Realism v. Fantasy in YA
From a reader and observer's standpoint, magic, vampires, angels, and witches have been hot trends and themes since the dawn of Harry Potter and Twilight. In came the era of fantasy and paranormal geared for young adult readers. Meanwhile, us OLDER "young adults," who'd long been searching for romances between teen vamps and vastly vivid magical world-building suddenly had just as vast of a selection of books to choose from.
As a reader who has been reading fantasy my entire life, it was amazing to have so many new titles and wonderous stories. And of course, it's been helpful to have launched my writing career in a time when the kind of books and stories I like writing are popular, in literature but also in television and movies.
So the point of this post ... A recent article in the Irish Times made the statement that fantasy in YA may be on its way out in 2015, making room for stories centered around more realistic themes. Now, while the author admits it's a sweeping generalization, I still felt the need to argue the point, specifically because of the reasons the author, Robert Dunbar, gives for this prediction in Realism Replaces Fantasy in Young Adult Fiction:
"Traumas and tantrums, often arising from clashes with various authority figures, remain a feature of the “growing up” process, but in the more accomplished novels they are seen as providing the opportunity for enhancing inter-generational understanding rather than merely creating an excuse for prolonged outbursts of shouting."
The writer of the article then goes on to mention two books, both of which explore elements of homosexuality, and the deeply moving adolescent experiences that are involved in these books. I'm not questioning his analysis, I'm sure they're quite deep. But in the midst of all that, fantasy in YA still has a place. Harry Potter himself dealt with insecurity, loss, bullying, child abuse, discordant friendships, consequences, and the sacrifice that comes with choosing to be a leader in a world of followers. These books were not just so wildly popular because of the amazing world and epic battle JK Rowling created, they also resonated on a human level.
Many YA fantasy books delve into heavier themes, including homosexuality, suicide, shifting parental relationships, abuse ... So my response to this article is no, realism is not going to be replacing fantasy in the YA genre in 2015. I think there's plenty of room for both. And often, they can be one in the same.
K.M. Randall writes fantasy and paranormal for both a general and young adult audience. Her debut novel, an epic fantasy called Fractured Dream, launched in June 2014, and her second book, The Reaper's Daughter, launched May 2015. Randall also published Fairytale Lost, a prequel to Fractured Dream, as an exclusive on Wattpad. She blogs about dreams, female heroines, and activism and its relevancy to the literary and fictional world. And when in the season, sometimes she just likes to talk about Halloween. She is currently hard at work on the second book in the Dreamer Saga series, Shattered World.