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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Are teens ready for romance?

Back when I was teaching at a girls' boarding school, I took all kinds of eccentric steps to foster a love of reading in my 13- and 14-year-old students, including buying boxes of pulp fiction (mostly sf) from a local used book store. We would sit outside on fine autumn days, read the books, and decide whether they were worth keeping, or were better tossed in the bin. The idea was to assess quality, and I was surprised how quickly and easily the girls developed a facility for criticism.

At the same time, I noticed that most of the books I confiscated from girls who were sneakily reading in class were Mills & Boon (aka Harlequin), so we started reading and critiquing those, too. However, I hit a snag when I asked the head of department to stock M&B in the school library. She was shocked, shocked, shocked, though the school inspector urged her to consider it seriously. "Never!" she said.

Now, I have decided I was right. Undoubtedly inspired by the roaring success of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series (you heard about it first here), Harlequin is launching a romance-for-teens series this coming April.
To help get input from teens, the publisher has set up the online Harlequin Teen Panel -- "hosted by none other than BFF Quin," they say (who on earth is she?).
Teens need to get parental sign-off before they can participate, but once a membership is approved, the panel will send participants free books and invitations to enter sweepstakes.
Excellent idea, say I. I can attest that it works. One of my reluctant readers became addicted to one of the books in my boxes, the first of the wonderful Anne McCaffrey Dragonflight series. As long as she was at school, she and I borrowed each other's books, and then she went on to an innovative career in film.


Anonymous said...


You may have been speaking tongue-in-cheek, but in case you wanted to know, BFF can be an abbreviation of 'best friends forever' - there are some variations as well. Just Harlequin trying to buddy up to their new market:)

Joan Druett said...

No tongue in cheek -- I had no idea! Best Friends Forever is a terrific way of buddying up, I imagine. Perhaps the envelopes the free books are sent in will be SWALK!

Amber said...

Especially interesting to hear of your HoD's M&B censorship as it's Freedom to Read Week here in Canada. Most school librarians are trying to keep a variety of things ON the shelves at least! I wonder if Quin and her friends will meet any challenges/ bans? It appears the most-challenged book here is still And Tango Makes Three, the non-fiction kids' picture book about those BFF male penguins in a US zoo who hatched and raised a chick together. Happily, very few librarians have had to remove it from their shelves.

(Incidentally, Joan, the 'word verification' I had to type to leave this comment was 'ioning'. Perhaps you are trying to give me a subtle hint about my approach to household chores. Or, I suppose, to molecular chemistry).