The Internet in Juvenile Fiction

Article excerpt

School's almost out and it's time to think about summer reading. Actually, today, it's more than likely many kids think about computers and surfing the Web, chat rooms, and using e-mail. So with all the technoloy that abounds, how can you get young "cybersurfers" more involved in reading this summer? Well, how about a combination of the Internet and reading? All without having to log on to a computer at all. Today cyberspace/the Internet has assumed an active role in some juvenile fiction titles. This article takes a. look at the various "Internet novels" that can be found today.

Mysteries, anyone? Internet Detectives, Cyber.kdz, and Cybersurfers are three series combining mystery plots and technology for the 9- to 12-yearold. Each series follows a similar pattern. A group of friends, both virtual and real-time, use the Internet to help solve mysteries around the world or perhaps in their own hometown.

Internet Detectives consists of five novels and focuses on a private school in Portsmouth, England, where three friends attend school. However, the plots move around the world as their various online friends become involved. The adventure-filled books provide an opportunity to demonstrate the Internet's communication capabilities when the budding detectives use e-mail and chat rooms to talk. They also send electronic documents, digital photos-all within the context of a mystery where the "bad guy" is caught and his scheme foiled.

Cyber.kdz is a series of five novels featuring an international group of seven kids ranging in age from 10 to 16 who have formed a secret online club and use it to solve problems and adventures that arise in their lives. Each member has a distinct technology skill such as "hacking," setting up complicated networks, playing MUDs and MOOs online, or creating graphics. Plots are a bit more involved than the Internet Detectives series. Sometimes the technical language is a bit much and may put off some more inexperienced Internet users, On the plus side, the stories present a very positive picture of Internet friendships as supportive and caring.

Both Internet Detectives and Cyber. kdz will appeal to anyone who likes their mysteries with a dose of technology They may even spark an interest in a novice-Internet user as well.

Another adventure series, Cybersurfers, features four novels, with main characters Jason and Athena, two high school students in the Northwest who forge a friendship because of their mutual interest in cyberspace. Set mostly at school, each story finds them involved in some kind of adventure requiring the Internet to solve a problem or mystery. What I liked about this series is the way the author manages to sneak in explanations about Internet tools or terms. For example, the first novel provides a description of the Internet when Jason and Athena must explain its benefits to their rather skeptical principal. In another title, MUDs and MOOs, interactive online games, are a big part of the plot. Jason explains them to Athena, who soon becomes adept at playing them, too. These explanations seem to fit right in with the plot plus provide necessary background information for any "Internet newbies."

Another series is Danger.com, with nine adventure stories aimed at children ages 10 and up. Each novel is a self-contained story with no continuing characters and less "techie talk." The plots cover topics such as meeting someone online, the consequences of a prank e-mail message, using the Web to locate someone, and what happens when you do too much computer hacking.

The author, Jordan Cray, has a knack for writing teen lingo that sounds pretty "normal"-not stilted or like he's trying too hard. The plots are more developed and relationships among the characters are more important.

Avery different series, The Lurker Files from Random House, contains three novels that take place at Wintervale University, a fictitious college in North Dakota. …