Adult Novels With Kid-Friendly Packaging

endersgameThe first time I saw this edition of Ender’s Game in a bookstore, I did a double take.  After all, the baby-faced hero on the cover accidentally kills another kid (and goes on to do worse) in the story. This is a pretty psychologically complex novel and it looks like it’s being marketed toward eight-year-olds.

I’m not saying kids shouldn’t read this book–it’s exactly the kind of thing I would have loved to read when I was in grade school. It just surprises me that a novel meant for adults would be given this kind of cheery makeover.

They say teens who like science fiction will often wander over to the adult section looking for books, but what is it about this particular genre that makes cross-over so easy? Is this a good thing?

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10 Comments

Filed under Parker Peevyhouse

10 responses to “Adult Novels With Kid-Friendly Packaging

  1. Really good question. Why is crossover so easy in this genre? Maybe because it’s all under the guise that it can’t really happen. It’s a fantasy world.

    I read Ender when I was in my 20s, and I remember when I first saw it in the kid’s section, I did a double-take. But then I thought “well it does have a kid protagonist.” But 8 does seem young. I wouldn’t let my 7-year-old read it. Maybe 5th and up? But mostly because it’s war and global extinction. And in the later books, that Achilles is one mean kid.

  2. With Ender’s Game, I think cross-positioning is a clever marketing tactic. The book was written for adults and originally marketed to adults but younger readers were finding it in the grown-up section, enjoying it, and recommending it to friends–so why not reissue it in a kid-friendly edition?

    I remember pulling science fiction books off the adult shelves at the library when I was eight or nine or ten. There were adult protagonists and some sex scenes I (mostly) skimmed through, but the appeal was in the adventure, exploration of alien worlds, and imagining new technologies.

  3. Personally, I think crossover is so easy because it’s–quite simply–great story writing. Many times it seems that packaging (i.e. the epic starship on a sf, the towerly mountain in a fantasy) is what prevents the vast majority of non-sf/f readers picking up a book–package the same words in a more non-genre cover, and more people will read and love it.

  4. Yeah, sci-fi does scare some people, Beth. I totally recognize that and accept it.
    And Greg, you only skimmed those parts? You truly missed out. :)

  5. Parker Peevyhouse

    I think the downside to crossover is that teens sometimes leave YA science fiction behind altogether and skip right to adult sf. That kind be pretty crappy for a YA sf writer. Not to mention the teen readers end up missing out on some good stuff.

  6. P.J.: True, but it does show how gratuitous those scenes can be. If you can cut them from the book without losing anything, what’s the point of them?

  7. Parker Peevyhouse

    Greg, That’s what they said about that new show The Seeker. It was based on a rather steamy fantasy novel but they cut out a lot of that stuff for TV. They claimed the story was still just as good without it, but then people asked why those scenes had to be in the book if the story didn’t need them.

  8. But as horrible as it sounds, the gratuitiousness (I know that’s not a word) sticks with people and helps them remember the novel and think about it once they’ve finished reading it.

    One example that pops into my mind. Did you guys read Stardust by Neil Gaimon? Remember the sex scene near the beginning. My thoughts while reading it: Wow. It’s short. I’m surprised it’s in this book because otherwise the book is total MG. It’s well written and has great visual imagery.

    It also is totally not needed for the story. It could have been totally glanced over.
    That said, it is a scene which totally made an impression on my mind. I can honestly even remember some of the words used in the descriptions even though it was a while ago I read it. It stuck with me.
    Not to mention they made a movie out of the book (and it’s not like the story was anything near Coraline or Graveyard Book level of uniqueness).

    So should Neil Gaimon have left the scene out?

  9. Parker Peevyhouse

    PJ: I don’t even remember that scene :)

  10. Your mind isn’t in the (gratuitous) gutter like mine! :)

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