Turns out there’s one for teens, though FAR less in depth. There’s nothing really customized, the story is 95% written with a few spaces the customer inserts to fill in the blanks. In short, it’s the same story with a different character name. (I’m not going to link it, so just search “personalize teen books”)
I have a problem with this on a few levels. There’s self-insertion and then there’s THIS CRAP! Young girls can now— quite literally—put themselves into the story. For that to work, the character has NO personality, which would imply the customer/teen girl is a dull, blank slate waiting for shit to happen to her. There is no sense of individuality and it cancels the whole “Personalized” concept the book company is going for. The character info is beyond generic and not very politically correct, I might add. There is no data slot for ethnicity, hobbies, quirks, or physical attributes.
The sad part is the writing in the template is better than tripe I read on the bookshelves. It has the basic boy-meets-girl formula, but there’s less grammar errors and a better plot than some bestsellers. This brings forth a notion that offends and disturbs me: What does this say about the genre it’s emulating.
Is the YA world SO closed-minded and unimaginative to the point where people can make a cookie cutter format and be SPOT ON? Are teen books so predictable, so lacking in creative integrity that it’s sold in bulk like a year-supply of toilet paper at Costco?
I take this personal because it demeans what I do. I refuse to believe that the genre that I grew to know and love is nothing more than kitsch art or something so simple a toddler could achieve. No matter how bad the book, there is NOTHING simple about writing. There’s no A + B = C formula to the creative process. It takes dedication to build a house with words. The size, design, and stability of that house depends on the skill of its architect. I want to believe that the field in which I write has something meaningful to say, but crap like this shakes my faith.
I’ve heard the sardonic pitch that “There’s nothing new anymore,” but at least make an effort to be original. I’m sure the company means well, and I think the basic idea is nifty, but it’s a jarring wake-up call for those who write for a living and those who love the craft.