But first, I'd like to explain why I even care.
When I first heard that Razorbill would be publishing a young adult novel by 50 Cent, I laughed. Way outloud. It seemed like such a ridiculous farce! In what world would someone think that the man who penned these (warning - they're really lewd and inappropriate) tweets would be a adequate author for young adults. I still feel this way.
However, as I sadly have to remind myself, publishing companies do not exist to be purveyors of good taste, nor should they: to a degree, that would be censorship. The bottom line is that they exist to make a bottom line. I'm quite certain that there are book lovers in their ranks; but, to keep those jobs, companies have to make money. To publish promising new talent, they have to have the resources to do so. Let's remember, Razorbill is the publisher that put books by Beth Revis, Scott Westerfeld, Maureen Johnson and Breanna Yovanoff on the shelves. Popular, respected authors. Of course, the question as to whether Razorbill inked this deal just to make money exists. Given the cover in the Spring 2012 Penguin catalog, I'd say it's a possibility, or at least part of the reason:
|That's a mighty big name for such a small title.|
Well, Razorbill is right about that last point. To some extent. At least on this blog. Some of you may not agree with me about bringing attention to this book, saying that I simply am feeding the fire.
Good. I want to.
Here's two things to keep in mind: 1) My pee-diddly little blog isn't big enough to bring attention to jack outside of the YA book blogging community, and I'm not even big enough to cover that. I know this. I see who my top commentators are, and I check out my traffic sources on a daily basis. Trust me: I'm not selling any books for this man; and 2) the more this book is discussed, the more it has to live up to.
Here's why Playground needs to be discussed more, and it's partly a personal anecdote: once upon a time about six or seven years ago, I was a reporter in New Mexico. A principal in one of the communities I covered and I were talking one day. He administered a school for children whose community had high dropout and truancy rates. He desperately tried stressing the importance of education, but often his reasoning ran into deaf ears, especially when parents would take their children out for days at a time for cultural fairs ran by their nation (this was a high Native American population area). He understood, but at the same time, he needed education to be a priority.
However, he would absolutely delight in the students' enthusiasm when a major book came out. Part of him wanted to rebuke sleepy-eyed kids who stayed up way too late reading the latest Harry Potter, but in his heart, he was glad they were at least reading. He loved watching them devour the book in question during lunch and as they sneakily read under their desks during class. He didn't say it out loud, but he was willing to make his peace with this if it encouraged them to read more.
Fast-forward about four years, give or take, and I was in grad school studying to be a teacher. Specifically, an English teacher for middle and high school students. My heart was always with the junior high kids, though. The 12 thru 14-year olds who were starting to test their mettle that would serve or underserve them during their high school years. I loved their pluck. It's the age group for which Playground is geared.
No matter how much we regret that 50 Cent got a book deal for a young adult book, no matter how much we hate that celebiauthors are getting these deals, this isn't going to stop this book from being published. 50 Cent's YA offering matters because of the same reason he got the deal in the first place: his name. Some kids will want to read it for that reason alone. The discussion about it needs to happen because it needs to be a book worthy of them.
Truly, I am hoping that it will be, but if it isn't, I won't be surprised. Just another hustle, right?