"A good story is a dirty secret that we all share," Lev Grossman writes in "Good Books Don't Have to Be Hard, his essay in the August 29 edition of The Wall Street Journal. Grossman, the book critic at Time and author of The Magicians and Warp, believes that a strong emphasis on storytelling will once again becoming important in novels, after having been cast aside as being "disgraceful" for the last several decades. That's good news, he says, because novels without a strong plot, for the most part, suck.
Which is probably why millions of adults are cheating on the literary novel with the young-adult novel, where the unblushing embrace of storytelling is allowed, even encouraged. Sales of hardcover young-adult books are up 30.7% so far this year, through June, according to the Association of American Publishers, while adult hardcovers are down 17.8%. Nam Le's The Boat, one of the best-reviewed books of fiction of 2008, has sold 16,000 copies in hardcover and trade paperback, according to Nielsen Bookscan (which admittedly doesn't include all book retailers). In the first quarter of 2009 alone, the author of the Twilight series, Stephenie Meyer, sold eight million books. What are those readers looking for? You'll find critics who say they have bad taste, or that they're lazy and can't hack it in the big leagues. But that's not the case. They need something they're not getting elsewhere. Let's be honest: Why do so many adults read Suzanne Collins's young-adult novel The Hunger Games instead of contemporary literary fiction? Because The Hunger Games doesn't bore them.Good Books Don't Have to Be Hard Work
All of this is changing. The revolution is under way. The novel is getting entertaining again.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects