Hayden's Ferry Review


The Direction of Lit? Here's a Clue...

Literature has made quite a journey. With the many technological advancements in the last hundred years, it’s feels like some kind of miracle any time kids find ink on a piece of paper entertaining. Perhaps that’s why The 39 Clues is making its way to the public today with such a splash.

As reading literature has fallen out of style with the younger generation, publishers and writers have struggled to recapture their audience. The Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling, achieved magic, with millions of children unable to contain their excitement about getting the next HP installment. But, since the publication of the seventh and last book, the reading surge seems in dire straits. Now the same publishers of Harry Potter have created its next project aimed at re-inspiring the youth: The 39 Clues. Rather than trying to compete with the appeal of internet gaming, Scholastic has decided the best strategy might be fighting with - rather than against - the internet’s hold.

39 Clues will be the first of its kind: an interactive reading experience. The ten book series will be loaded with opportunities for kids (target ages 8-12) to try and solve the mystery along with the main characters. Amy and Dan Cahill are the child protagonists whose recently deceased grandmother has left them with the option of taking one million dollars or 39 clues that would unlock their family’s secret, and ultimate power hidden within their incredible lineage. Every reader will actually be able to participate in Amy and Dan’s mystery through a number of games, collecting cards, and prizes. These online activities are enjoyable all on their own, but young readers who have read the books will have a huge advantage over those who have not.

Such a groundbreaking idea poses a huge risk for all those involved—Scholastic, the readers, the 10 different authors chosen to write the series, and even Steven Spielberg who has signed on to movie rights for the films of the series—and failure could be a huge problem. But what consequences could we see from its success? If 39 Clues becomes just the beginning of these hybrid books, how many more will follow suit? It’s possible that children’s literature will be transformed by this idea. Once those children raised on hybrid books grow up, will adolescent and adult literature have to adapt and change as well? Could we be walking into a future where interactive literature is the norm and simple ink-on-paper books are merely an archaic art form?

To see more on-screen talk about on-screen lit, check out this article from The New York Times, and this one from the American Booksellers Association.