Driving to / from Boston this weekend, my wife and I listened to the audio book of John Connolly's THE GATES. Audio books are brilliant for car journeys, and a good narrator (as this was) can really bring a book to life.
THE GATES is a fantastic book - funny, scary, memorable and interesting all at the same time. Beautiful.
Listening to it, though, the same question kept cropping up, and it's not one I've got an answer for yet - is this a children's book?
The main character, Samuel, is a kid - but then the same is true in Connolly's THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS, and that's certainly not a kid's book. There are plenty of jokes and asides in this book that seem to appeal directly to younger readers - encouraging the use of sarcasm marks when complimenting your mum on a good "dinner", or pointing out the foibles of adults in general - but then these get mixed up with discussions of the Higgs-Boson, the LHC at CERN, and particle physics.
There's also some pretty dark content in the book - some genuinely scary descriptions of demons, of death, of danger. I'm wary of saying some things are 'too scary for the wee ones!' or of using the phrase 'inappropriate content, harumph!', so I'll just leave it at this - the writing is brilliant, and the subject matter sometimes dark, so naturally some kids won't like it.
But are they meant to? Is this a children's book?
I'm not actually sure, but I'm OK with that. That the line between kids, YA and adult are getting ever more blurred has its pros and cons, but one definite pro (for me) is books like this - books that have dumb jokes and puns and dry, sarcastic footnotes, but also have plenty of drama and death and genuine fright in them. It's like Neil Gaiman's CORALINE taken a bit further - a book for whoever is ready for this book.
Not condescending or patronizing readers is something I want to keep at the heart of my own work. Be it voice, content, vocabulary or plot, you don't need to simplify to avoid confusing the young 'uns, I think. John Connolly certainly doesn't.
A quick update on my own stuff, now. Latest book's going well. I'm over a difficult plot 'hump', and the end is in sight. Unfortunately, a lot of what's written is spread across endless different notebooks / scraps of paper / computer files, so some day soon I'm going to have a big stick 'n' sew job on my hands - but hopefully, from that, will come a new, complete book. Raw, perhaps, but finally all together. Then the edits can begine. Huzzah...