It seems that just about every contemporary YA novel I’ve read lately contains a character fiddling with an iPod. I can’t help but wonder why an author would do this.
Did Steve Jobs cut you a check? Yeah, that’s what I thought. So why are you giving him free advertising?
I assume the argument then turns to a YA author’s job of capturing youth culture as it exists today, and I say fair enough. Except that you can capture the spirit of an age without turning to product placement. In fact, the second you mention a specific product in your novel is the second you date your manuscript and ensure it will no longer be relevant a few years from now.
That’s a strong statement, for sure, but I think it’s true. Today’s “I slipped into my favorite pair of Sevens and scrolled through my iPod touch until I found the perfect song” is the same as yesterday’s “I slipped into my favorite pair of Jordache and popped a cassette into my Sony Walkman.” And today’s teenager is going to have a harder time identifying with the latter, just like tomorrow’s teenager is going to think an iPod reference is hopelessly dated.
There’s an easy solution, of course. “I slipped into my favorite pair of jeans and turned on the music.” Neither jeans nor music are going anywhere anytime soon. Why run the risk of making yourself seem obsolete and outdated in a few years?
This is a primary reason I’ve never been able to read chick lit. It seems there’s a rule in chick lit that you have to mention whatever Italian designer is in trend at the moment, and seeing as how fast the fashion world changes — listen to Heidi Klum, dammit, one minute you’re in and the next you’re out! — most chick lit is outdated before it even hits the bookstore shelves. Just a few years ago, during the height of the Sex and the City craze, every woman in chick lit was wearing Blahniks. Today, Blahniks are so 8 years ago and Louboutins are in. Tomorrow, people are going to be wondering what was with the red soles and chasing after the next fad.
So I say skip the specific references to shoes, clothing, bands and cars. Unless you don’t mind going the way of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield’s Fiat.