I am so excited to have a guest post today with Sarah Ockler! She has a really fun post today, in the spirit of love for all genres, which I totally adored and even though Contemporary is my favorite, I do read and love many other genres and I love this post talking about the common threads between all genres.
Contemporary Realism vs. Paranormal & Fantasy: Smackdown or Lovefest?
As an author of contemporary realistic teen fiction, I'm often asked about the imbalance in the bookstores between contemporary titles and paranormals -- yes, those sparkly black covers of awesome. Some have asked me why I write contemporary instead of chasing the fantasy "trend." Others want me to convince them to read one over the other, or defend my own favorites, or talk about why contemporary is so much better.
Some of this is in jest, of course. All in good fun. But sometimes it does feel like there's a bit of rivalry going on, doesn't it?
I'm not sure why. To me, fantasy isn't a "trend" anymore than realism *isn't*, and the only thing that's "so much better" is that teens and adults are reading tons of YA -- way more than we used to. A big part of that is availability and choice. Even as recently as ten years ago, bookstores might've only had one YA shelf, or the teen fiction might've been mixed in with the younger children's stuff. Now, it's so popular that it usually has it's own section, and that section includes rows of ever-expanding shelves -- plenty of room for magic *and* reality.
My favorite local indie, the Tattered Cover, just expanded its YA section, and they host young adult and middle grade authors almost every month -- contemporary, fantasy, scifi, dystopian, romance, mystery -- we're all represented, and we're all awesome. :-) Walking down those long shelves stuffed with sparkly black covers, pink ones, white ones, scenic ones, close up kissing ones, monster ones… it just makes me insanely happy to have so many choices for my ever-growing TBR list.
So what about the original question? Smackdown or lovefest?
I say lovefest. I love contemporary realism. I love fantasy, paranormal, and scifi. I love it all. Because in young adult fiction, contemporary realism and paranormal / fantasy are just two sides of the same coin. The difference is in the execution. Maybe your boyfriend broke up with you because the scent of your blood makes him want to tear you apart with his pointy little fangs. Or maybe he just likes another girl. Maybe your parents are getting divorced because Mom discovered that dad is a dark elf plotting to take over the world. Or maybe he just leaves the toilet seat up. These are silly examples, but the point is, the underlying emotional strife is the same. Both types of story explore complex emotions and issues like changing friendships, death, sexuality, sex, heartbreak, addiction, family problems, physical challenges, violence, and economic hardship, to name a few. Both feature multi-layered characters forced by difficult -- sometimes life-threatening -- external situations to dig deep to uncover their own hidden strengths. Both have the twists and turns and surprises that often come when teens experience new situations for the first time. And let's not overlook the best part -- all the kissing. Sexy vampires, beautiful witches, six-pack-ab-rockin' shapeshifters, and plain old regular humans… there's plenty of romance to swoon over in most young adult fiction. Team Kissing, are you with me? Yes!
So whether you're typically into contemporary realism or paranormal, whether you like your boys human or bloodsucking, whether you go gaga for girls with wings or wands or just plain old pom poms, whether you're reading about transgender issues or trans-species ones, whether you like escaping to the beaches of California or the halls of Hogwarts, I encourage you to read a bit more of… well… everything. This is a lovefest, after all. Let's show some love!
Need a few recommendations? Check out the newly posted Best Teen Books of 2011 over at Kirkus. Editor Vicky Smith says, "With shelves fairly groaning under the weight of paranormal love triangles, it may be easy to think that books for teens are all the same these days. Not so, we are delighted to report. In sifting through the piles of great books published for teens this year, I was happy to discover soulful romance of the utterly normal kind, deliciously frothy historical novels, piercingly intelligent nonfiction, thrillingly inventive fantasy and science fiction and some great kickass horror, as well as some books that may leave you weeping with laughter."
Some of my faves from the list are Misfit, Winter Town, Virtuosity, Anna Dressed in Blood, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and many more are on my TBR list. There's something for everyone over there. Happy reading!
~ Sarah Ockler
Author of Twenty Boy Summer, Fixing Delilah, and the upcoming Bittersweet (which features the special magic of cupcakes and hockey boys… mmmmm...)
Thank you again Sarah, so very much! I love it! :)
And for all my awesome readers, Sarah has been generous enough to donate a signed paperback of Fixing Delilah to one luck winner! This is a phenomenal book, absolutely amazing, and I'm already excited for whoever wins this one!
Enter Below. Like all Just Contemporary Giveaways, it will end Dec 10th. This is also only open to US/CN.