Justin Bieber and Hilary Duff: Tweening literature for the masses

Since time immemorial, it's been a tradition of mega-stardom: Actors become musicians and musicians become actors. Less common, though, is the musician/actor-turned-writer -- and probably for a good reason: Writing is hard and not very glamorous, and also, they only let you out of your cage once every three weeks. Or at least that's what it's like at Westword. At any rate, two teen sensations, Justin Bieber and Hilary Duff, are breaking that mold today with the release of two authorial debuts that raise a worrisome question: Is literature about to get tweened?

Of the two books, Bieber's Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever: My Story is by far the more vapid-seeming, although it does get points for employing two colons just in the title. For one thing, it's a memoir, the writing of which is something of a proud tradition in the rock-and-roll world -- America loves to read the "how I ended up in the ER after 12 consecutive hours of doing rails off strippers" stories of its stars. Such stories, however, are notably absent from the reflections of the sixteen-year-old Bieber.

In fact, it's weird to even think about what Bieber might possibly have to say, although the Huffington Post's Andrew Schaffer notes that several of Bieber's tweets have been reproduced verbatim for the text, like this gem:

Im not Peter Pan... Im growing up and my voice will change...

On a side note (if you'll forgive us one more grammar joke), we're holding out for the ellipses to just permanently replace the period...

Faring better, it seems, is Hilary Duff, whose Elixir, which publisher Simon & Schuster is touting as a romance novel for young adults, is actually receiving some decent reviews. And kudos to her for writing something a little bit more involved than a memoir featuring mostly photos of herself (and, yes, we're still looking at you, Justin Bieber).

Though it's hard to be sure, the novel seems predictably to be yet another Twilight impostor, because the kids, they love their paranormal love stories these days. The basic plot synopsis is that a young photojournalist notices a mysterious stranger who keeps photobombing her stuff, and then they travel the world together...or something.

Anyway, the point is, both of these things are weird. Yeah, film and music stars have written books before. But a memoir from a kid whose voice has barely changed -- that's got to be some kind of all-time zenith for non-essential reading. And stars hardly ever write books that aren't expressly about themselves. And that these two odd tween forays into literature are being released on the same day would seem to portend some sort of perfect storm of unreasonably attractive book-jacket photographs.

Is this some kind of trend? Are vapid starlets about to add literature to the list of arts to be relentlessly dumbed down, and if so, will that at least have the side effect of making reading cool again? And if it does, will they finally let us out of this cage?

Either way, it makes us anxious.

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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte