Monday, June 17, 2013

Talking about YA fiction.

When I was young, the television shows I watched would be about saving the planet (Captain Planet, Widget the World Watcher) and young adult fiction was either about the finding a real life threat inside your video games (Space Demons, Skymaze), running off into some wonderful fantasy world where young women could be heroes with a sword too (Songs of the Lioness, The Blue Sword) or finding romance (The Vampire Diaries).

There's still a lot of interest in the latter, as evidenced by the television show The Vampire Diaries. You might even recognise this handsome man as the visual inspiration for one of my own characters. :)

There has also been the popularity of such series' as Cassie Clare's The Mortal Instruments, which I believe they are making into a series of movies due to come out later this year. I've also been a long time fan of Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series, which I've made no bones about loving and having almost a whole shelf dedicated to in my bedroom.

There's also the retold fairy tale genre which is really big at the moment, and includes novelists like Sarah Cross, Alex Flinn, Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier, Francesca Lia Block and Malinda Lo.

However, there's another kind of genre within the young adult umbrella that has been pushing itself forward. We saw it in The Hunger Games novels (and movie). Marie Lu's novel Legend was another good example of it. Instead of the worries about the environment that categorised the 90s, the media aimed at young adults seems to hold a message that is: don't be so complacent that the government can rule you. Sort of a 1984 for kids, just like Space Demons might have been a good early read for people who would go on to love Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game.

Two months ago, I read a book called Delirium by Lauren Oliver and read the follow up sequel Pandemonium this month. Lauren's main character, Lena, lives in a world where love has been labelled a disease for which a cure has been found. (For the full review, click here.) What I thought was amazing was how little the love angle would have mattered at all if not for the backing plot of the story. The same scenario was offered in The Hunger Games; Katniss simply couldn't spend any real number of pages simply falling in love with either of the guys. She was too busy fighting just to stay alive.

I love coming back again and again to the books in this genre. It feels as though there is so much more in YA to read today than there was 10 or even 15 years ago. Subjects like loneliness and alienation are still being tackled, but are now widening to include stories told about interracial and gay, lesbian or bisexual minorities. I read this really interesting interview by two of my favourite young adult writers recently that made me feel really proud to be reading this genre I love so much.

"Both Holly and Sarah are not shy about discussing the difficulties of promoting diversity in Young Adult literature. And they were willing to discuss their experiences in crafting their own works as a way of offering advice to other authors who are seeking to do the opposite of what has been the advice offered time after time to write what they know rather than what they may imagine." (read more)

This interview opens with questions like what advice they would give for writers who want to write outside of their own experiences with gender, race and sexual orientation and goes on through some interesting observations on the way race is depicted both on screen and by readers of these novels, including a quick look at Katniss' depiction in the recent movie The Hunger Games.

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