The Internet in Juvenile Fiction Revisited: What's out There Today for Young Cybersurfers

By Reese, Jean | MultiMedia Schools, May/June 2002 | Go to article overview

The Internet in Juvenile Fiction Revisited: What's out There Today for Young Cybersurfers


Reese, Jean, MultiMedia Schools


If any one group has embraced the Internet, I think it's safe to say kids are right up there at the top of the "surfing the Web" list of enthusiasts. The Internet is "cool"; chat is "awesome." E-mail is "the best." Three years ago, I looked at the subject of "The Internet in Juvenile Fiction" in the May/June 1999 issue of MULTIMEDIA SCHOOLS. Well, 3 years is a long time in this Internet age, so I'm back with an update. What's new out there? What's changed? Let's take a look at some titles kids might like to check out for their summer reading.

Series Books

Series books have always been popular among children. While perhaps not at the top of the "literary heap" on many occasions, these books nevertheless can open the door to reading for some kids who might not otherwise do so.

Todaysgirls.com, From the Files of Madison Finn, and Get Real are examples of three current series where the Internet and computers have an impact on teens lives.

Todaysgirl.com, from Thomas Nelson Publishers, is (as the title implies) aimed at real issues faced by today's teenage girls. The framework for the series revolves around a group of six friends who meet online through a secure Web site called Todaysgirls.com. Amber, Bren, Morgan, Maya, Jamie, and Alex can meet regularly online and chat about their problems, boys, school, and much more. The series consists of 12 titles, and each spotlights one of the six friends. The novels are often listed under "Christian fiction" and do have a positive message spread throughout the stories.

Linda Ellerbee, a former television reporter and now author, has written Get Real, a series of novels, featuring Casey Smith, a spunky 11-year-old middle-school student who is a reporter for her school newspaper. Like Todays girls, this series also covers current issues faced by preteens and teens, including fad diets, acceptance of people, working for what you want, and in the title Girl Reporter Bytes Back (Get Real: #8), Internet fraud. Casey is a savvy Internet user who surfs the Web regularly, e-mails her friends, and chats online. However, she learns that the Internet can also have a serious and sometimes dark side to it when she discovers someone is using the school's electronic bulletin board to sell fraudulent action figures. Casey must solve the mystery of just who is scamming her friends and write a feature story about the problem for her next newspaper deadline.

Ellerbee uses the plot to teach about the dangers of the Internet. However, her style is a bit heavy, and at times the message seems to drown out the story. Nevertheless, kids will enjoy Casey and her often-turbulent life. For comparison's sake, I'd say Todaysgirls stories are more involved and a little deeper, which may appeal to a slightly older reader than the GetReal series.

From the Files of Madison Finn by Laura Dower is a series for 9- to 12-- year-old readers. The titles focus on 12-year-old computer whiz Madison Finn. The first one, Only the Lonely, introduces us to Madison, who is presently agonizing over the leap to junior high from middle school. We meet Maddie's circle of best friends and suffer with her through her parents' separation and divorce, as well as the normal "teen angst" issues at that age.

Author Laura Dower does an excellent job of weaving technology and the Internet into Madison's life. Having a computer expert for a father has put Madison way ahead of most kids her age. Even though she loves computers and uses the Internet a lot, Madison is also a well-rounded person with all kinds of interests. The computer is simply part of her life. Dower also realizes that the Internet can be dangerous, but manages to get the message across in a way that truly blends in with the story and with Madison. We get the same message Ellerbee presents, but in a much subtler and, I feel, more positive way.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Young adult science-fiction fans can check out Tom Clancy's Net Force series. …

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