Author Tracy L. Carbone Brings Her Latest Tween Story to West Roxbury's Seek Books
On the eve of her reading at Seek Books, the local author for young adults talks about balancing the almighty media diet.
Those of us over 30 likely recall a young adulthood wherein reading novels provided an attractive escape route from the trials of growing up.
Paul Zindel, Judy Blume and Paula Danziger were just a few in a generation of noteworthy writers that pushed (hard!) at the boundaries of young adult literature. Ironically, adolescents in the new millennium have media choices that we only imagined through fantasy and science fiction stories back in the 70's. It begs the question: what remains as a motivation for them to keep reading?
Thankfully, evidence exists that youngsters still occasionally pick up books - the overwhelming success of J.K. Rowlings' Harry Potter stories and Stephenie Myer's Twilight saga are good examples, although in both cases, screen adaptations are never far behind. But it's hard to believe the printed word holds much appeal up against the alternate-reality allure of video games and television. After all, reading requires a little more effort.
Boston-area author Tracy L. Carbone - who will be reading from her latest novel, The Man of Mystery Hill, at West Roxbury's Seek Books on Centre Street, Saturday from 1 to 3pm - believes there's an important (and potentially elusive) balance to be achieved with children and the media.
"I think it's important to prompt kids to shut everything off sometimes and look around them, notice the world for what it is," Carbone said in an interview this week. "I think TV is an important provider of downtime and entertainment, in moderation, and video games can teach kids to make decisions and to react; and there are some good learning ones out there. But by and large, neither medium makes anyone really think because the story or video game scripts are laid out for them."
Beyond the instant gratification factor, another reason adolescents wouldn't choose to read as a primary entertainment source is because it seems terribly unsophisticated. Television is racy; video games offer an 'anything goes' cyber-fantasy. Comparatively, reading seems primitive, slow and devoid of thrills. The more earnest rush of deciphering deeper meaning from reading a story requires a leap of faith to be experienced… it's an investment. Carbone uses her latest novel as an example of how even the simplest seeming fiction stories can have important, larger truths buried beneath the surface. The payoff might even include some juicy drama.
"While my book is seemingly a silly little paranormal mystery, it actually weaves in some major life themes while maintaining its kid-appeal," she explained. "One of the things most children have, until they grow out of it, is a sense of wonder. In The Man of Mystery Hill, the main character Abby (Mcnabb, a recurring character in Carbone's work) is at the threshold of turning the corner to skepticism, while her father remains childlike in his beliefs about magic. Beyond that, there's the concept of a child living in a broken home, split between her very different parents and coming to terms with the idea that her once 'larger than life' father might actually be somewhat of an embarrassment; there's the lingering question of his mental stability. Within the backdrop of this supernatural tale I'm putting those items on the table, but I'm addressing them in a child-safe way," she said.
In an age where the printed word is taking a back seat, parents and teachers are our only hope to keep children's minds stimulated in the right ways. Helping kids use their imaginations to create images, rather than having an outside source spoon-feeding the visual information directly to them, is a tool of immeasurable value. Given the 'sense of wonder' Carbone previously mentioned, it's probably just a question of taking the time to get the wheels turning at a young enough age.
"My daughter and I have a game we play when I'm driving, where we look at taillights on cars and make faces out of them," she said. "It probably sounds silly, but next time you're out look at the car in front of you and notice how the lights, fenders and license plates make different face shapes. We look at clouds a lot too to find shapes. If you do enough activities like that, I think it balances out the TV and video games."
Tracy L. Carbone reads from The Man of Mystery Hill on Saturday at Seek Books, 1747 Centre Street, from 1 to 3 pm. Call 617.327.SEEK for more details.