Sophia Ritchie ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Young Adult fiction is a little like chocolate. It’s sweet, comes in milk for a fun bite or dark for a more satisfying chomp, and surprisingly good for your health. If YA is chocolate, genre is peanut butter, and the two were made for mixing. Genre fiction is often regarded as less serious than “true fiction,” due to its fantastical circumstances. But it’s on the rise, and that’s thanks in part to the fact that YA welcomes the grandeur and rich world-building that genre fiction provides. Here are the five best genre/YA marriages happening right now.
If there’s one genre that’s taken less seriously than YA, it’s probably horror. Big names like Stephen King and Dean Koontz have given the genre more credibility in the “adult” world, but the horror section at the local bookstore is still small and filled with cheap thrills as opposed to real scares. Thankfully, the Young Adult section is happy to accommodate. YA fiction is famous for dealing with the supernatural. There’s a level of intimacy there, a fun twist, that allows authors to really understand their monsters. It’s not just about the scares anymore: the story behind the ghost, the werewolf, the thing under the bed, is as important to us as whether or not it wants to tear someone open and eat their heart.
Unfortunately, Mom and Dad probably aren’t hip to letting their teenager read about somebody’s insides getting ripped out and festooned around the room like party streamers. Due to the younger audience YA fiction is aimed at, the gore in horror stories is likely to be toned down. And while books like Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood and Darren Shan’s Demonata series go the extra mile to deliver on blood and guts, the scares in YA are, more often than not, gore-free. On the bright side, this allows YA horror to explore different ways to thrill.
Recommendations: Bonechiller by Graham McNamee, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, Rotters by Daniel Kraus
Fantasy has a wide audience regardless of age, but it’s a main staple of YA fiction. Whereas truly epic fantasies came once in a blue moon in the adult literary world, YA was churning out hit after hit thanks to it’s non-discriminatory tastes. Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series was a revelation of both prose and plot, and superstars like Maggie Stiefvater rock the genre with a teenage twist with every book she publishes. Opportunities abound in fantasy for different worlds, characters, and plots, and the selection in the bookstore will always be diverse.
But, for every success, there’s probably ten failures. When one person introduces a cool new idea, several YA books usually follow with almost the exact same thing. It’s the curse of popularity, and one that can be avoided with some careful browsing.
Recommendations: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor
The Hunger Games made it famous, but dystopian has had a steady relationship with YA for a while now. Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies used age and beauty as a caste system in his revolutionary Uglies series, and Katniss Everdeen is a heroine for the ages. It’s no wonder why dystopian is so successful amongst younger audiences: as a teenager, you often feel like the world around you is confusing, wrong, and not what it should be. Dystopian YA takes that to the farthest extreme, pitting young characters at their most impressionable against worlds that are (sometimes literally) out to get them. Often borrowing from sci-fi and historical fiction, dystopian might just be the reigning genre in YA right now.
One drawback? Sometimes the dystopian circumstances are a little too far-fetched. The genre is going strong but running out of steam due to some ridiculous ideas of “in a world where.” But some of the gambles pay off. The controversial The Program, by Suzanne Young, is an interesting take on a world where teen suicide is an epidemic and suicidal kids are brainwashed into being happy, and it opens up some unique conversations.
Recommendations: The Gone series by Michael Grant, The Lunar Chronicles by Marisa Meyer, The Pledge series by Kimberly Derting
Whether it’s psychics and ghosts or witches and demons, there’s no better place for getting down and dirty with the supernatural than YA fiction. YA allows for some play room, so authors aren’t restrained to the strict ideas of “quality” that other writers are. That freedom has given birth to the paranormal romance craze, as well as some other gems: coming-of-age comedies about monsters (Francesca Lia Block’s Pretty Dead), historical novels with a fun twist (Libba Bray’s The Diviners), and other cool new takes on old favorites.
Granted, it is also what birthed Twilight.
Can’t win them all.
Recommendations: The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement Moore, House of Ivy and Sorrow by Natalie Whipple
COMING OF AGE
Nearly every title recommended so far on this list could double as a coming-of-age story. It seems that newest trend in YA is banking on the teenaged experience of growing up, and it’s allowing for a broader scope of stories to be told than ever before. The invaluable memories of puberty, first love, first loss, and first time really living are being made popular, and it’s a genre almost completely unique to the YA setting.
The downside, unfortunately, to the popularity of coming-of-age stories by less experienced writers, is that the success story of John Green’s quintessential average white boy has been copied to death. Luckily in direct contrast to that, to reflect a more modern time in literature, there is a lot more diversity in our coming-of-age novels.
Recommendations: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell