YALSA's (Young Adult Library Services Association) The Hub has featured some really interesting conversation topics this month as it it readies for Teen Read Week which begins on October 17. I love The Hub's website by the way. Their regular feature "The Next Big Thing..." is always an informative and entertaining look at predicted trends in YA literature. This month The Hub is running 31 Days of The Next Big Thing, gearing up for the YA Literature Symposium in St. Louis, November 2-4. Among others, topics this month have included Adults Reading YA, Social Reading, as well what's next for Fantasy, Steampunk and Science Fiction.
But a recent topic that really caught my eye was entitled Wait-What IS This book, Anyway? Genre Blending in YA Lit. Because I read YA almost exclusively, I have noticed that there is a trend in the releases I have recently encountered. Lately many of the books that I have read don't easily fall under one genre category. Genres, like dystopian/ post apocalyptic, historical fiction, contemporary/ realistic, steampunk, science fiction, paranormal/supernatural, paranormal romance, horror, mystery and suspense/thriller are classifications that describe works of fiction. For booksellers and librarians these categories help readers find books that interest them.
But whereas The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins), Divergent (Veronica Roth) and Delirium (Lauren Oliver) can be described as dystopian fiction, and The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Rae Carson), Graceling (Kristin Cashore), and Finnikin of the Rock (Melina Marchetta) can be described as fantasy fiction, there are a variety of other books out that defy simple categorization.
Take, for instance, Defiance by C.J. Redwine. The story of a teenage girl living in a walled city where women have few civil rights afforded to them since the world was ravaged and partially destroyed by dragon-like creatures that emerged from the bowels of the earth, hosts a number of different genres. That's a work best described as dystopic/ post apocalyptic/ fantasy because all three genres are included.
What about Libba Bray's recent release The Diviners? That is a work of supernatural (ghosts and spirits)/ paranormal (the occult and magical abilities) historical fiction (takes place in the 1920's) with aspects of horror and mystery involved.
Once you start thinking in these terms, you can see examples of genre mash-ups everywhere. Cinder (Marissa Meyer) is a fairy tale retelling featuring both science fiction and steampunk elements. Dearly, Departed (Lia Habel) is a blending of dystopic/post apocalyptic/ paranormal/ steampunk. I'm reading Black City by Elizabeth Richards and it's paranormal/ paranormal romance/ dystopic/ post apocalyptic with a bit of science fiction interspersed.
Carla Land's above referenced article for The Hub notes that although it can be challenging for librarians and book stores to find the proper shelf for these books, it is an exciting time in YA lit nonetheless. Exciting because a book like The Infernal Devices (Cassandra Clare), which is historical fiction/ urban fantasy/ paranormal/ steampunk, has the ability to branch out and interest an even broader readership.
The Vampire Empire Series is an excellent example of genre blending. Not only does it have elements that would appeal to vampire (paranormal-supernatural) fans, but it is also features an alternate history storyline (an off shoot or sub genre of historical fiction) and has a strong steampunk element as well. In addition this adult series has been shown to have wide crossover appeal with YA readers thus opening it's readership up to an even larger audience.
Of course genre blending is not exclusive to YA lit, I can think of examples in adult fiction as well, particularly with authors like Alice Hoffman (Practical Magic, The River King) and Sarah Addison Allen (Garden Spells, The Peach Keeper) who blend contemporary realistic story lines with magical realism, but many sources indicate that YA exhibits more of these mash ups than adult fiction, which is exciting in itself. With YA being bashed left and right among critics and authors alike, it's refreshing to read something positive. And I do think it's positive and exciting. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite genre in the fiction I read, there are things I love about each of them. But this new blending of genres lets me have my cake and eat it too. And, being a girl who likes her cake, this is a good thing:)
What do you think about this new trend of genre mash-ups in current YA literature? Do you like it or do you prefer to to read books that are strictly of one genre? Do you think this trend is something we will see more of in the future, or do you think it is a passing fad? Do you think that more authors, especially authors of adult fiction, will soon follow suit? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this and examples of your favorite genre blended YA books in the comment section below:)