One of our great Spinebreakers editors Alannah, wonders…are we all just reading the same three stories?
Vapid teenager meets honestly-really-not-very-bad-ass vampire/werewolf. Vapid teenager falls in love with so-called vampire/werewolf. Eventually, both agree that they really should stop seeing each other because their relationship is unhealthy and is stagnating in its own predictability. And that’s the end of that.
No. Of course it isn’t.
Vapid teenager and so-called vampire/werewolf, despite destroying the lives and souls of their own loved ones, fight not-very-tirelessly for a life together where they can have lots and lots of babies. The end.
Or how about his one? An unlikely hero discovers that he/she is the only person in the world with the powers to defeat the evil shadow that has overcast his/her side of Dystopia-world and is putting his/her family and livelihood in peril. He/she falls in love, quite conveniently, with a super-cool-sword-wielding guy/girl during his/her epic quest. Some people die along the way, but it’s all good in the end.
And then there’s this one: loser boy, at the cusp of adolescent blossoming, tries to come to terms with his manhood and social awkwardness and falls in love, oh-so unexpectedly, with the quirky girl next door.
Yes. I’ve heard it all before. The 13+ section of my local branch of Waterstone’s serves as an ample reminder. My finger brushes against the crisp, un-broken spines as I search relentlessly. Vampires, vampires, vampires, come of age, dystopia, come of age, werewolves, dystopia, dystopia. So I’ll ask the question: are teen book genres becoming too limited?
I’ll be completely honest: I’ve never really read a typical dark romance/vampire lit (apart from Dracula, perhaps) that I’ve been able to get through, let alone enjoy. Perhaps I’m too closed minded in this respect, or maybe I simply find that the plots are thin and predictable and the characters tepid and weak. I’m dying for the characters in these books to have some obvious flaws, other than their own egotism. They’re “good enough to eat”, with skin and teeth crafted fastidiously in the idol of Angel Gabriel himself. Right. Like most teenagers I see around.
I love old fashioned sci-fi/dystopian novels: 1984, A Handmaid’s Tale, I Am Legend, Un-Lun-Dun and even The Hunger Games. But this incessant demand to have a “chosen one” who, alone, can inadvertently trample upon a corrupt totalitarian state has been recycled and charred. I don’t know. Isn’t it time to rekindle the flame and swallow a spoonful of originality, people?
And then there’s your “remarkable coming-of-age tale”s, a section of adolescent literature that has churned out some truly sensational stories, in my opinion, despite my occasional cynicism. Lets take some stuff by J. D. Salinger (albeit most of it was published in the 60s) or maybe Judy Bloom. Louis Sachar, too. But an awful lot of YA authors have introduced the whole lanky-loser scenario, who may or may not have fallen in love with a beautiful and elusive manic depressive, who is CLEARLY out of his league. Clearly, indisputably, unequivocally. So, in the end, he gets the girl. Or she dies. Or they both die. I forget.
Ok, so now to counter argue EVERYTHING I’ve just said, because it wouldn’t be much of a debate if I didn’t. I’m lucky, as a Spinebreaker’s editor, to receive two free books a month, courtesy of Penguin. Honestly, I’ve failed to be unsurprised by the vast array of choices on offer. There is always something new that I haven’t yet tried. There are plenty of young adult books; brilliant historical fictions and sci-fi thrillers and horrors and plays and poignant romances and crime stories and mysteries and some page-turning political dystopians and heart-wrenching come-of-ages. I’m sure if I tried my hand a bit of vampire lit I might be able to get through one. And, whattayaknow? I might discover my new favourite genre. Well, perhaps that’s a step too far…
Only thing is, YA fiction isn’t exactly dominated by a healthy variety.
Contrary to that, I know that some teens love these books- we would never hear about the authors if they didn’t. And, by that logic, it doesn’t matter so much that so many of the same types of books are being published. At least teenagers are reading, which is the ideal circumstance. And, yes, I’ll succumb to this rebuttal too: writers need to get inspiration from somewhere, so there won’t always be complete intra-genre differentiation.
But all I’m asking, maybe, maybe… can we have something a teensy bit different?
What do you think? Do you think that teen lit is too limited for us? Or do you think that we have enough variation as it is?