I thought this might make an interesting topic for discussion. I'm putting here under MG because it seems mostly a MG thing--or maybe I just think that because I read so much MG and not as much Everything Else.
I've noticed that more authors of contemporary MG are referencing other MG books in their stories. I'm guilty of this myself, yet something about it bothers me, so I've been trying to sort it out in my head.
More or less, I'm talking about characters in MG stories who refer to Harry Potter or any other MG-ish book. Naturally, there will always be references to pop culture in contemporary stories--sometimes very specific references to Star Wars, etc. That's not really what I'm talking about. I mean MGs that mention other MGs--usually classics like A Wrinkle in Time or very popular contemporary books, like Wimpy Kid, etc.
Why I like it:
I love books. The more books that are referred to, the better. It's a great way for kids to learn about other books they might enjoy. It shows kid readers of the current story that reading is cool and that other kids read. Heck, I've learned about books this way--for example, I had never heard of the Green Knowe books or the Edward Eager books (I know--can you believe it?) until kid characters in a MG story mentioned them, and I went to look them up. Thoughtful, bookish characters are always a winner with me.
Why I understand it:
Writers are bookish people who often draw inspiration from books and make connections with books, so why not let their characters and stories do the same?
Why I don't like it:
It annoys me when I feel like the author of a book is trying to "borrow" popularity, if you will, by mentioning the title of another book--especially a wildly popular book series, like Wimpy Kid. It's almost as if the author knows he/she will get an instant (positive) reaction from readers ("OMG, this book said Harry Potter! I LOVE Harry Potter!") that will then carry over to his/her book ("These kids talked about Hermione! They're just like me! I like them--they're cool!"). I know that seems kind of dumb, but I honestly think that at a basic (maybe subconscious) level, readers perk up and make that connection, awarding mental "cool points" to the story they're reading because it said the name of their favorite whatever-it-is.
Also, I've always felt that including too many pop culture references (iPod, popular TV characters, etc.) will date your book badly, so unless you are TRYING to firmly set it in a certain time period (and some books do call for that), you probably want to avoid being too "hip" with your language and references. Therefore, it seems like the only books your characters should discuss should be ones you are dead certain will remain classics, if you know what I mean.
Anyone have any thoughts on this? Like I said--guilty as charged. I have done this in a manuscript--not for "cool points," but because the story had something to do with a classic. But I have seen it done (and sometimes overdone) quite a bit in recent MG books, as well. I've also seen it done very well and have laughed and enjoyed stories (such as E. Nesbit's or Edward Eager's books) in which book-loving kids make connections between stories and their adventures.