Annabel Pitcher's "My sister lives on the mantelpiece". It is a debut novel for older children and it has been reviewed elsewhere in glowing terms by both children and adults.
The Whirlwind could not finish it. She was too upset. I am not sure how far she reached into the book but she passed it over to me and said "It's horrible." Had she reached the point where the author kills off Roger (the cat) she would have been even more upset - and rightly so.
As I was reading this book there was an article in the Wall Street Journal by Meghan Cox Gurdon that has also caused a rash of comments on the internet. It claimed that modern teenage novels were "rife with depravity". The counter claims were that they are not, that they help, and that this is what teenage life is like.
I am not a teenager. I do not know what teenage life if like now. I can only observe it from the outside. I rather doubt it is like Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. I could not read those. I borrowed Breaking Dawn from the library. My father and I both tried to read it. Neither of us could. In our view it was, quite simply, badly written. The language was stilted. It did not flow. Despite this the books have proved immensely popular with some teenagers, mostly teenage girls. They are best sellers. I do not understand why. The subject matter is dark and depraved. I do not want to read that sort of thing.
I skimmed the first of the books in "The Hunger Games" trilogy. The writing was better but the subject matter did not appeal to me. Again however it is popular with teenagers.
Or is it just possible that these things have been made popular with slick marketing? Are teens being told that these are the "inside" books, that these are the books they should be reading?
When I was working as a school librarian there was a huge fuss about a book called "The Dolphin Crossing" by Jill Paton Walsh. This was because it was set in war time. It dealt with death. Now the book would scarcely raise a ripple. Judy Blume's books were causing a stir because they dealt with equally taboo topics (sex and masturbation). They still cause ripples in the Bible belt states of the US but even Walsh's book is acceptable there.
In my opinion Neil Gaiman's "The Graveyard Book" is far better than anything Stephenie Meyer has written. No doubt however the marketing gurus would tell me "but it is not a series and it cannot be marketed in the same way". No, of course it cannot be.
I think of the writers I know here on the internet, Nicola Morgan, Keren David, Gillian Philip, Lucy Coats, Katherine Roberts and others. They have not written mega-series that can be slickly marketed with the accompanying merchandise but they are all, at least in my not so humble opinion, better writers. Nevertheless they are much less likely to appear on the shelves of Australian bookshops. I am told "they do not sell well". They should - but they are not given market attention.
It is an unfortunate fact of life but undemanding rubbish will sell - and some of it will be rife with depravity.