Diana Renn

Mysteries that Matter


It’s Teen Read Week! What are you reading — and with whom are you reading?

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with many readers this past week at store and library events. One thing that’s struck me: how many parents are reading right alongside their middle grade or young adult readers.

Have you head the recent statistic: 55% of Young Adult fiction buyers are actually adults?

That statistic came up in several discussions I was in. Some parents suggested it is partly because adults just as much as kids love the action, energy, and creative premises — as well as the narratives of hope — that can be found in fiction for young people.

Quite a few parents admitted they are pressed for time. If they can manage to read anything at all, they’d like to be reading the same books that their children are reading. Not necessarily to monitor that reading, but to find common ground, a place to connect. 

Meeting with one particular parent/child book group in Cambridge last week, I saw those connections happening firsthand. In this group, ten readers between the ages of nine and fourteen meet monthly with their parents to discuss a book they all vote on. The librarian tells me this group has been meeting for quite some time. Attendance is regular. Discussion is lively. Parents and their kids participated equally. They did not always share the same opinions.

I felt so privileged to have been invited into this club for an evening, knowing that these may be some of the last books these parents and children read and discuss together. I suspect (since older teens were not attending) at some point schedules become too demanding, or a desire to retreat into one’s own reading choices prevails. I’m not sure.

How long can parent/child book groups last?

The whole idea of reading alongside a parent — of meeting in some enchanted grove built by someone else’s words — is novel to me, pardon the pun. My parents certainly supported my reading obsessions and kept me well-supplied with books. But once I became an independent reader of novels, around the age of seven, I don’t recall them reading these books alongside me, or having discussions about them.

Reading, for me, has always been an intensely private act. I’m sure in my early reading years my mother knew what I was reading, especially since she was buying it or facilitating library trips. In my teen years, I’m not sure if she had any idea of what I was reading, unless it was for school. It just wouldn’t have occurred to me to talk about it.

I suspect that privacy in reading has carried over to my adult life too. I’m a member of two writing groups, but I’ve never joined a book club. Lately, though, I’ve felt that pull. I’ve read some books that got me thinking for weeks and I longed for a good discussion about them, something in real time, with real people.

Watching mothers and fathers bring their kids to book events this past week, seeing them bond over books, has really opened my eyes. As a parent of a kindergartner who’s beginning to sniff out chapter books, I’m more alert to the power of shared reading experiences — and of course, hoping our shared reading might continue for years.

But is that what kids want? Or is that what their parents yearn for?

Readers! Do you and your parents share YA or MG books? 
Were you or are you in a book club together? What do you (or did you) get out of that experience?
Should parents and kids read together for as long as possible? Why or why not?

I’ve been having a wonderful time meeting readers this month at some bookstore and library events!

I had an especially great time two nights ago at the Cambridge Public Library, meeting with a wonderful book group. About ten kids and their parents meet monthly to discuss a book they all vote on. This month they read TOKYO HEIST, and invited me to join them for pizza and discussion.We talked about suspects and red herrings, the role of parents in YA mysteries, art in novels, and lots of other things. I also learned many new uses for chocolate Pocky. (Hey, did you know you can write and draw with this stuff? One young artist created a couple of masterpieces during our discussion!)

Here are some events coming up soon; if you’re in the Boston area, please come to one or spread the word!

This weekend I’ll be kicking off Teen Read Week with Gina Damico (author of the screamingly funny books Croak and Scorch). What do a budding manga artist and a budding grim reaper have in common? Find out what links our books (there’s a link! really!) at the Belmont Public Library this Saturday, October 13, at 3:00. (And if you’re far away, you can read my recent interview with Gina on the Sleuths Spies & Alibis blog).

Next week more Teen Read Week fun continues with YA fantasy author Erin Cashman (The Exceptionals). We’ll launch a Meet the Author series at Firefly Moon, a unique and very cool gift shop and art gallery in Arlington, MA.

I’ll also be appearing at the Boston Teen Author Festival on October 28, with 14 other YA authors. You guys, this is huge! The festival is hosted by Emerson College and is presented in conjunction with the Boston Book Festival. If you are NOT an Emerson student, you do have to register by October 24, but it is FREE and EASY. Here’s the registration link.

Visit my Events page for more details and more fall events.

Not in the Boston area? Join me on Twitter tonight! It’s the 12th of the month, which means it’s time for the monthly Apocalypsies Twitter chat. The topic this month is MYSTERIES & THRILLERS. My favorite! I’ll be hosting, along with fellow Apocalypsie A.C. Gaughen (author of Scarlet). We have four spotlight authors to introduce you to, and giveaways galore. Follow hashtag #2012debuts and join us at 9:00 PM EST!

(Hey – what happens when you give Pocky sticks to members of the Apocalypsies? APOCKYLYPSIES.)
OK I’m done.