...and it was yummy!
Awhile back, I did a post on books I haven't read, but it seems like I'm the only one (see here) Well, I finally knocked one series off of that list: The Hunger Games. I was a little nervous to read them but was ecstatic to find they lived up to the hype. I flew through them so fast, they were awesome!
I'm adding The Hunger Games to my list of what I call Gateway Books. Just what are Gateway Books? Well, if you attended American public schools from at least the year 1983, you are familiar with D.A.R.E.
In D.A.R.E. we learned, in varying degrees of effectiveness about how to resist drugs and gangs. My D.A.R.E. officer was so nice and cute, all the girls wouldn't shut up about him long enough for shy, scrawny, 10 year old me to learn how to avoid being recruited by a bloodthirsty gang. Some D.A.R.E. officers take a different, more terrifying approach. I've seen kids walk out of school after D.A.R.E. on shaky legs, furtive eyes darting here and there, watching for bad guys to come out of every shadow to kidnap you, knock you out and get you addicted to everything under the sun and steal your kidney before you can even wake up.
Anyway, one of the biggest things we learned about was avoiding Gateway Drugs, drugs that are less harmful, but can lead you to the more hardcore junk. Well, yes, that is basically what a Gateway Book is, only, getting hooked on them is a good thing :) These are books like The Hunger Games, books that even the most notorious non-readers can get sucked into, which will lead them to read other things. To illustrate my point, I'm going to do what I do best, make a list! So here you go, love them or hate them, here are my top Gateway Books (in no particular order):
1. The Twilight Saga: Yes its on the way out (at least the books, the movies are still huge), and most people are thankful that the rabid fandom is dying off, BUT there is no denying that this series is a Gateway Book. 12 year old girls that would previously only read Tiger Beat magazine were thrust into the world of YA love triangles and found they had a taste for them. After reading the Twilight books 10 to50 times, they began to branch out, seeking more of said love triangles (as we all know, there is no shortage of them) They eventually branch out beyond YA and before long they can call themselves *GASP!* "bookworms"!
2. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series: This series is aimed at a young audience (usually kids who just think they are too cool for school/reading) and it hits its target right on. I've read these books, I see why they are a huge hit-they are flippin HILARIOUS! Do they have much substance? Nope. Are they literary genius? No way, but they get kids reading the written word and simply learn that book does not always equal boring. You get your kid reading these books, you move them onto maybe something with a few more words, a few less pictures, before they know it, you can get them reading classic children's stuff like The Chronicles of Narnia or Alice in Wonderland. I actually used these books to test my Gateway Books theory with excellent results. My very own nephew has progressed from these all the way to classic adventure books like Treasure Island and The Jungle Book.
3. Goosebumps books: These were all the rage when I was younger, and yes, that wasn't THAT long ago. I just had a birthday and I can still consider myself to be in my early 20s (for one more year) These books, while not exactly my cup of tea, really pulled in a lot of kids to get them hooked on reading. They are extremely formulaic and cheesy, but all those Night of the Living Dummy's and Say Cheese and Die's really struck a chord with young boys and showed them how interesting the horror genre can be. Often times, if you were a kid who listed R.L. Stine as your favorite author, it translated to Stephen King as an adult. The only problem with The Goosebumps Books, are the fact that they are an open ended series. See, with other Gateway Books, once the reader has exhausted all options with the Gateway Series in question, they begin to look elsewhere for something similar. Sadly many times, I've seen kids that read Goosebumps exclusively, then when they get a bit older, the cheesiness of the series hits them like a ton of bricks, and they set them down never to pick up another book again.
4. The Hunger Games: Got a teenager girl who couldn't give a crap about sparkly vampires? Well, how about if you introduce this teen (or adult for that matter) to a hardcore hunter fighting in a death match arena who happens to have two hot guys in love with her (but is written so that the love triangle isn't so in your face). That's The Hunger Games series for ya. It's edgy and not a little bit violent (but not too violent for teens in my opinion) and it sneaks in some really good lessons about not accepting the status quo etc. Plus an awesome bonus, it introduces people to the completely awesome and not as widely read dystopia genre.
5. The Harry Potter Series: Sorry I include Harry Potter on just about all of my lists, I love these books, and that is not going to change ever. This is, I think, the most powerful Gateway Book series of all. I saw this one work with my brother. He grew up severely dyslexic, and reading for fun was always out of the picture. He did enjoy the Goosebumps books for a while, but they didn't quite lead him into other stuff. So when I first started Harry Potter, and was hooked immediately, I knew my brother would love these books so much, he'd push through his difficulties and get hooked too. Well, little 12 year old me was a dang genius. I dared my brother to read them, and (with the generous backing of my parents) I told my brother I'd give him 50 bucks if he read the first one and didn't want to move on. I can always tell if my brother is lying, so I wasn't worried he'd try to trick me. Needless to say, he was a goner immediately. The things about Harry Potter that makes them so effective at getting people hooked on reading, and not just the books themselves, is that they are so well written and you are truly getting a taste of how extraordinary the literary experience can be. You get a taste of intricately woven plot lines, full and richly developed characters, classic good versus evil stuff that epic literature is made of. My brother moved quickly on to Lord of the Rings and hasn't looked back. If my brother, who was practically the very antithesis of a bookworm in his younger years can turn into an avid reader by a very strategically planned progression through the world of literature, trust me, anyone can.
And there you have it, my top weapons in my arsenal of Gateway Books. I have a few random talents in this world. One of which is the fact that I am the only person in my office who can get our IT guy to fix our computers. Another is the fact that I can fish info out of anyone without even a hint of suspicion (this is best used when trying to glean birthday/Christmas present ideas without detection) Finally I rock the socks off of getting people into reading. I can always pick out the exact right Gateway Book and have done so on many occasions. I am a huge believer that everyone loves to read, it is just a matter of finding the right books.
Have you have any experience with Gateway Books? Have you ever been hooked by any of these books? Am I missing any from the list? Let me know!