what he liked, and he said, “Anything with words.” Among other things, I sent him Neil Gaiman (my husband’s favorite) and Bernard Cornwell (one of my many favorites), both of which went over well. I’ll be seeing my niece while I’m in Atlanta for RWA, so maybe I’ll try to fix her up with some of my favorite historicals now that she’s read Austen!
    I’m rambling on here, and I’m not sure I have a point. Anyway, I was another young reader of historical romance. I started with my library’s collection of Georgette Heyer and Clare Darcy, and I also adored the Sunfire romances that came out when I was in high school–teen historicals set at various important/interesting points of American history. Girl finds love at Jamestown, girl finds love on the Oregon Trail, girl finds love surviving the Galveston hurricane, etc. I quickly moved to Regency romances, partly because Heyer had primed me to enjoy the era and partly because they were the only adult romances I could bring home as a teen without earning criticism from my mother. She’s a very strict Southern Baptist in many ways, so to keep the peace I brought home books with tame covers, and if the contents weren’t always tame, I just avoided leaving that book where she might read it too! (It’s really a good thing she didn’t know just what was in THE VALLEY OF HORSES or THE MAMMOTH HUNTERS back then.)

    Reply
  30. I’m 35, so I guess I’m neither a younger reader nor an older reader. That said, here are my random thoughts on the issue:
    I think it’s possible that young people are reading less, not because of any lack of intelligence or the ability to appreciate a good book, but because there are so many competing sources of entertainment. When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, we had six channels of TV available at my house. Cable and satellite TV were still relative novelties, and I didn’t know the internet existed till I got to college in 1989. I spent a much higher percentage of my leisure time reading as an introverted, geeky 15-year-old than I do now as an equally introverted and geeky 35-year-old. It’s not that I love books any less, but the internet and TV compete for my attention now.
    That said, I know a lot of women roughly my age and younger who read historical romance. I don’t know how typical my friends are, though–I tend to gravitate toward people who share my interests, after all.
    Sometimes I think the biggest single influence on whether a person reads (and to a lesser degree on *what* they read) is whether or not they grew up around at least one parent who loves to read. My parents were both avid readers, and my mother read mostly historical fiction, though she preferred sagas (Belva Plain, Eugenia Price, etc.) and cozy mysteries to romance. All of their four children read as adults, and two of us are voracious, omnivorous, addicted readers. My brother who’s the other addict is 15 years older than me and married young, so his three children are grown–and two of them are avid readers. The daughter asked my advice on what order to read Jane Austen, and the son asked me to send books during his tour of duty in Iraq (he’s National Guard). I asked what he liked, and he said, “Anything with words.” Among other things, I sent him Neil Gaiman (my husband’s favorite) and Bernard Cornwell (one of my many favorites), both of which went over well. I’ll be seeing my niece while I’m in Atlanta for RWA, so maybe I’ll try to fix her up with some of my favorite historicals now that she’s read Austen!
    I’m rambling on here, and I’m not sure I have a point. Anyway, I was another young reader of historical romance. I started with my library’s collection of Georgette Heyer and Clare Darcy, and I also adored the Sunfire romances that came out when I was in high school–teen historicals set at various important/interesting points of American history. Girl finds love at Jamestown, girl finds love on the Oregon Trail, girl finds love surviving the Galveston hurricane, etc. I quickly moved to Regency romances, partly because Heyer had primed me to enjoy the era and partly because they were the only adult romances I could bring home as a teen without earning criticism from my mother. She’s a very strict Southern Baptist in many ways, so to keep the peace I brought home books with tame covers, and if the contents weren’t always tame, I just avoided leaving that book where she might read it too! (It’s really a good thing she didn’t know just what was in THE VALLEY OF HORSES or THE MAMMOTH HUNTERS back then.)

    Reply
  31. Since I learned how to read, I have loved historical fiction and women’s biographies. The children’s section of my local library put little red circle stickers on their historical fiction, and I read every one of them. My progression to historical romances as a teenager was a natural progression from the classic girl books (Little House, Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Maude Montgomery, etc. – then Jane Austen, Jane Eyre – until finally historical romances) My grandmother gave me my first historical romance, and a 5th grade teacher gave me my first young adult historical romance. (Amanda – does anybody remember those? Sunflower romance or something like that. The titles were always a girl’s name and the cover was her between two guys because they always featured a love triangle). Historical fiction – and historical romance – has always appealed to me.
    I don’t think the older heroines in historicals have anything to do with it. Young adults always “read up” – read about people older than they are. Honestly, I’m guessing the biggest turn off for many would be the history – some kids HATE history.
    Another thing could be that there are so many other media choices nowadays. At a recent work conference, I heard that millenials (aka gen Y, born from 1980 on) use an average of 4 or 5 media at any one time. Can books compete with all those other media choices?
    Finally, when you’re still in school, you may think of reading as work – as in school work. I had friends absolutely shocked that I would read for pleasure when I was in college. Perhaps, they’ll start reading for pleasure more once their schooling is done.
    Finally, can anybody prove that young people are reading less these days? Do they have statistics to back it up? I really do think there are readers
    and non-readers in the world – no matter the age.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  32. Since I learned how to read, I have loved historical fiction and women’s biographies. The children’s section of my local library put little red circle stickers on their historical fiction, and I read every one of them. My progression to historical romances as a teenager was a natural progression from the classic girl books (Little House, Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Maude Montgomery, etc. – then Jane Austen, Jane Eyre – until finally historical romances) My grandmother gave me my first historical romance, and a 5th grade teacher gave me my first young adult historical romance. (Amanda – does anybody remember those? Sunflower romance or something like that. The titles were always a girl’s name and the cover was her between two guys because they always featured a love triangle). Historical fiction – and historical romance – has always appealed to me.
    I don’t think the older heroines in historicals have anything to do with it. Young adults always “read up” – read about people older than they are. Honestly, I’m guessing the biggest turn off for many would be the history – some kids HATE history.
    Another thing could be that there are so many other media choices nowadays. At a recent work conference, I heard that millenials (aka gen Y, born from 1980 on) use an average of 4 or 5 media at any one time. Can books compete with all those other media choices?
    Finally, when you’re still in school, you may think of reading as work – as in school work. I had friends absolutely shocked that I would read for pleasure when I was in college. Perhaps, they’ll start reading for pleasure more once their schooling is done.
    Finally, can anybody prove that young people are reading less these days? Do they have statistics to back it up? I really do think there are readers
    and non-readers in the world – no matter the age.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  33. Since I learned how to read, I have loved historical fiction and women’s biographies. The children’s section of my local library put little red circle stickers on their historical fiction, and I read every one of them. My progression to historical romances as a teenager was a natural progression from the classic girl books (Little House, Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Maude Montgomery, etc. – then Jane Austen, Jane Eyre – until finally historical romances) My grandmother gave me my first historical romance, and a 5th grade teacher gave me my first young adult historical romance. (Amanda – does anybody remember those? Sunflower romance or something like that. The titles were always a girl’s name and the cover was her between two guys because they always featured a love triangle). Historical fiction – and historical romance – has always appealed to me.
    I don’t think the older heroines in historicals have anything to do with it. Young adults always “read up” – read about people older than they are. Honestly, I’m guessing the biggest turn off for many would be the history – some kids HATE history.
    Another thing could be that there are so many other media choices nowadays. At a recent work conference, I heard that millenials (aka gen Y, born from 1980 on) use an average of 4 or 5 media at any one time. Can books compete with all those other media choices?
    Finally, when you’re still in school, you may think of reading as work – as in school work. I had friends absolutely shocked that I would read for pleasure when I was in college. Perhaps, they’ll start reading for pleasure more once their schooling is done.
    Finally, can anybody prove that young people are reading less these days? Do they have statistics to back it up? I really do think there are readers
    and non-readers in the world – no matter the age.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  34. Teresa, your niece is about the age I was when I got addicted to Rosemary Sutcliff. THE LANTERN BEARERS, THE SILVER BRANCH, OUTCAST, WARRIOR SCARLET, THE SHIELD RING. Man I loved those books. And some of them had just a hint of romance in them. I think those books were the beginning of my fetish for all things historical.
    And then there was MARK OF THE HORSELORD which I wept over countless times as a tween. And TRISTAN AND ISEULT (still my favorite version).

    Reply
  35. Teresa, your niece is about the age I was when I got addicted to Rosemary Sutcliff. THE LANTERN BEARERS, THE SILVER BRANCH, OUTCAST, WARRIOR SCARLET, THE SHIELD RING. Man I loved those books. And some of them had just a hint of romance in them. I think those books were the beginning of my fetish for all things historical.
    And then there was MARK OF THE HORSELORD which I wept over countless times as a tween. And TRISTAN AND ISEULT (still my favorite version).

    Reply
  36. Teresa, your niece is about the age I was when I got addicted to Rosemary Sutcliff. THE LANTERN BEARERS, THE SILVER BRANCH, OUTCAST, WARRIOR SCARLET, THE SHIELD RING. Man I loved those books. And some of them had just a hint of romance in them. I think those books were the beginning of my fetish for all things historical.
    And then there was MARK OF THE HORSELORD which I wept over countless times as a tween. And TRISTAN AND ISEULT (still my favorite version).

    Reply
  37. In one of those coincidences that seems too fortuitous, I had lunch today with a friend and her children. The daughter, fourteen, is an avid reader of YA historical fiction, and as she talked articulately and enthusiastically about her reading I was amazed. The only titles I had heard of, and I do know a little about YA lit, were Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever (18th century, yellow fever epidemic) and Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels (Victorian boarding school paranormals). But Roni talked about books with settings ranging from classical Greece to 1950s America. I was impressed and a bit envious of all that variety.
    But then I came home and read Michelle’s post that mentioned Alcott and Montgomery, and I wondered if among all the books available for girls today there are any shared reading experiences comparable to the works of those two writers. For several generations of girls, I think, the lives and romances of the Marches and Anne Shirley created an attachment to the basics elements of historical romance. Do girls still read these books? These intersecting ideas have gived me some questions to ponder.

    Reply
  38. In one of those coincidences that seems too fortuitous, I had lunch today with a friend and her children. The daughter, fourteen, is an avid reader of YA historical fiction, and as she talked articulately and enthusiastically about her reading I was amazed. The only titles I had heard of, and I do know a little about YA lit, were Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever (18th century, yellow fever epidemic) and Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels (Victorian boarding school paranormals). But Roni talked about books with settings ranging from classical Greece to 1950s America. I was impressed and a bit envious of all that variety.
    But then I came home and read Michelle’s post that mentioned Alcott and Montgomery, and I wondered if among all the books available for girls today there are any shared reading experiences comparable to the works of those two writers. For several generations of girls, I think, the lives and romances of the Marches and Anne Shirley created an attachment to the basics elements of historical romance. Do girls still read these books? These intersecting ideas have gived me some questions to ponder.

    Reply
  39. In one of those coincidences that seems too fortuitous, I had lunch today with a friend and her children. The daughter, fourteen, is an avid reader of YA historical fiction, and as she talked articulately and enthusiastically about her reading I was amazed. The only titles I had heard of, and I do know a little about YA lit, were Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever (18th century, yellow fever epidemic) and Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels (Victorian boarding school paranormals). But Roni talked about books with settings ranging from classical Greece to 1950s America. I was impressed and a bit envious of all that variety.
    But then I came home and read Michelle’s post that mentioned Alcott and Montgomery, and I wondered if among all the books available for girls today there are any shared reading experiences comparable to the works of those two writers. For several generations of girls, I think, the lives and romances of the Marches and Anne Shirley created an attachment to the basics elements of historical romance. Do girls still read these books? These intersecting ideas have gived me some questions to ponder.

    Reply
  40. OK, several thoughts here:
    First, on YA: what Nina mentions is true. I’ve read both HAWKSONG and BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE, and they’re really strong, universal books. They might be labeled YA, but this forty-something read them and was fascinated. BTW, there’s also a strong level of sexuality, particularly in B&C, that’s somewhat surprising. And there are a number of “YA” books, like those by Lois Duncan, that are more mature in their intent.
    Then there are books that, when I first read them, were published as “adult” reading, but were then later packaged as YA. Examples of this would be Robin McKinley’s fantasy novels (the brilliant RIDDLE-MASTERtrilogy, THE BLUE SWORD, etc.). Another is SORCERY AND CECELIA by Wrede and Stevermer. If you look at the recently published editions, they’re all billed as YA. I took THE GRAND TOUR out of the library recently–from the YA section, labeled that way on the spine. So there is a large amount of blurring between YA and adult fiction, particularly in fantasy and SF, that makes me as a reader seek out both.
    And there’s some darned fine stuff in YA. I would recommend both HAWKSONG and B&C to y’all to check out, particularly for their romantic elements! Or try Donna Jo Napoli, whose twists on traditional fairy tales are really intriguing.
    Onward: my daughter is 9 and my son is 11. Describing my daughter as an avid reader is understating it. She reads anywhere, everywhere, every minute she can, anything she can. For me, the big thing is making sure she doesn’t get a book that’s so mature for her age and personal experience that she’s overwhelmed. (No, she’s not ready for a romance novel!) But her personality is just one of “a reader.” She always will be, I bet.
    My son, OTOH, is a casual reader. He’s never been a big fan of fiction. Even as a child, he wanted to read non-fiction books. Now, he’s terribly into the video games, the hand-held players, Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel on TV–all visual stimulation. When it comes to books, all he wants to do is go to the comic book/manga section of the library. Which is great, because any reading is good. But again, it’s presenting the reading information in a visual format. Or he’ll read magazines–stories accompanied by pictures. That’s just his approach.
    Now, my husband and I are avid readers. Our kids were and are exposed to tons of reading, were read to as kids, etc. But they’ve each now approached reading in their own way, with their own personalities, and I think that has a lot to do with what makes you a reader or not. Exposure is important, but not the only factor to make you an avid reader.
    Last point: I also think your attitude and position towards books changes during your life. My personal example of this is one of my all-time fave books, A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith. When I first read this, at about 12 years of age, the first part of the book was just wondrous, and I kind of drowsed through the second part. Now, the book follows a young, impoverished girl from about the age of 10 or so until about 20, at the turn of the 20th century. So that first part of the book related to the girl I was then. As I aged, I would re-read the book and relate so much more to the second part! I still nostagically loved the first part, but the latter half resonated more with who I’d become.
    I think good books of any type will do that with a reader. You can also re-read a book you loved years ago and wonder what attracted you to that in the first place.
    A lot of reading is lightning in a bottle. You find the right book at the right time for yourself. If you’re lucky as an author, you find your own personal Harry Potter and strike a resonant chord with a lot of the world! 🙂
    ml

    Reply
  41. OK, several thoughts here:
    First, on YA: what Nina mentions is true. I’ve read both HAWKSONG and BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE, and they’re really strong, universal books. They might be labeled YA, but this forty-something read them and was fascinated. BTW, there’s also a strong level of sexuality, particularly in B&C, that’s somewhat surprising. And there are a number of “YA” books, like those by Lois Duncan, that are more mature in their intent.
    Then there are books that, when I first read them, were published as “adult” reading, but were then later packaged as YA. Examples of this would be Robin McKinley’s fantasy novels (the brilliant RIDDLE-MASTERtrilogy, THE BLUE SWORD, etc.). Another is SORCERY AND CECELIA by Wrede and Stevermer. If you look at the recently published editions, they’re all billed as YA. I took THE GRAND TOUR out of the library recently–from the YA section, labeled that way on the spine. So there is a large amount of blurring between YA and adult fiction, particularly in fantasy and SF, that makes me as a reader seek out both.
    And there’s some darned fine stuff in YA. I would recommend both HAWKSONG and B&C to y’all to check out, particularly for their romantic elements! Or try Donna Jo Napoli, whose twists on traditional fairy tales are really intriguing.
    Onward: my daughter is 9 and my son is 11. Describing my daughter as an avid reader is understating it. She reads anywhere, everywhere, every minute she can, anything she can. For me, the big thing is making sure she doesn’t get a book that’s so mature for her age and personal experience that she’s overwhelmed. (No, she’s not ready for a romance novel!) But her personality is just one of “a reader.” She always will be, I bet.
    My son, OTOH, is a casual reader. He’s never been a big fan of fiction. Even as a child, he wanted to read non-fiction books. Now, he’s terribly into the video games, the hand-held players, Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel on TV–all visual stimulation. When it comes to books, all he wants to do is go to the comic book/manga section of the library. Which is great, because any reading is good. But again, it’s presenting the reading information in a visual format. Or he’ll read magazines–stories accompanied by pictures. That’s just his approach.
    Now, my husband and I are avid readers. Our kids were and are exposed to tons of reading, were read to as kids, etc. But they’ve each now approached reading in their own way, with their own personalities, and I think that has a lot to do with what makes you a reader or not. Exposure is important, but not the only factor to make you an avid reader.
    Last point: I also think your attitude and position towards books changes during your life. My personal example of this is one of my all-time fave books, A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith. When I first read this, at about 12 years of age, the first part of the book was just wondrous, and I kind of drowsed through the second part. Now, the book follows a young, impoverished girl from about the age of 10 or so until about 20, at the turn of the 20th century. So that first part of the book related to the girl I was then. As I aged, I would re-read the book and relate so much more to the second part! I still nostagically loved the first part, but the latter half resonated more with who I’d become.
    I think good books of any type will do that with a reader. You can also re-read a book you loved years ago and wonder what attracted you to that in the first place.
    A lot of reading is lightning in a bottle. You find the right book at the right time for yourself. If you’re lucky as an author, you find your own personal Harry Potter and strike a resonant chord with a lot of the world! 🙂
    ml

    Reply
  42. OK, several thoughts here:
    First, on YA: what Nina mentions is true. I’ve read both HAWKSONG and BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE, and they’re really strong, universal books. They might be labeled YA, but this forty-something read them and was fascinated. BTW, there’s also a strong level of sexuality, particularly in B&C, that’s somewhat surprising. And there are a number of “YA” books, like those by Lois Duncan, that are more mature in their intent.
    Then there are books that, when I first read them, were published as “adult” reading, but were then later packaged as YA. Examples of this would be Robin McKinley’s fantasy novels (the brilliant RIDDLE-MASTERtrilogy, THE BLUE SWORD, etc.). Another is SORCERY AND CECELIA by Wrede and Stevermer. If you look at the recently published editions, they’re all billed as YA. I took THE GRAND TOUR out of the library recently–from the YA section, labeled that way on the spine. So there is a large amount of blurring between YA and adult fiction, particularly in fantasy and SF, that makes me as a reader seek out both.
    And there’s some darned fine stuff in YA. I would recommend both HAWKSONG and B&C to y’all to check out, particularly for their romantic elements! Or try Donna Jo Napoli, whose twists on traditional fairy tales are really intriguing.
    Onward: my daughter is 9 and my son is 11. Describing my daughter as an avid reader is understating it. She reads anywhere, everywhere, every minute she can, anything she can. For me, the big thing is making sure she doesn’t get a book that’s so mature for her age and personal experience that she’s overwhelmed. (No, she’s not ready for a romance novel!) But her personality is just one of “a reader.” She always will be, I bet.
    My son, OTOH, is a casual reader. He’s never been a big fan of fiction. Even as a child, he wanted to read non-fiction books. Now, he’s terribly into the video games, the hand-held players, Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel on TV–all visual stimulation. When it comes to books, all he wants to do is go to the comic book/manga section of the library. Which is great, because any reading is good. But again, it’s presenting the reading information in a visual format. Or he’ll read magazines–stories accompanied by pictures. That’s just his approach.
    Now, my husband and I are avid readers. Our kids were and are exposed to tons of reading, were read to as kids, etc. But they’ve each now approached reading in their own way, with their own personalities, and I think that has a lot to do with what makes you a reader or not. Exposure is important, but not the only factor to make you an avid reader.
    Last point: I also think your attitude and position towards books changes during your life. My personal example of this is one of my all-time fave books, A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith. When I first read this, at about 12 years of age, the first part of the book was just wondrous, and I kind of drowsed through the second part. Now, the book follows a young, impoverished girl from about the age of 10 or so until about 20, at the turn of the 20th century. So that first part of the book related to the girl I was then. As I aged, I would re-read the book and relate so much more to the second part! I still nostagically loved the first part, but the latter half resonated more with who I’d become.
    I think good books of any type will do that with a reader. You can also re-read a book you loved years ago and wonder what attracted you to that in the first place.
    A lot of reading is lightning in a bottle. You find the right book at the right time for yourself. If you’re lucky as an author, you find your own personal Harry Potter and strike a resonant chord with a lot of the world! 🙂
    ml

    Reply
  43. I agree that children read more if the parents read often. My oldest son is 11 and he is always reading. When I go to buy books for him and I see these thin little novel books recommended for people his age I am shocked. I have to explain that for example he read the Chronicles of Narnia set in 3 days. I also think that some parents let their children play too much on the computer/game systems. We have set time limits for each. I also don’t allow my kids to “veg-out” all day watching T.V. I think alot of parents use the T.V./game systems/computer as a babysitter to pacify their children. My sister’s kids are 17, 16, and 10, I never see them read unless it’s for an assignment. The 10 year old stayed with us all of last week, he thought it was crazy that we would all sit in the living room and read. I think he will be reading alot more often at home now, he read 4 books that week and had a great time.

    Reply
  44. I agree that children read more if the parents read often. My oldest son is 11 and he is always reading. When I go to buy books for him and I see these thin little novel books recommended for people his age I am shocked. I have to explain that for example he read the Chronicles of Narnia set in 3 days. I also think that some parents let their children play too much on the computer/game systems. We have set time limits for each. I also don’t allow my kids to “veg-out” all day watching T.V. I think alot of parents use the T.V./game systems/computer as a babysitter to pacify their children. My sister’s kids are 17, 16, and 10, I never see them read unless it’s for an assignment. The 10 year old stayed with us all of last week, he thought it was crazy that we would all sit in the living room and read. I think he will be reading alot more often at home now, he read 4 books that week and had a great time.

    Reply
  45. I agree that children read more if the parents read often. My oldest son is 11 and he is always reading. When I go to buy books for him and I see these thin little novel books recommended for people his age I am shocked. I have to explain that for example he read the Chronicles of Narnia set in 3 days. I also think that some parents let their children play too much on the computer/game systems. We have set time limits for each. I also don’t allow my kids to “veg-out” all day watching T.V. I think alot of parents use the T.V./game systems/computer as a babysitter to pacify their children. My sister’s kids are 17, 16, and 10, I never see them read unless it’s for an assignment. The 10 year old stayed with us all of last week, he thought it was crazy that we would all sit in the living room and read. I think he will be reading alot more often at home now, he read 4 books that week and had a great time.

    Reply
  46. I think kids DO read today, probably more than they did when we were younger. They just don’t read the same things, or in the same ways, that we did. Look at the enormous numbers of YA titles available these days. Just like there are so many mall stores geared towards teenagers today, there’s a whole niche of publishing geared towards them, too. Whether it’s sci-fi, fantasy, or Gossip Girls, the kids are finding books they like, and gloming them as fast as they can.
    As a parent, I’ve followed the same program as my parents did with me: let the kids see YOU read, make time to read to and with them, then once they’re on their own, let’em go. They’ll read a lot of goofy stuff in the process (hey, so do adults), but they also find the good, too. If historical romance never “speaks” to my daughter, so be it. My mother likes mysteries much better, too. 🙂
    Yep, I had to bite back my criticism of RL Stine with my son, just like I do now with “The Pretty Committee” with my daughter. But now he’s an honors program English major in college, reading an amazingly wide range of books of his own choosing, and I’ve no doubt my daughter will follow suit.
    I just don’t think I’ll ever find her with Georgette Heyer.

    Reply
  47. I think kids DO read today, probably more than they did when we were younger. They just don’t read the same things, or in the same ways, that we did. Look at the enormous numbers of YA titles available these days. Just like there are so many mall stores geared towards teenagers today, there’s a whole niche of publishing geared towards them, too. Whether it’s sci-fi, fantasy, or Gossip Girls, the kids are finding books they like, and gloming them as fast as they can.
    As a parent, I’ve followed the same program as my parents did with me: let the kids see YOU read, make time to read to and with them, then once they’re on their own, let’em go. They’ll read a lot of goofy stuff in the process (hey, so do adults), but they also find the good, too. If historical romance never “speaks” to my daughter, so be it. My mother likes mysteries much better, too. 🙂
    Yep, I had to bite back my criticism of RL Stine with my son, just like I do now with “The Pretty Committee” with my daughter. But now he’s an honors program English major in college, reading an amazingly wide range of books of his own choosing, and I’ve no doubt my daughter will follow suit.
    I just don’t think I’ll ever find her with Georgette Heyer.

    Reply
  48. I think kids DO read today, probably more than they did when we were younger. They just don’t read the same things, or in the same ways, that we did. Look at the enormous numbers of YA titles available these days. Just like there are so many mall stores geared towards teenagers today, there’s a whole niche of publishing geared towards them, too. Whether it’s sci-fi, fantasy, or Gossip Girls, the kids are finding books they like, and gloming them as fast as they can.
    As a parent, I’ve followed the same program as my parents did with me: let the kids see YOU read, make time to read to and with them, then once they’re on their own, let’em go. They’ll read a lot of goofy stuff in the process (hey, so do adults), but they also find the good, too. If historical romance never “speaks” to my daughter, so be it. My mother likes mysteries much better, too. 🙂
    Yep, I had to bite back my criticism of RL Stine with my son, just like I do now with “The Pretty Committee” with my daughter. But now he’s an honors program English major in college, reading an amazingly wide range of books of his own choosing, and I’ve no doubt my daughter will follow suit.
    I just don’t think I’ll ever find her with Georgette Heyer.

    Reply
  49. I think, perhaps, our cultural parameters might affect our choice of reading material. When I was very little, cowboy movies and TV programs were a huge rage, and the school library was packed with biographies of long ago heroes and civil war stories and the like. Scholastic Magazine offered all the English lit classics, which of course were mostly 19th century. So I developed a fascination with anything “historical” long before I knew what an historical was.
    Maybe we need more cowboy shows on television and civil war games and movies aimed at young people to rev up their imaginations. (oh, and remember the Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett programs?)
    Pat

    Reply
  50. I think, perhaps, our cultural parameters might affect our choice of reading material. When I was very little, cowboy movies and TV programs were a huge rage, and the school library was packed with biographies of long ago heroes and civil war stories and the like. Scholastic Magazine offered all the English lit classics, which of course were mostly 19th century. So I developed a fascination with anything “historical” long before I knew what an historical was.
    Maybe we need more cowboy shows on television and civil war games and movies aimed at young people to rev up their imaginations. (oh, and remember the Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett programs?)
    Pat

    Reply
  51. I think, perhaps, our cultural parameters might affect our choice of reading material. When I was very little, cowboy movies and TV programs were a huge rage, and the school library was packed with biographies of long ago heroes and civil war stories and the like. Scholastic Magazine offered all the English lit classics, which of course were mostly 19th century. So I developed a fascination with anything “historical” long before I knew what an historical was.
    Maybe we need more cowboy shows on television and civil war games and movies aimed at young people to rev up their imaginations. (oh, and remember the Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett programs?)
    Pat

    Reply
  52. I think the Regency romance as a genre in and of itself began with Georgette Heyer and continued with those who tried to write as much like her as possible.
    Could it be that historical novels are too intellectually demanding for many younger readers, who prefer zapping things in electronic games? I do know a number of younger people who would normally, I think, be the historical-romance audience; but they are busily involved in historical-fantasy RPGs creating their own worlds and characters.
    If you watch the “Jaywalking” segments on THE TONIGHT SHOW, you will be appalled at the ignorance of many adults (lots of them college students or even teachers) about some of the basics of cultural literacy, like those who think we fought the Revolutionary War against Germany, or that the famous pic of the “Hindtenburg” is of the sinking of the “Titanic,” or that our foe in WWII was Theodore Hitler…
    Mary Lynne, Wrede & Stevermer have another book in the series, TEN YEARS LATER, coming out later this year. And have you read Wrede’s books set in roughly the same universe, MAIRELON THE MAGICIAN and MAGICIAN’S WARD?
    There is also what I call “the Norton Phenomenon.” I first got into SF/fantasy when I picked up the Ace Books editions of Andre Norton’s YA books, which they presented as adult SF. This was back in the days when there was no sex allowed in that area of fiction (due to the prudish tastes of a couple of the most influential editors), so there was really very little difference, except that many of Norton’s books had female protagonists, and they often featured telepathic bonds between humans and animals, which is a theme that especially appeals to females, I think. I read the Witch World books, then started getting the rest of her stuff in the YA hardcovers from the library.
    It’s interesting how we differ, isn’t it? I read A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN at about the same age you did, and found it a dead bore.

    Reply
  53. I think the Regency romance as a genre in and of itself began with Georgette Heyer and continued with those who tried to write as much like her as possible.
    Could it be that historical novels are too intellectually demanding for many younger readers, who prefer zapping things in electronic games? I do know a number of younger people who would normally, I think, be the historical-romance audience; but they are busily involved in historical-fantasy RPGs creating their own worlds and characters.
    If you watch the “Jaywalking” segments on THE TONIGHT SHOW, you will be appalled at the ignorance of many adults (lots of them college students or even teachers) about some of the basics of cultural literacy, like those who think we fought the Revolutionary War against Germany, or that the famous pic of the “Hindtenburg” is of the sinking of the “Titanic,” or that our foe in WWII was Theodore Hitler…
    Mary Lynne, Wrede & Stevermer have another book in the series, TEN YEARS LATER, coming out later this year. And have you read Wrede’s books set in roughly the same universe, MAIRELON THE MAGICIAN and MAGICIAN’S WARD?
    There is also what I call “the Norton Phenomenon.” I first got into SF/fantasy when I picked up the Ace Books editions of Andre Norton’s YA books, which they presented as adult SF. This was back in the days when there was no sex allowed in that area of fiction (due to the prudish tastes of a couple of the most influential editors), so there was really very little difference, except that many of Norton’s books had female protagonists, and they often featured telepathic bonds between humans and animals, which is a theme that especially appeals to females, I think. I read the Witch World books, then started getting the rest of her stuff in the YA hardcovers from the library.
    It’s interesting how we differ, isn’t it? I read A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN at about the same age you did, and found it a dead bore.

    Reply
  54. I think the Regency romance as a genre in and of itself began with Georgette Heyer and continued with those who tried to write as much like her as possible.
    Could it be that historical novels are too intellectually demanding for many younger readers, who prefer zapping things in electronic games? I do know a number of younger people who would normally, I think, be the historical-romance audience; but they are busily involved in historical-fantasy RPGs creating their own worlds and characters.
    If you watch the “Jaywalking” segments on THE TONIGHT SHOW, you will be appalled at the ignorance of many adults (lots of them college students or even teachers) about some of the basics of cultural literacy, like those who think we fought the Revolutionary War against Germany, or that the famous pic of the “Hindtenburg” is of the sinking of the “Titanic,” or that our foe in WWII was Theodore Hitler…
    Mary Lynne, Wrede & Stevermer have another book in the series, TEN YEARS LATER, coming out later this year. And have you read Wrede’s books set in roughly the same universe, MAIRELON THE MAGICIAN and MAGICIAN’S WARD?
    There is also what I call “the Norton Phenomenon.” I first got into SF/fantasy when I picked up the Ace Books editions of Andre Norton’s YA books, which they presented as adult SF. This was back in the days when there was no sex allowed in that area of fiction (due to the prudish tastes of a couple of the most influential editors), so there was really very little difference, except that many of Norton’s books had female protagonists, and they often featured telepathic bonds between humans and animals, which is a theme that especially appeals to females, I think. I read the Witch World books, then started getting the rest of her stuff in the YA hardcovers from the library.
    It’s interesting how we differ, isn’t it? I read A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN at about the same age you did, and found it a dead bore.

    Reply
  55. Susan, yes, ATGIB definitely is a magical book. Any book that remains in print as long as it has must have something!
    Talpianna, I love it!! Yes, everyone’s reactions are different. But I have to agree that when I was young, the second half of ATGIB was just a struggle for me.
    I have read Wrede DRAGONS series (DEALING WITH, etc.), but not the Mairelon series. I’d love to know what it’s about.
    ml

    Reply
  56. Susan, yes, ATGIB definitely is a magical book. Any book that remains in print as long as it has must have something!
    Talpianna, I love it!! Yes, everyone’s reactions are different. But I have to agree that when I was young, the second half of ATGIB was just a struggle for me.
    I have read Wrede DRAGONS series (DEALING WITH, etc.), but not the Mairelon series. I’d love to know what it’s about.
    ml

    Reply
  57. Susan, yes, ATGIB definitely is a magical book. Any book that remains in print as long as it has must have something!
    Talpianna, I love it!! Yes, everyone’s reactions are different. But I have to agree that when I was young, the second half of ATGIB was just a struggle for me.
    I have read Wrede DRAGONS series (DEALING WITH, etc.), but not the Mairelon series. I’d love to know what it’s about.
    ml

    Reply
  58. Talpianna & Mary Lynne,
    Thanks for the news about the new “Sorcery & Cecilia” book! If you enjoyed them, you might also like “A College of Magics” and “A Scholar of Magics,” both by Caroline Stevermer and set in late Victorian/Edwardian (I can’t remember right now) England.

    Reply
  59. Talpianna & Mary Lynne,
    Thanks for the news about the new “Sorcery & Cecilia” book! If you enjoyed them, you might also like “A College of Magics” and “A Scholar of Magics,” both by Caroline Stevermer and set in late Victorian/Edwardian (I can’t remember right now) England.

    Reply
  60. Talpianna & Mary Lynne,
    Thanks for the news about the new “Sorcery & Cecilia” book! If you enjoyed them, you might also like “A College of Magics” and “A Scholar of Magics,” both by Caroline Stevermer and set in late Victorian/Edwardian (I can’t remember right now) England.

    Reply
  61. Krista, I love those books too. Did anyone besides me notice that the first one is something of a take on STALKY & CO.?

    Reply
  62. Krista, I love those books too. Did anyone besides me notice that the first one is something of a take on STALKY & CO.?

    Reply
  63. Krista, I love those books too. Did anyone besides me notice that the first one is something of a take on STALKY & CO.?

    Reply

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