This fall I finally got around to reading a Lois Duncan novel, something I never did as a teen, though I remember looking at the covers quite a bit (my first job was shelving books at a library). While the book I chose to start off with, Killing Mr. Griffin, had some moments that felt a bit dated, most of the story could have just as easily taken place in present day. I learned from a recent article in School Library Journal,* that Little, Brown Books for Young Readers is reissuing several of Duncan’s classic YA books over the next year (the first three came out Fall 2010) with updated covers and texts that are intended to modernize these stories – give the kids more cell phones and less polyester pantsuits.
I was slightly concerned from the SLJ article that the publishers were perhaps exaggerating Duncan’s involvement in the updating to appease fans of her work, but a quick visit to her website made me breathe a sigh of relief. It sounds like she has been having fun reworking her novels, making sure that the dialogue and fashion seem natural and figuring out how to add technology without losing the suspense of disconnect. As Duncan writes, “I had to find ways to disable their e-mail and have their cell phones fall into rivers or toilets.” I’m sure that she is creative enough to troubleshoot the modernization of her stories, but it would be funny if in every single updated book a character dropped their phone in a toilet causing majorly suspenseful situations. It could be her new trademark.
For my next Duncan read, I want to try reading the original novel alongside the updated version – see which works better for me, an adult reader of YA who lived through the 80s (granted not as a teen!). The titles being updated are: I Know What You Did Last Summer, Killing Mr. Griffin, Don’t Look Behind You, Down a Dark Hall, Stranger With My Face, Summer of Fear, Daughters of Eve, Locked in Time, A Gift of Magic, and The Third Eye. Anyone out there have a favorite or an update that you’re most curious about? Has anyone read any of the new versions? What do you think of this whole 21st Century update project?
*Thanks to my mom for sharing the SLJ article with me. She is a high school librarian and an awesome lady.