This bugs me: James Patterson

February 20th, 2008 • Kate

After the other week’s brouhaha about the NY Times review putting down the entire genre of sci fi and fantasy for young readers, along comes an article about James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series (may require registration). Way down at the bottom of the two page article, there’s this stellar quote:

Mr. Patterson said that if he simply wanted to make more money, he would have developed another adult series. “I just am convinced that there aren’t enough books like this — books that kids can pick up and go ‘Wow, that was terrific, I wouldn’t mind reading another book,’ ” he said of his “Maximum Ride” series. “The most important thing to me is that more kids read these.”

I have to tell you, readers, this just makes my blood boil. I have no beef with Patterson as an adult thriller-maker (I hesitate to use the term writer, since almost every one of his books has a co-writer, credited or not, who seems to do most of the heavy lifting). He writes forgettable page turners that have been a huge success for his publishers around the world. Bully for him.
And sure, I understand the impetus to get involved in the YA world — his adult publisher has a YA division, YA books are big business right now, and he can craft plots for younger readers in the same amount of time it takes him to write up an outline for an adult book, maybe even less. What BUGS me, though, is the offhand comment that “there just aren’t enough books like this.” Oh really? REALLY?
I’m sure we can come up with a long list of fantastic, page-turning adventure novels for YAs. Most of which probably don’t benefit from Patterson’s giant name on the cover, or his publisher’s personal phone calls to bookstores requesting front-of-store placement. I’ll start:
John Marsden’s TOMORROW, WHEN THE WAR BEGAN series
SKULLDUGGERY PLEASANT by Derek Landy
KIKI STRIKE by Kirsten Miller (which had several editors I know waxing poetic with love)
The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter
and just about anything by Scott Westerfield
What else?

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8 Responses to “This bugs me: James Patterson”

  1. Joelle Anthony Says:

    Ooooh! That burns me up too! I have a whole page on my website dedicated to YA and MG that I think is fantastic and that I just know kids are reading and loving. Most recently, I love the Benny books from Eoin Colfer (well, all his books, really). And there are so many more just great books that aren't series. I'm too annoyed to think properly though. Haha! The 1-800-Where-R-U series by Meg Cabot is highly exciting! And a boy from the Grade 7 class I visit with the librarian told me he loves Redwall and was reading the Golden Compass series.

  2. Alyson Says:

    I read that article too– and cringed all the way through it.
    Okay, my most recent YA reads were TITHE – awesome! And GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY- amazing! And while there's plenty more amazing books to add to that list,I have a bad case of 'deadline' brain, so that's it for now. . .

  3. Caryn Says:

    A few thriller/mystery YA books that come to mind right now are Thieves Like Us by Stephen Cole and Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe. Ender's Game is not officially YA, but it's big with young adults, and is very suspenseful. Then there's Monster by Walter Dean Myers and First Boy by Gary D. Schmidt. I'm sure if I gave it more thought I'd come up with a lot more, since there are so many good ones out there.

  4. maggie l. wood Says:

    Anything by Kenneth Oppel, but particularly 'Airborn' and 'Skybreaker.'

  5. Julia Says:

    Harry Potter first comes to mind… then Stephanie Myers, Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse.

  6. Trish Says:

    Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series comes to mind.
    And while we're on the subject of James Patterson, I had the opportunity to read an ARC of Sundays at Tiffany's about a grown woman who falls in love with her childhood imaginary friend. Clever premise and I'm sure the masses will send it to the top of the bestseller list. Save your money and buy Cecelia Ahern's If You Could See Me Now. It's so much better.

  7. Andy Peters Says:

    "The most important thing to me is that more kids read these."
    That's the line that bugs me the most about this article. There are, of course, a few different ways to read this. I think the intended read is "Kids should be reading more action packed books" or the more desirable, "Kids should be reading more."
    BUT, when the entire focus of the article is Patterson bemoaning the lackluster sales of HIS books, the only intepretation I can read into this is "More kids should be buying MY books, dammit!"
    You're right. There are TONS of books on the market that meet his rather short-sighted criteria of what kids want to read and I bet the authors of those books would have given their big left toes for the equivalent of an unpaid ad in the New York Times to say, "Please buy my book." Did the NYT really need to give that sort of prime real estate to an established, best selling author who, frankly, doesn't need the help? Why not pick an up-and-coming writer with talent whose debut novel is lost in the ocean of books released every year, a book that could be a hit if it found the kind of audience that PR like that can do?
    I found this article obscene and offensive because Patterson is clearly not concerned with whether or not kids or reading (that last sentence, in my mind, makes his agenda clear: read my books so my sales go up!). The most ludicrous thing of all is that sales of YA titles are booming, the best they've been in years. And he has the gaul to sit down for a puff piece with the NYT and be concerned about HIS sales? As you point out, he either has no concept of what's out there on the bookshelves because he thinks he's offering something unique with his 'action packed' writing or he's arrogant enough to believe that nothing out there comes close to the quality he can offer and ergo there's nothing like what he does on the market. (Reading the article as a whole makes me think the latter.)
    Every year, a new report tells us that fewer people are reading. And maybe, in some twisted way, Patterson really thinks that by flooding the YA market with his unique brand will change that and get a wider swath of kids to pick up a book. (Still slightly arrogant but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume there's some altruism there too.) Then, if he's really concerned about literacy, he needs to stop whining about his sales and how they should be featured more prominently in bookstores (don't even get me started on THAT) and make a broader initiative aimed at telling kids everything that's out there aside from his stuff.
    I can tell you right now that based on the overwhelming hubris I see in this article, I will never touch a James Patterson book. He's out for numero uno in a way that's greedy and vile.

  8. Brigid Says:

    I love YA books, despite the amount of time my husband spends teasing me about them. When Maximum Ride first came out, I bought it, because — I'm ashamed to say — one of the first stories I wrote back in high school was about a kid with wings, named *cringe* "Flyboy." So I was intrigued by the premise, and I loved that someone had actually published a book like that.
    I whipped through the novel, though I thought the tone of the writing seemed a little young for YA. Then I got to the end. I said something much more profane than, "What the heck?!" The book ends on a cliffhanger. And I don't mean there were loose threads, while some major issues were resolved. I mean NOTHING was resolved. Total cliffhanger. I actually thought I might be missing a chapter.
    I swore I would never buy another one of those books. I was so pissed. I don't mind reading something that has unfinished ends. It makes me want to go buy the next one. But sheesh. Resolving nothing? Total crap.
    So I kind of have to agree with the people who claim Patterson is agenda-pushing. If his sales numbers are dwindling, he should look to his content.
    And I hate the implication that there's nothing else out there for kids to read. Just walk into any YA section to see just how much there is.