Books for teens (multimodal?)

The latest edition of English Journal features a column by Traci Gardner on books for teenagers that seek to blend the multimedia world with traditional fiction. I have seen some of my sixth graders reading a few of these books but I have not done so myself (yet). I wonder if this will be more of a trend — shifting narratives into the wired world and using some of the facets of the wired world into traditional narratives.

Here are some of the books profiled by Gradner in the article:

  • Click Here (to find out how I survived seventh grade) by Denise Vega — involves a secret web site that suddenly becomes public (oops).
  • Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe — is a narrative built on email messages, chat room transcripts and handwritten notes.
  • ChasR: A Novel in Emails by Michael Rosen — showcases one side of an email conversation and ASCII artwork (smiley faces, etc) and forces the reader to interpret the other side of the conversations
  • TTFN by Lauren Mryacle (is that her real name?) — is told mostly through IM and follows a group of girls in their social circles.
  • The Secret Blog of Raisin Rodriquez by Judy Goldschmidt — is written entirely through blog entries that were designed to be private but suddenly become public and well, you can probably guess the aftermath.

Gardner writes:

The texts communicate the emotions of the characters in authentic detail, as the characters themselves compose blog entries, email messages and IMs. Many of the multigenre and epistolary texts provide an interactive opportunity that invites readers to discover the story, like participants in a video game.

One of the books on her list — Cathy’s Book — is one that I have read (based on a recommendation from Bud Hunt, I believe) and it was quite interesting and mostly drew me into its web of hints and plot devices. There are web addressed hidden in the book and a complete web presence that one could follow, plus a few phone numbers to call that give you more hints to the plot.

But I wonder — so many of these books are geared towards girls, it seems to me, and where are the books for boys? (Ok, I need to write one, right?)

Peace (in many forms),

  1. I liked “The Way We Live Now” which is about teenagers in a fictitious war in the present time, and how life changes for them as they lose computer access, etc. There is this sense of big blank spaces and disconnectedness both before the war (anomie of technology, we’re all talking but are we really connecting) and during the war (lack of information and online connection).

  2. There is a book that comes to mind that fits the pattern AND is boy-friendly. “The Gospel According to Larry” by Janet Tashjian. Teenager Josh is a shy, quiet type who can’t admit to his best friend that he’s in love with her. He also has a secret. In his free time, he’s created a website and posts as “Larry”. While Josh may be someone others barely notice, Larry is becoming an international sensation. People all over the world love Larry and his mesaages about tolerance and anti-consumerism – including Beth. How does Josh admit to Beth that he’s Larry? What will he do when someone makes it their mission to expose his true identity? A bonus with this one – is an actual site. It’s fun to steer students to when they’re finished reading.

    This one’s a personal favorite of mine!


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