topic: is YA becoming darker?

07 August 2012

I've been reading articles and posts on this topic (most recently Kimberly Derting's blog) and I thought I'd guess a few answers.

Is YA becoming darker?

I think the impact of the growing trend was magnified by Twilight, which started a chain of paranormal films targeting teenagers. Authors then got into it, and started writing paranormal fiction, which caused teenagers to have more paranormal books to read, which publishers thought "More! More!" and that all sums up to an overall realisation that YA, conglomerated with other books, like YA for historical fiction and such, is overall becoming darker.

That's not fair, is it? So no:

I don't think that the genre of YA is becoming darker, I think that paranormal books, which are in nature really dark, are becoming and ARE popular. More paranormal books published outshine all the other YA books.


From a writer's perspective, using paranormal elements is an easy way to make a story interesting. One can make up many things, have an already established base of creatures and background information to research from. The personality of these creatures provides for a great way to explore the darker side of things, because most fictional creatures are "evil". Writing paranormal is easier in that general sense.

Writing historical novels, all the history and the research going into that is tiresome and hard, no? Historians will say no, like me, and would say "I love history! It's fascinating and is no trouble to me" But there's still the issue of getting information wrong, of having to piece together a story from many sources and accounts. 

Writing contemporary is difficult as well. What topics can you write that's contemporary? Teenagers, getting drunk, death (car crashes), coming-of-age and romance. There's not much that a writer can use, looking at all the contemporary novels published. And because of that, the writing has to be extraordinarily well done. The exploration of human nature has to be portrayed effectively, and everything, every skill, must be put on maximum functioning. 

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Paranormal is the short-cut, the easy way to make something "original". I personally think that it's an excuse to reduce the quality of writing. Of course, all this doesn't apply to EVERY paranormal YA book. I love Holly Black and Melissa Marr, but I think not very developed writers are finding this genre an easy market, and an easy way to get published because of growing demand.

This genre in itself is just a dark genre. With it's rising popularity, more of it is being published. So what?

Is it just paranormal?

I think with our generation, the teenage generation, people are aware of our "maturity" to certain topics, like death, bullying etc... and therefore, explore more into what would have been considered a social flop back then. Contemporary has been showing a lot of books on anorexia, bulimia, suicide, drug addiction, drinking, sex and so on, because those are problems that teens need to be aware of, and need to know can be helped. Besides, it's more interesting to read about this, than about a character having a fun and amazing life right? (note my sarcasm)

Will YA recover?

I think that the genre was invented quite recently, actually. I remember, I think, that there was children's, middle grade, and Adult. Like, the middle-grade were all coming-of-age stories meant for "teens", like Romona and Beezus. And because the genre is relatively new, and booming because so many teens love reading, we're still in the baby steps. Paranormal is just a phase that will eventually pass, and hopefully more intellectual genres will become popular (My dream is for historical fiction to be as common as dirt) 

I don't mean for the "YA becoming darker" thing to seem like a disease or pandemic, just know that I'm biased against paranormal, That I personally don't like reading it. But it's such big part of the YA world that it's hard to ignore.

Later in August, I'll be featuring and giving away many paranormal books, for you readers who enjoy it, so I'll make up for this bashing then!

2 thoughts:

  1. I'm an adult who just discovered YA this year and fell head over heels in love with the genre. I love pnr/horror so it doesn't bother me that so many YA books have a darker theme. But, I've also read some amazing non pnr YA books that are able to hold their own among all the paranormal stories out there. There's also some great YA fantasy books out there, like Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, that have paranormal elements in them, but the story is not overshadowed by them.

  2. I love paranormal books or just speculative fiction in general which covers paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy/dystopian/steampunk etc but I agree with what you are saying that many writers seem to use the paranormal genre as a short cut to writing a book the same way that someone just writing for fun will write fanfiction. The world and characters have already been created and all the writer needs to do is come up with a plot. With many paranormal books the creatures and the lore/myth behind them has already been established and all the writer needs to do is create the story and characters and they tend to focus so much on those parts that the writing seems to take a nose dive. A lot of stories also start to sound alike. Now I am not saying this is fact for all paranormal books (as I say I love to read them) writers like Jackson Pearce, Melissa Marr, Holly Black, Maggie Stiefvater, and Brenna Yovanoff are all excellent writers with excellent stories and although there seems to be a lot of not great stories popping up in the genre there are also great stories being churned out as well just perhaps not as much.

    As for YA getting darker what does darker mean? Does it mean more issues are being written about in YA books? Stories and characters are becoming more realistic? Book that would have probably been labelled as adult back in the day are being shelved as young adult now? Or is literature just reflecting real life? It certainly seems to me that the world is getting "darker", issues are being given more of a spotlight instead of being swept under the rug, an act of crime or violence is always being reported on the news, as well other things that aren't so light and fluffy. Look at movies and what kind of content passes for PG-13 now compared to what passed for this same rating ten years ago. More curse words are allowed now as well as nudity and sexual content. I don't think it's fair for people to say that YA is getting "darker" when it seems to me everything else is as well.

    Thanks for the post, this was a great topic.

    Scribing Shadows


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