Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In with the new, until it's out

So dystopias are the new vampires, which were the new wizards, unless the new wizards were Greek gods. (Roman and Egyptian gods are the new Greek gods.) Mermaids would be the new angels, except that they probably hope to do better than angels, which were supposed to be the new vampires. Fairies and faeries look like they might be the next mermaids, unless witches fly faster. For the picture book set, penguins were the new pirates, bunnies are back, and trucks never left. If any of the above has a head that can spin, I'm sure it's doing so.

None of these ideas are completely new, and many of the fantastical ones work best when they reimagine established folklore. That recognizability makes it easy to find a book that appeals; if you're old enough to read a vampire book, you most likely know already what a vampire is. Once you've discovered one book you like, trends also provide easy answers to the question, "What should I read next?" Since young readers tend to love familiarity, there's no reason to mess with something that works.

But what about the kids for whom the trend doesn't work? Many kids and teens do love fantasy, and yes, its ubiquity has probably created a number of fans (the degree to which entertainment creates taste, as a certain visible article suggested recently, is a subject for another post). But customers do also ask for realistic fiction. There's plenty for first chapter readers, and for older ones, there's the parallel trend of "books like Wimpy Kid," and there are--gasp--books that have been around for a few years. Beyond that, there are definitely options, just... not so many.

I just hope good realistic fiction--the funny, the serious, the sweet, the scandalous, and everything in between--isn't being passed over just because humans aren't supposed to be the new mermaids.


  1. Who says mermaids aren't real?

    I actually had a reckoning with myself the other day, when I realized that I was setting my stories in the past or in a post-apocalyptic future simply because I didn't know what to do with the internet and teenagers. Seeing as how computers and the internet are sort of a GIANT part of teen's life nowadays, I'm going to face my fear and give my characters access to the communication revolution of the late 20th century. But that's as real as it gets. There will still be magic.
    And monsters.
    And telepathy.

  2. But see, you're *good* at magic and monsters and telepathy. (I think a lot of the fantasy out there is awesome, just to be clear. I just get sad on the days when fantasy seems to be the only thing that comes in, especially if it all looks kind of alike.)

  3. Yaah there was a whole section called teen paranormal romace and I can nwever find the teens dieing of cancer or getting organ transplat bbooks that were popular or at least what I liked when I was a teen

  4. @Michie, I hear you. It seems like realistic fiction dominated when we were growing up, and there was serious stuff like Lurlene McDaniel books as well as lighter stuff like the BSC and Sweet Valley. I wonder if young fantasy fans (like yourself, maybe?) felt like there wasn't as much new stuff for them before Harry Potter came along. Or maybe they just got a lot of their fantasy from TV, movies, etc.

  5. As a young fantasy fan back in the day, I think I mostly skipped over the YA fic and went straight to the "adult" Sci-Fi/Fantasy section.
    Though I did read BSC and Sweet Valley (and The Boxcar Children!), they didn't captivate me the way reading the Chronicles of Narnia for the eleventy billionth time always did.

  6. @Nicole, good, I was hoping someone would respond to the implied fantasy-fans-in-the-'90s question. And yeah, that makes sense. No one is limited to one genre or one reading level or one era, but there's something validating about having new books come out regularly to feed your particular need.

  7. Yup, totally went straight to the adult stuff as a kid and read TONS of adult fantasy. But I also read tons of Lurlene McDaniel, so there you go. You are right though I hadn't thought about it that there isn't really a current Lurlene McDaniel type writer....


  8. Hmmm, interesting that there seems to be overlap between fantasy and Lurlene McDaniel-type books (based on, you know, two people...). I wonder if readers who like fantasy also tend to like their realism dramatic.