Wednesday, 3 August 2011


Has anyone else noticed this about YA fantasy literature: that none of the teens portrayed are ever normal?

I don’t mean that they turn out to be werewolves, or vampires, or whatever. That’s fine. What I mean is that they always, always seem to end up being the long lost chief vampire, or a princess, or someone who is fated to run the world, or whatever. They’re not just special, they’re more special than anyone else ever.

It’s something that is starting to annoy me slightly, because I have to ask what kind of message this is sending to young people. I think it’s reasonable to suggest many of the YA authors involved would like to convey the message that their readers are all special in their own ways, and should make the most of their talents. Yet to me, that is almost exactly the opposite of the message being conveyed.

Instead, they say that it is not enough to be yourself. It is not enough to have a talent, or to be smart, or whatever. Only princesses are enough. You can’t succeed in their books and still be an ordinary (ish) person. There has to be that big extra revelation that says to the reader that it’s okay that the character has dealt with the situation, because she’s secretly the ruler of the fey. That immediately says to me that all the positive qualities the author wanted to show are worthless. They aren’t why the character has achieved anything, after all.

I’m not saying that this kind of ploy can’t be fun. I use it myself. Yet for me, it is part of the set up. It is a way of creating more problems, and it is frankly something that I am making fun of when I use it. I’m sure some authors will come back with “yes, but don’t people want to be princesses and rulers? Don’t they want to be important people?” and suggest that it’s just wish fulfilment.

My point, if you’re writing YA, is that your readers are important people already.

1 comment:

Donna Hole said...

Yeah, that bothers me about YA fantasy too. Probably why I don't read it much.