Lari and Mica Baab love to read. But what they want to read makes their mom feel faint.
“It’s either fantasy or smut — and that’s sad,” says Lolis Garcia-Baab.
Garcia-Baab is not talking about the adult part of the bookstore — it’s the teen fiction section, where the trend is now more “Sex and the City” than “Nancy Drew.”
The stories are even more provocative between the covers. In “Claiming Georgia Tate,” a father has sex with his daughter. In “Rainbow Party,” teens make plans for an oral sex party. And in “Teach Me,” out next week and seemingly ripped from the day’s headlines, there’s a student-teacher affair.
The racy reads are publishing’s fastest-growing segment and young girls are the biggest consumers. Most books for the 12-and-up age group sell fewer than 20,000 copies, but some of the edgier titles have sold close to a million. 13-year-olds are devouring the “Gossip Girl” series, stories of rich kids with access to money, drugs and sex.
“It’s fun to read about people doing that stuff and having sex,” says one 13-year-old.
“Everyone wants to be 21 and 18 when they’re really just 13,” explains a second.
“I don’t think they would sell as well if they didn’t have sex in them,” says another.
Author Russell Nelson wrote "Teach Me" and defends teen books with mature themes. “I feel like it fills an important niche in moving the readers to a higher level of maturity,” he says.
Experts say books like these are gratuitous — even dangerous — and parents need to know that.
“They buy it, thinking they’re doing something nice for their kid, when, in fact, they have no clue what it is they’re exposing their kid to,” says adolescent psychiatrist Dr. John Sargent.
One mom who unknowingly bought her daughter a book about a prostitute said, “I was more shocked with the fact that I allowed her to read it… that I didn’t even know she was reading it.”
Chick-lit for the teen scene may now be a required read for mom and dad as well.